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The JT Insider Guide: Wellington, South Africa

We get the lowdown from Angelo Casu – who, along with his wife Tina, restored and now hosts guests at Grand Dédale on Doolhof Wine Estate – on Wellington’s best bits.

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The setting

On the Grapevine: ‘Perfect for a somewhat old-school Cape Winelands experience, Wellington is a small town at the foot of the Groenberg Mountains, about an hour from the big city. The vineyard village is truly at the heart of South Africa’s wine industry, not just geographically, but also because most of the country’s material for vines comes from the local farms. As one local says, “It all starts in Wellington.” Wellington has unspoiled nature, away from the buzz.’

“You have a view of Wellington valley, the town and the landscape that, on a clear day, stretches as far as Table Mountain.”

The view

To the Horizon: ‘The most spectacular view in my opinion is on a dirt road between Mischa and Welbedacht Wine Estates. From the top of a small ridge you have a view of Wellington valley, the town and the landscape that, on a clear day, stretches as far as Table Mountain.’

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What to do

Unexpected Relics: ‘Go hiking and wine tasting, set out on a historic tour of the town or simply enjoy the unspoiled nature. I enjoy mountain biking, as the valley offers some challenging routes with breathtaking views. Wellington Museum houses a collection of local artefacts, and unexpected exhibits like one of the largest Egyptology collections in South Africa, and relics from the Sotho and Tswana tribal folk. Ouma Granny’s House is a Victorian house with a priceless collection, while Anglo-Boer War Block House is a relic of the Anglo-Boer war and one of only 21 left in South Africa. Amongst all the Boutique wineries in the valley, you can visit Lelienfontein Vine Growers, which is the largest single vine nursery in Africa. The Bosman family has been growing vines since 1888.’

“Go hiking and wine tasting, set out on a historic tour or simply enjoy the unspoiled nature.”

Eat

Wild Food: ‘Wellington is known for its slow food approach and wild boar meat because wild boars roam freely in our valleys. A restaurant called Twist some More specialises in wild boar delicacies.’

“Wellington is known for its slow food approach.”

Drink

In the Spirit: ‘Besides wine, Wellington is known for its whisky production and Roger Jorgensen’s Distillery. The winemaker and Savingnac Potstill Brandy creator turned his hand to distillation in 1994, and now, with more than a decade of experience, transforms wild young wines into perfect amber Savingnac, as well as Primitiv vodka, Field of Dreams absinthe and Jorgensen’s Gin. These artisan spirits can be tasted with Roger himself on their historic family farm. James Sedgwick Distillery, which started way back in 1850, also produces two International award winning whiskies.’

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Stay

Boutique Estate: ‘Standing as proud testament to its old Cape heritage, Grand Dédale’s historic buildings have been carefully restored, in a beautiful landscaped setting. The rooms have been magnificently decorated, making it Wellington’s most exclusive privately-owned country house,  accommodating 12 guests in sumptuous luxury.’

‘The Doolhof Estate is set in a remote valley, surrounded by the Groenberg, Limietberge and Hawekwa mountains. Grapes for wine and brandy making were introduced as early as 1728. The farm has been the jewel of the Bovlei valley for three centuries and the present owners have now built a winery with a tasting room.’

“You can be away from the buzz of the big city yet only 45 minutes from Cape Town.”

The souvenir

Through the Generations: ‘Wellington used to be known for its leather. Two shops, run by the same families for generations, still manufacture and sell these leather items.’

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Last word

At the Heart: ‘In Wellington you can be away from the buzz of the big city yet only 45 minutes from Cape Town. Being at the heart of South Africa’s Winelands, you can also visit the surrounding villages like Darling, Tulbagh and Riebeek Kasteel. My wife and I believed that the town and beautiful valley needed to be showcased, and by opening Grand Dédale we have achieved our goal.’