When I am not wearing my Princess tiara I wear my Global Handprints hat meaning I am very lucky and get to try new experiences that I would like to include in the Volunteer Road Trip itineraries I put together. While in the Western Cape we are putting together road trip routes here that will compliment the routes currently on offer in KwaZulu-Natal. This region is known not only for a large mountain and a (more) effective government than other provinces, but also for the wine tasting, therefore no itinerary will be complete without spending time at a vineyard or two!
Having heard great things from friends and been impressed with general reviews, I got hold of the guys at Wine Flies and soon found myself and the boy seated in a mini bus at 8:30am ready to spend the day tasting wine.
Something I immediately liked about Wine Flies is the fact they go to smaller, local vineyards and if you know a little about me, and about Global Handprints, you’ll know its all about getting off the beaten track. Their groups aren’t too big and along with the wine, they provide their own pairings at most of the vineyards, making the tasting totally different to anyone else’s. I am all for added extras so, if I get to taste wine with chocolate rather than alone, I am in.
Our day started off at one of the traditional Cape Dutch vineyards with a beautiful farmhouse surrounded by endless vineyards all patrolled by Denzil and his gang of Ducks who take charge of insects that threaten the vines.
Before we were allowed to take a sip, the very knowledgeable and entertaining Lord V, gave us a run down on just how to taste wine effectively. (clue it doesn’t involved gulping down full glasses!) The 5 S’s of wine tasting are See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Savour. Each ‘S’ came with a set of instructions, a demo and an explanation of why it enables you to get the best tasting. Luckily, following the intro, it was our turn to put these newly acquired skills to the test and the group was soon getting to know each other over discussions of what order to swill, spit and swallow. At this vineyard, we were presented with a selection of reds each accompanied by different biltong. If you haven’t ever been fortunate enough to try biltong, raw meat air dried and preserved in a variety of spices, salt and vinegars, trust me when I say it’s tastier than it sounds.
It’s been a while since I was last in a ‘touristy’ situation like this; as part of a group doing an organized activity. I really enjoyed chatting to people from around the world, learning about what they were all up to, ranging from short week long holidays in Cape Town to this being part of a longer 6 month trip.
Mid morning found us in an atmospheric wine cellar tasting chocolate specifically made for these tours. Chai, liquorice and citrus flavours were perfectly matched with either a red or a white wine. For someone who isn’t a fan of liquorice, I managed to sample enough to decide that when accompanied with wine I might just be a fan.
The Cape Winelands area, formerly known as the Bolland region, is located just outside of Cape Town, stretching across mountain ranges. It is home to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, towns both well known for their wine and cuisine. The region’s microclimate and rich, fertile soil makes it perfect for the vineyards who originally made wine only to be sold to ships coming in to dock in Cape Town en route to their next destination. Both towns were founded by Dutch settlers and there’s still a huge variety of beautiful Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture across the area.
Our next stop for the day included a guided tour of the vineyard’s wine making facilities with an explanation of the processes involved in making both white and red wine. I am not going to go into exactly how wine is made here as then what would you learn from your wine tasting trip? Making use of a special tool designed specifically to ‘steal’ wine from closed barrels, we also got to try some new wine not yet available for purchase. In true South African style, lunch was a delicious braai (with wine of course) served in the grounds of the vineyard.
With full tummies, lined and ready for wine tasting round 2, our second to last stop took us to a small vineyard set in the mountains with beautiful Cape Dutch style buildings and a love story to it’s name.
The day came to an end at a larger, more corporate vineyard enabling us to see the vast differences between those that produce a few thousand bottles each year and estates that produce that every day. This vineyard is known for both their excellent wines but also their cheeses. As if wine and cheese pairings wasn’t enough, we were treated to separate ‘all you can eat’ cheese tastings with syrups and sauces to match. We left with wines, cheeses and syrups galore!
I am not usually one for organized tours but the guys at Wine Flies have just the right mix of knowledge, entertainment and history meaning I came away with much more than if I had taken myself wine tasting. Having spent the last few months in the caravan as a traveller, it’s great to be a good old fashioned tourist every once in a while. Not to mention the fact a self driven tour would mean spitting not swallowing and everyone knows that’s not the best way to taste wine! These tours are definitely going to be incorporated into the new Global Handprints Volunteer Road Trips so watch out for the new itineraries, coming soon!
Disclaimer: This tour was received FoC however I contacted Wine Flies rather than being asked to write a review. Global Handprints will be incorporating this into the upcoming Western Cape Road Trips.