I have been writing quite a few top [insert number here] lists as of late. So I decided to choose one experience unique to the Cape and break it down with some recommendations. Now of course, you can definitely go on a Cape Peninsula or Best of the Cape tour. You could even go on a Cape Town City tour to learn about the mother city. These are very recommended for any international or local tourist. But spending the weekend away from the city, wine sipping and taking in the beautiful landscapes is a perfect combination of both road trip and tasting our country's rich history and culture in wine.
When I first arrived in and settled in Stellenbosch, the prospect of wine tasting was nerve-wracking. I know it can be too if you're a first time wine taster or even a person who happens to not like wine. So here is my guide to any first timer:
There are definitely some wine farms where a dress code could be applicable (like Delaire Graff) but my rule of thumb is check the weather. Different areas of the Winelands can be warmer or cooler. For example, Franschhoek is sometimes cooler wheras Stellenbosch is can get sweltering. Collared golf shirts, sunglasses, simple dresses all would be just fine. However, going smart casual or dressing for a cocktail event would too be appropriate. This can be fun and helps you get in the mood.
Many wine farms* offer 1 to up to 6 tasting options (with 3-6 wines per tasting). If you are a first timer, I would suggest telling the person at the counter that you are one and they may help direct you. If you don't want to do this, try selecting the standard tasting. You could also ask which wine tasting suits a sweet or savoury palette. If you like reds, try just a tasting of red wine. If you prefer one of the options with food, chocolate, nougat, biltong or even ice cream paired, go for it! Make the tasting yours and choice what you think you may prefer.
Your server will either bring you each wine separately or pour each wine out into your glasses. Either way, they will present the wines to you. I've found that if I don't understand something, I will ask questions to clarify. They will usually tell you the kind of wine, what it tastes like and what you could taste. This is a guide. Do not feel intimidated. If you don't like the wine, there should be a small bucket for you to pour the wine into. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The more you taste, the more you will taste the nuances of the wine. Tasting is the operative word here.
After you have completed your tasting, you may have to pay for your tasting (I only know of Tokara for having a free tasting). These range in price but I would say they are usually R30-50. Some farms offer the option to negate the tasting price for buying a bottle of wine. This is a excellent option if you like one of the wines but also to bring a loved one a present.
My biggest suggestion would be to ask and talk to the server taking care of you. This can be enriching and fun. There is so much history and culture attached to these farms, it's definitely worth asking questions. Drinking wine on these farms should be an enjoyable experience and is definitely worth a try.
*Some of the wine farms say that booking is necessary for a tasting but I have learnt that walk-ins are also fine. If you want to book to avoid disappointment at busy times, I would certainly advise it. Wine farms can be very busy on the weekends.
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