First of all, this is by no means an extensive review of what’s available for the foodie or wine lover in South Africa’s Western Cape, as that would not even be remotely possible to do justice to in such a feature, but rather a little dip into my friend’s foodie favourites. Now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get on with our journey, which will take us from the top of Table Mountain to the vineyard filled valley of Franschhoek via a Rickety Bridge. Intrigued? Read on to find out more.
We start our adventure in stunning Cape Town. Whether by foot or cable car, you can’t visit this city without scaling Table Mountain. This masterpiece of nature boasts 2,200 plants, most of which cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. To the eastern side of Table Mountain is Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, a must visit Unesco World Heritage Site with over 7,000 species of plants itself.
It’s not all flora and fauna though, you can also get active with mountain biking, rock climbing and caving and then relax at Table Mountain Café where the friendly staff are waiting with a delicious choice of meals and snacks for you to enjoy while gazing out over the stunning Cape Town landscape. Okay, so let’s suppose you’ve hiked, biked, explored, shopped and eaten your way around Cape Town and Table Mountain. Where does the next leg of your journey take you? Perhaps Franschhoek?
Franschhoek – no wine lover can avoid it. This European style little town surrounded by mountains, and just 60 minutes by car from Cape Town, is often referred to as the country’s food and wine capital. This area is crammed full of great vineyards and we’re going to focus on two of the best ones. My South African wine-lover and foodie friend has recommended these and I cannot express how perfect they must be for her to do this.
Rickety Bridge Winery is the first of the pair. On a purely practical level, it’s nice that it’s just 3 kilometres from the centre of Franschhoek. The 50-hectare winery is back-dropped by Franschhoek Mountains overlooking the majestic Wemmershoek Mountain range and features a beautiful tasting room perfect for sipping on the winery’s produce.
However, it’s the restaurant that knocks this place out of the park. Illuminated by sunlight from large surrounding windows, through which you can take in wonderful vineyard views, the food here verifies Franschhoek’s status as one of the best places to eat in South Africa.
Named Paulina, after the original owner of the property in 1797, Paulina de Villiers, the restaurant features a variety of half and full portions of its exciting bistro style menu, making it perfect for sampling and sharing dishes. There’s also the opportunity to sit under a Bedouin tent in a cosy thatched overspill area with views over the vineyards and mountains. Cuisine choices include beef fillet, Cajun Patagoniac Calamari or Ostrich Bobotie. They are exceedingly tastier than their names may suggest and a visit is incomplete without dining here. However, consider Rickety Bridge the starter because the main course and my foodie friend’s favourite is just up the road in Franschhoek’s magnificent Grande Provence Heritage Wine Estate.
This 47-acre estate dates back to 1694 and is where my friend finally found the treasure she and her husband had been looking for. They had spent five years trying every wooded chardonnay but the one to beat had been right here all along. This elegant, full-bodied wine is matured for 11 months in French oak barrels and features outstanding fruit and wood integration. Whether you’re a wine lover or not you’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love with the citrus, almonds and creamy flavours with nuances of vanilla, while the soft, well-balanced feel in the mouth makes the experience of this wine near to perfect.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to dive into the wine tasting like a freshly released greyhound and you’ll certainly have a blast but not on an empty stomach because there’s also a top restaurant onsite housed in an 18th century Manor House offering everything from canapés to six course dinners.
The estate’s award-winning wine collection also boasts; Pinot Noir, Viognier Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Shiraz, Merlot/Cabernet red blend, Rose´, Me´thode Cap Classique and a Muscat D’Alexandrie Dessert Wine. Their first flagship wine, the Grande Provence Red 2004, was launched in October 2007 and has gained premier awards recognition ever since. More recently, the equally acclaimed, Grande Provence White and the Grande Provence Amphora wines joined it.
Well, what a journey! We’ve scaled the heights of one of South Africa’s greatest, toured an amazing Rickety Bridge and had our fill of excellent wine in one of the most stunning treasures of Franschhoek. How amazing and there’s still tomorrow with its beaches, fine dining and enough landscapes to fill a whole pad of bucket lists. No wonder South Africa is known as the Rainbow Nation because, after the rain of our green and pleasant land, its colourful landscapes, diverse cuisine and amazing wine comprise the perfect holiday solution.