Wine Tasting & Fine Dining in the Food and Wine Capital of South Africa!
The Franschhoek valley is known as the food and wine capital of South Africa
Franschhoek is a word in Afrikaans; one of the eleven languages spoken in South Africa, which means French Corner. It’s a beautiful old small town in the Western Cape Province, with a lot of French influence.
A bit of history…
More than 300 years ago many Huguenots; the ethnoreligious group of French Protestants, relocated to Protestant states, fleeing persecution in France.
A great number of Huguenot refugees started migrating to the Dutch Cape Colony in South Africa, establishing farms and businesses, bringing with them their traditions and knowledge in wine making and viticulture.
They settled mostly in the Franschhoek valley, 75 kilometres east of Cape Town. These farms have developed and become renowned wineries.
What Franschhoek has to offer
Franschhoek is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. The town centre consists of a main road with restaurants and unique shops.
Due to restrictions placed regarding renovations and new construction, the Cape Dutch architecture in the village is preserved, with roots in medieval Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia.
There are a variety of vineyards, from small boutique to large. The landscapes are breath-taking, and thanks to the French heritage, the fine dining offer is large, with more than 40 restaurants to choose from.
Tasting the wine
There are three ways of visiting vineyards and wine tasting:
- You can rent a car, have a designated driver, make a selection of vineyards to visit, make reservations for the visits, and enjoy!
- You may take the Franschhoek Wine Tram. There are six different routes with eight to nine different stops each. Time will allow to do one route per day. Tickets may be purchased online or at the ticket office on the main road in the town centre. The experience is a combination of tram and bus with narration of the history of Frankschhoek and wine cultivation in the valley. Depending on the time you start the tour and how long you stay in each stop, you can visit between four and six vineyards during the day.
- You may hire a private guide for a full day or half a day. The experienced guides will tell you about Franschhoek history and will answer any questions. They might suggest vineyards that are not on your itinerary nor on the Wine Tram itinerary. Up to you to be adventurous.
Vineyard visits include activities such as wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or a stroll through the vineyards.
Where to have a fine dining experience
There are more than forty restaurants in Franschhoek valley and not enough time to try them all. Below, I recommend the two that I tried and enjoyed the most and two that were highly recommended to me but I did not go.
Haute Cabrière, fantastic food, superb views of Franschhoek at sunset for aperitif, and dinner inside overlooking the maturation cellar. Amazing experience!
Reuben’s, beautiful and modern interiors, fine cuisine and friendly service. The menu has an introduction written by the chef and founder, telling his story in a very humble and sentimental way.
- This is a popular destination; my advice is to make reservations well in advance. Restaurants tend to get fully booked quickly, especially the best ones. Even the wine tram might not have availability if you try to book at the last minute.
- There is a variety of accommodation options ranging from fine bed and breakfast, self-catered accommodation, luxurious boutique hotels, to establishments located on farms in and around the valley. The weekends and summer have high demand therefore, I recommend to book well in advance.
- Some hotels have free shuttle service that can take you and pick you up from the centre of town or any restaurant in the valley. This is very convenient because I do not recall seeing taxis or public transportation.
- Franschhoek is a very relaxing and beautiful place, the vibe is perfect for ‘bon vivant’ therefore, I advise you to schedule the activities in a way that you won’t be running around or being late for reservations. Take time to go slowly and enjoy to the utmost in a calm way. Smell the roses!
- You cannot leave South Africa without tasting pinotage; South Africa’s signature red wine. Pinotage is a grape variety that was created in the South African wine region in 1925. Professor Abraham Izak Perold, created a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut.
I loved this place so much that I want to go back and stay for longer.