Wine and Dine in South Africa

 

The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town
The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel in Cape Town has 53 rooms and suites, each with views of the vineyard or gardens.

 

While South Africa’s vintages have been appreciated for years, the region is finally coming into its own as a truly hot spot for a wine-infused vacation. If your jetsetting clients want to boast about an exotic, distant winery, South Africa is a great pick. There are wine trails all over the country, but we were particularly impressed with the Cape Winelands, its largest wine-producing region and—happily—an easy drive from Cape Town. (For the record, drinking and driving is a no-no.)

The smallest of the Wineland’s six wine routes—and only 20 minutes from Cape Town—is the Constantia Wine Route, the Cape’s oldest wine-producing region (dating back to 1684!) and the only wine district found in a city.

There are many types of wines to choose from in this region, but we’ve heard especially great things about the Classic Constantia Sauvignon Blanc and the Chardonnays (for the whites) and the Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds. The “Vin de Constance” at the Klein Constantia wine estate was reportedly prized by Napoleon, Dickens and other historical figures in the 18th and 19th centuries. This century, Wine and Spirits Magazine named Klein Constantia among the Top 25 Vineyards of the World.

There are 11 vineyards in the winelands, eight of which are open to the public. Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg are the most popular. For a more intimate tasting experience, the Constantia Glen, Eagles Nest and High Constantia estates offer smaller quantities of great wines.

For a luxury tour of South Africa’s wineries, we hear Admiral Travel has lots of contacts in the area, and has organized food-and-wine tours in connection with Bon Appetit magazine. Ryan Hilton, Admiral’s co-owner and Safari specialist, has worked with AuthentEscapes to build a relationship with local wineries. Hilton says they can get privileged access to the vineyards, and can even get travelers at a lunch table for a one-on-one with the winemakers. The vineyards would be selected based on the traveler’s taste, he adds—local specialists would choose wineries for the best vintages and organize a tasting. (Note: Admiral does not have an SA program for 2010, but does arrange for FITs.)

Where to Stay

A five-star Relais and Chateaux hotel, The Cellars-Hohenort, sits on its own vineyard. Kids over the age of
12 are welcome, and families should book the two- or three-bedroom Madiba Villas.

For a romantic getaway, book the Dove-Cote, a private suite in its own private garden area overlooking the golf green. Romantic Touch: The Dove-Cote’s bedroom has a king-size four-poster bed, and the sitting area has a fireplace. The suite also has a dining room with a stocked bar, walk-in wardrobe and a private, heated Jacuzzi. Contact owner Liz McGrath at 011-27-21-794-2137.

Another five-star hotel in the area is the Steenberg Hotel, set on one of the oldest still-producing vineyards in the country. The flagship Sauvignon Blanc Reserve has won a number of awards worldwide, and the red “Catharina” has an elegant French feel.

The hotel’s 24 guest rooms and suites are spread across three of the original buildings: the Manor House, the Jonkershuis and the Barn. (Cool Touch: The original wine cellar is now the restaurant.) While the Heritage Suites are popular, we hear the Khoi Khoi Suite is best for groups and families as it has two bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen on two floors. For great vistas, book the Premier Rooms or the Premier Suite, which overlook the vineyards and mountains. At the resort’s spa, the hour-long Ginkgo “Elixir” Signature Treatment is a great way to unwind, with bespoke massage techniques. To book treatments, contact Spa Director Peter Krug (peter@ginkgospa.com).

Luxury travel advisors should contact Reservations Manager Sumari Vorster Stevens (sumari.vorster@steenberghotel.com).

Luxury Insight:

Courtney Luick of Cape Classics, an importer of South African wine to the U.S., says that of all the wineries in the Constantia area, “Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting are musts” for a visit. She particularly suggests lunch at the Buitenverwachting (pronounced “bay-ten-fur-vachk-ting”) Restaurant—“It will take your breath away as it overlooks the lush Constantiaberg Mountains and vineyards,” she says.