Stellenbosch was the first locality in the country to wake up to the marketing potential of a wine route. It launched its wine route in 1971 to huge success; today tens of thousands of visitors are drawn here annually, making this the most toured area in the Winelands. Although the region accounts for only a fraction of South Africa’s land under vine, its wine route is the most extensive in the country, approaching three hundred establishments; apart from the tiny selection below (all of which produce creditable wines and are along a series of roads that radiate out from Stellenbosch), there are scores of other excellent places, which taken together would occupy months of exploration. All the wineries are clearly signposted off the main arteries.
Delaire Graff Estate On the Helshoogte Pass, 6km east of Stellenbosch along the R310 to Franschhoek; 021 885 8160, delairewinery.co.za. The highly regarded Delaire Graff restaurant has possibly the best views in the Winelands, looking through pin oaks across the Groot Drakenstein and Simonsig mountains and down into the valley. Tasting Mon–Sat 10am–5pm & Sun 10am–4pm; summer sundowners with musical accompaniment Fri & Sat 5–9pm; three wines R30, five wines R50, six wines R60.
Jordan Vineyards 11.5km west of Stellenbosch off the R310; 021 881 3441, jordanwines.com. A pioneer among the new-wave Cape wineries, Jordan’s hi-tech cellar and modern tasting room are complemented by its friendly service. The drive there is half the fun, taking you into a kloof bounded by vineyards that get a whiff of the sea from both False Bay and Table Bay, which has clearly done something for its output – it has a list of outstanding wines as long as your arm and an award-winning restaurant. Tasting daily 9.30am–4.30pm; R25 for six wines, refundable with purchases.
Morgenhof 4km north of Stellenbosch on the R44; 021 889 5510, morgenhof.com. French-owned chateau-style complex on the slopes of the vine-covered Simonsberg, owned by Anne Cointreau-Huchon (granddaughter of the founder of Remy Martin cognac). Morgenhof has a light and airy tasting room with a bar. Delicious light lunches are served outside, topped off with ice cream on the lawns. Tasting May–Oct Mon–Fri 9am–4.30pm, Sat & Sun 10am–3pm; Nov–April Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5pm; R20 for five wines.
Neethlingshof 6.5km west of Stellenbosch on Polkadraai Rd (the R306); 021 883 8988, neethlingshof.co.za. Centred around a beautifully restored Cape Dutch manor dating back to 1814, reached down a kilometre-long avenue of stone pines, Neethlingshof’s first vines were planted in 1692. There’s a restaurant and for R95 you can try their “flash food” light lunch – pairings of six wines with six bite-sized takeaways (booking essential). The estate has two labels: Premium and Short Story reserve range, which consists of a Pinotage, a red blend and a flagship Noble Late Harvest white. Tasting Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–4pm; R30 for six wines.
Overgaauw 6.5km west of Stellenbosch, off the M12; 021 881 3815, overgaauw.co.za. Notable for its elegant Victorian tasting room, this pioneering estate was the first winery in the country to produce Merlots, and it’s still the only one to make Sylvaner, a well-priced, easy-drinking dry white. Tasting Mon–Fri 9am–5pm, Sat 10am–3.30pm; free.
Rustenberg Wines Rustenberg Rd, 5km north of Stellenbosch; 021 809 120, rustenberg.co.za. One of the closest estates to Stellenbosch, Rustenberg is also one of the most alluring, reached after a drive through orchards, sheep pastures and tree-lined avenues. An unassuming working farm, it has a romantic pastoral atmosphere, in contrast to its architecturally stunning, hi-tech tasting room in the former stables. Tasting Mon–Fri 9am–4.30pm, Sat 10am–1.30pm; free.
Simonsig Estate 9.5km north of Stellenbosch, off Kromme Rhee Rd, which runs between the R44 and the R304; 021 888 4900, www.simonsig.co.za. The winery has a relaxed outdoor tasting area under vine-covered pergolas, offering majestic views back to Stellenbosch of hazy stone-blue mountains and vineyards. The first estate in the country to produce a bottle-fermented bubbly some three decades back, it also produces a vast range of first-class still wines. Tasting Mon–Fri 8.30am–5pm, Sat 8.30am–4pm, Sun 11am–3pm; R25 for five wines and a bubbly.
Uva Mira About 8km south of Stellenbosch, off Annandale Rd, which spurs off the R44; 021 880 1683, uvamira.co.za; map. Enchanting boutique winery that punches well above its weight, and worth visiting just for the winding drive halfway up the Helderberg. The highly original tasting room, despite being fairly recently built, gives the appearance of a gently decaying historic structure, and there are unsurpassed views from the deck across mountainside vineyards to False Bay some 50km away – on a clear day you can even see Robben Island. Tasting Mon–Fri 8am–5pm, Sat & Sun 10am–4pm; R20 for Cellar selection (four wines), R30 for Vineyard selection (two premier wines), R40 for all six wines.