The Best Wine Regions in South Africa

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Written by
Jody van Merode

Published on: June 13th, 2024

Last modified: June 13th, 2024

All the way at the southernmost tip of Africa, you’ll find one of the finest wine-growing regions on earth: the Winelands. Located near Cape Town on South Africa’s southwestern edge, this area is celebrated for not only its phenomenal wines, but also its glorious vineyards, bucolic landscapes, pretty architecture and world-class cuisine.

The wine regions of South Africa include five main regions in the Western Cape, where most of the country’s wine is produced: Breede River Valley, Cape South Coast, Klein Karoo, Olifants River and the Coastal Region. Each one encompasses several districts and wards (which are also sometimes referred to as regions).

Below we’ll highlight the best wine regions in South Africa – each of which is technically a district or ward in the Western Cape – and offer some expert tips for enjoying them.

Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa

1. Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is located in the Coastal Region and is certainly one of the most famous South African wine regions. The town is known for its Cape Dutch architecture and historic university (including a renowned viticulture and oenology department) as well as a fantastic dining scene to complement its exquisite wines. 

Stellenbosch is also where the pinotage grape was originally cultivated. A cross between pinot noir and cinsault, pinotage is South Africa’s most iconic grape variety and an absolute must-try on a trip to the Winelands. It pairs particularly well with dessert – try it as part of a gourmet chocolate and wine tasting.

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch, South Africa. From the front: blanc de noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon.

2. Franschhoek

Franschhoek is a great destination for families as well as wine lovers, complete with a Wine Tram that makes it super easy to move around. The town itself is highly walkable and welcoming, with clear cultural influences from French settlers. Make sure to try the local Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wines, made according to the traditional Champagne method. 

Family-friendly tours include wine tastings and vineyard visits for adults while the kids decorate cookies, play in the pool or enjoy arts and crafts. This area is also home to several of the world’s best vineyard hotels, including La Residence, Le Quartier Français and Leeu Estates.

View at vineyards near Paarl on South Africa

3. Paarl

The name of this district was inspired by the way the sun shimmers on the surface of its rocky outcroppings after rain; Paarl means means ‘pearl’ in Dutch. The magnificence of its natural surroundings is rivalled only by its excellent wines, which you can sample at various estates – or visit Spice Route to enjoy tasting experiences, restaurants and artisan boutiques in one place.

As for accommodation, we love Babylonstoren: an enormous Cape Dutch farm that features cosy cottages, sophisticated decor, an outstanding restaurant and acres of outdoor space to explore, plus an elegant tasting room where you can try the finest wines of South Africa.

A quiet country road in Swartland, South Africa

4. Swartland

Swartland is a bit more off the beaten track compared to the other South African wine regions on this list, as its winemaking culture is relatively new. That said, its proximity to Cape Town and wonderful wine route make it a top choice for day trips or weekend excursions. It’s especially well known for shiraz and chenin blanc grapes, as well as wheat and olive production. 

Swartland’s name comes from the Dutch phrase for ‘black land.’ If it happens to rain during your visit, you’ll understand why – look for the native ‘rhinoceros bush’, a plant that seems to turn from green to black when its leaves are wet.

Constantia Winelands South Africa

5. Constantia

Constantia is a ward within the Cape Town district, boasting some of the best South African vineyards just a short drive from the city. It takes less than 30 minutes to reach the Constantia Valley by car, making it an ideal spot for a half-day tour from Cape Town. While there you can also enjoy a picnic at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (including wine, of course). 

Constantia’s main claim to fame is that it’s the oldest wine-growing region in the country; vines were first planted here in the mid-17th century. You can visit South Africa’s oldest wine estate, Groot Constantia, to learn about the fascinating history of local viniculture.

Hemel-en-Aarde wine region

6. Hemel-en-Aarde

Unlike the wine regions listed above, Hemel-en-Aarde belongs to the Walker Bay district in the Cape South Coast region. It’s part of the epic Whale Coast – a dream destination for not only oenophiles but also wildlife lovers and nature enthusiasts. Just an hour and a half from Cape Town by car, it’s well worth the trip.

Hemel-en-Aarde – which means ‘heaven and earth’ – is surrounded by soaring mountains and close to the coastal town of Hermanus. Stay at a seaside hotel like Birkenhead House or Marine Hermanus and embark on some truly incredible South African winery tours in the nearby valley. 

Wine region of Robertson in Breede River Valley South Africa

7. Robertson

Often called ‘the valley of wine and roses’, Robertson is a longstanding hub of wine production in the Breede River Valley. Located about two hours inland from Cape Town, this district is particularly warm and dry. Extreme differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures create unique growing conditions and lend its grapes a distinctive flavour.

Generally speaking, the best time to visit South Africa’s wine regions is during summer (November–March). This is especially true for Robertson, which can get quite cold in winter (June–August). Keep in mind that December and January tend to be busy, while February and March are the perfect time to experience the autumn harvest season.

Shapes of Cultivated Land, Elgin, South Africa

8. Elgin

Set in the Cape South Coast region between Stellenbosch and Hemel-en-Aarde, Elgin has historically been known for its apples – more than half of all the country’s apples are grown here. In recent years it’s also gained a reputation for top-notch wines, which stand out thanks in part to its exceptional climate; the Elgin Valley is the coldest wine region in South Africa.

Explore Elgin and the rest of the Overberg region on a scenic wine tasting tour that includes the area’s loveliest estates. Pay special attention to sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and pinot noir – the local specialities – and visit the Elgin Railway Market for food and shopping.

Whatever you want from your Winelands adventure, our travel designers are ready to help:

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Where to stay

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