Franschhoek Wine Region

Franschhoek Wine Region

This is one of the most gorgeous wine valleys in the Cape.  It is known as the “gourmet capital” of the country and it is well worth settling in here for a few days to use it as a base for wine tasting and for enjoying some of the country’s top restaurants.  Map of the Franschhoek region.

  • NEW Le Lude – This is a fantastic boutique small champagne estate (MCC as it is called in South Africa!)  It literally opened its doors at the end of 2015.   The estate did its first harvest in 2012 and is the first winery in South Africa to produce the artisanal Agrafe bottle fermented sparkling wine. Agrafe (Tirage Liège) is the method of fermenting the wine under cork instead of crown cap.   The tasting room is gorgeous and they offer a tasting of their Brut and Rose champers in their tasting room.   The estate is owned by Nic & Ferda Barrow – they have two daughters – Olga-  an interior designer – which explains why the tasting room and restaurant are gorgeous and another Nicolene who is a talented chef – a great combo!   One can do the most delicious tapas style dishes with the champers tasting or do a tasting and stay for lunch in their new restaurant the Orangerie.   Note that this restaurant and tasting room are easy to walk to from Franschhoek main road area.   There is no need to book for tastings if there are just two of you (but in busy times – perhaps one should!)  For their contact details and map click here.
  • Lynx Wines – is a small boutique wine farm.  The tastings are only done by the winemaker or assistant winemaker – making a visit very worthwhile.  It is however best to call to let them know you are coming as they may be off doing deliveries – but even if you have not called – it is really worth popping in if you are driving past.  Tel +27 21 867 0406.  I enjoyed their wines – it is almost as if you can taste their passion in each bottle.  They have an interesting range including a really nice Viognier.
  • L’Ormarins – for boys into cars – this is a definite must stop and visit estate!  L’Ormarins is home to the Franschhoek Motor Museum.  Very few of us will have been privileged enough to ever have seen a car collection like this one.  There are four halls of cars and they range from the first cars ever developed through to a collection reflecting the most significant changes in style over time, through to racing cars.   This is well worth a visit and I would highly recommend it.  Check out the website for more details of the car collection.  The collection is owned by the Rupert family who are one of South Africa’s most wealthy families.   Their is now a wonderful new estate tram that goes between the family’s two estates – L’Ormarins and Antonij Rupert Tasting Room on the estate next door.  The tram trip takes you through the farm on a lovely journey that takes about half an hour.   Fun for all ages.  They leave from each of the farms every half an hour.   I do not think there is a need to pre-book this unless it is in the busy season over Xmas.   Note that the tram can be caught from either estate and is simply caught back to where you started.
  • La Motte – Wow! This one is “must visit” when in the area. There is no lack of money here, as the estate is owned by Hanneli Rupert.  The Rupert family are one of the most wealthy families in South Africa.   Everything oozes style and taste and a women’s touch . They have a wonderfully warm and welcoming tasting area with very friendly staff.  The wines are excellent – so it is well worth a stop.  My favourites are the sauvignon blancs (one is organic) and the shiraz (The winemaker is recognised as one of the best for Shiraz in the country and they win many awards)  The tasting room is very stylish and the tasting is beautifully presented on a silver tray with a lovely mini ciabatta bread to cleanse the palate.   A plus is that you can walk through the barrel cellar after the tasting.    They estate has its own “mini campus”.  They offer wine tasting, an art gallery, a lovely little shop and a stylish restaurant called Pierneef at La Motte (tip – they have a great kids menu as well) The art gallery has a huge collection of Pierneef – a very famous South African artist and has a second hall that has rotating art from the family collection as well as an entrance area where you can learn more about the Rupert family.  There is also a really lovely country store, giant chess pieces that you can play with and a demarcated hiking parth around the farm (note for the walk you need to pre-book and you pay a small fee that then gives you the map and water (it also allows them to know who is walking on their farm!)
  • Graham Beck Franschhoek Estate has been sold to Johan Rupert – as such the estate is now called Antonij Rupert – I still need to get there for a tasting!   Note that the Graham Beck wines are now available for tasting on the Graham Beck Estate in Robertson.
  • Moreson – has a nice little tasting area, a fabulous little deli where chef Neil Jewell sells his chucuterie meats and a lovely restaurants called Bread & Wine.  It is one of my favourite spots to sit all afternoon in the sun eating and drinking and relaxing.  I would highly recommend the restaurant for a simple lunch – they bake their own bread and make all of their own charcuterie (note that for a quick lunch one can now also visit the deli on the property.   They also sell their charcuterie and a variety of lovely foodie products in the deli.  Note that they also do bread making lessons and give you an opportunity to cook with the chef – but only on specific dates – so check their website out for the details.   From a wine perspective their wines are great – I am a big fan of their champers (MCC) and their pinotage.   If you have time and you are a wine fanatic – try and book a cellar tour with the winemaker here – he is a wonderful guy and really inspirational!
  • Glenwood – is a fun drive as they are little bit off the beaten track.  I find their tasting room charmingly eclectic! They are renowned for their chardonnay.  Chardonnay will keep featuring as it is one of the best varietals for the valley as the soils and the climate allow the grapes to ripen slowly with great intensity.  Following the demand for unwooded chardonnay – they offer both the unwooded and wooded options – both are great.  They also have a good merlot and syrah.  Their credo is “Simple, Natural Quality” – as such they have joined the eco-conserving Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI).
  • Charmonix – are famous for excellent wooded chardonnay.  This quaint little tasting room and is located on the edge of the village (but up the hill – don’t be tempted to walk unless you are really fit!).   They have a lovely bistro style restaurant on the estate called Racine – this is located under the shady trees and is a perfect stop on a very hot summers day in Franschhoek.   The restaurant is owned by Chef Reuben Riffel – who owns Reubens on the main road in Franschhoek.  It is a lovely spot for lunch with kids as there is a nice kids play area.
  • My Wyn -This is a tiny winery – they literally make one barrel of each of the wines they produce.   Considering how small it is – the range is large!  It ranges from fantastic champers (a brut and rose) through to reds and whites.   I like all of her wines!  The tasting is done on the terrace of their home on top of a mountain.   This is one of the most special tastings one can do in the Cape Winelands – it is hosted by the owners and extremely personalised.   Note that as they open the whole range – it is important to buy a few bottles while you are there!   Tastings are in the morning on weekdays only (if they are there) – so you can either risk going or to be safe – make an appointment.   (Note they are very close to the town of Franschhoek – located high on the mountain above the town)
  • Cabriere (and the home to Pierre Jourdan champagne) – this estate is a must for those that are in love with champagne.  You can visit at 11am or 3pm on weekdays to do a cellar tour and learn how champagne is made.  The tour is fascinating.  On a Saturday at 11am they include Sabrage in the cellar tour and the tour is often conducted by the owner of the farm or by a family member.  The Saturday tour will well worth doing as it is informative and lots of fun.  Note that Cabriere also do a really interesting pinot noir and chardonnay blend as well as the Tranquille – which is a still champagne.  This estate is also perfectly located for anyone who does not have a car and is staying in the village as it is within walking distance of the village.  Note that the estate has a really good restaurant on the estate.  They now have outside and inside tables – so this is a nice option for lunch.  Another option close by, about one block further up the hill is the restaurant La Petite Ferme.  La Petite Ferme offers one of the best views of the valley and a really lovely lunch experience.  Tip: Ask them to let you sit in the garden and place your order from there.  They will call you to your table once your food is ready.  Note it is recommended that you book for both La Petite Ferme during summer as it is extremely popular.
  • Boekenhoutskloof – in my opinion, this estate has the best wine in the valley and should not be missed!  They have however taken the decision to close their tasting room and to operate on a pre-booking system for wine tasting.  To complicate matters further they would like to concentrate the bookings on a Tuesday or Thursday.  The wine tastings will be hosted by one of the wine makers.  (Update August 2015).  Lets see how that plan works out for them!  The main thing to note is that if you wish to try their wines – you will need to email them to book!  This is to be able to taste their premium range.   The other wines will soon be available in town for tasting.    Boekenhoutskloof have four brands:
    • Porcupine Ridge, which is their second label and is sold at a reasonable price for everyday drinking
    • Chocolate Block – this is a blend of 5 varietals and its name comes from the spicy and chocolate nose and taste.   What is interesting is that the grapes for this wine come from a variety of areas.  This wine has become enormously popular and sought after.
    • Wolftrap – the local legend goes that Franschhoek used to have wolves that roamed the mountains and that with gnashing of teeth used to howl at night and scare the villagers into their homes. They thought it was only a legend until they found a wolftrap on the farm.  The Wolftrap red is a blend of Syrah, Mouvedre and Grenache.
    • Boekhoutskloof – this is their premium range and consists of a Semillon (Noble late harvest), Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon (they only open one out of the three each day for tasting – so you will have to look out for the others on wine menus and make sure you experience them as they are all exceptional)
  • Haut Espoir – is a fantastic small boutique wine farm that I would highly recommend you visit. The welcome at Haut Espoir is always warm. The tastings are conducted in the cellar and you can also book for a cellar tour. Their focus is on conservation and they are transitioning towards becoming fully biodynamic.  They produce an interesting mix of wines including semillon, chardonnay, cab, shiraz and a red blend.    Tasting during the week from 11am to 4pm and on a Saturday until 1pm.
  • Stony Brook – Family owned and run, half the fun of visiting lies in the drive to the farm, which is gorgeous.  It has a intimate tasting room with a fireplace for winter and a lovely outside area for tasting in summer.  The wines are extremely good and to me it feels like you can taste the wine makers passion.   I would highly recommend a visit.  It is best when you find a family member behind the counter, but still a good experience when the tasting centre lady is there.  www.stonybrook.co.za
  • La Petite Ferme – This is a boutique winery and a restaurant.  The location of the restaurant is one of the best in the winelands and boast sweeping views of the Franschhoek valley.  I would strongly recommend you make a booking for this restaurant if you are in the area.  A visit is an exercise in relaxation.   Ask to sit outside on the lawn and to order from there.  When your food is ready they will call you in to your table.  Locals usually plan on spending the whole afternoon there.  After lunch we retreat back to the lawn and relax and enjoy the view.  All of the estates wines are available by the glass – so pair each course with one of the estates wines.  Particular favourites of mine are: the rose, chardonnay (Mark Dendy Young’s favourite varietal and the blanc fume (one of the few estates that make it).  www.lapetiteferme.co.za