Much like the braai, "tasting room road trips" are a national pastime in South Africa – and tastes in tasting rooms are as diverse as our colourful nation.
Open the discussion of a favourite over a braai, and you’re taken on what author of "Modern Wineries of South Africa" Hugh Fraser describes as a fantastic journey through the Western Cape.
Here's a taste of six remarkable estates, recommended by Fraser and the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show team, for your next tasting room road trip.
With the Simonsberg, Du Toitskloof and Franschhoek mountains as backdrop, Babylonstoren's garden is majestic. Dating back to 1692, the fortunes of this historic fruit and wine farm took a turn 10 years ago when it fell under the gaze of former magazine editor Karen Roos. Her passion for historic Cape Dutch style led to an authentic yet contemporary restoration that projects the farm into the future.
Some of the farm’s earliest structures from the 1700s remain on the farm today, with Babylonstoren’s Cape Dutch farmyard typical of the architectural style popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. As such it is considered to be one of the best-preserved farmyards in the Cape today.
The signature look at Babylonstoren remains whitewashed walls of thick stone or primitive brick, with ornate gables and thatched roofs but with contemporary glass boxes (to house a kitchen and dining area) seamlessly added onto the Cape Dutch cottages. The result is a modern yet authentic sensibility, that takes the farm firmly into the future.
The Tasting Room sits adjacent to the Wine Cellar, offering views of the conical Babylonstoren hill, Simonsberg and the Banghoek Mountains.
Tasting: Daily 10h00–17h00 for winter from May and 10h00–18h00 for summer from September
The breath-taking Graham Beck tasting room facilities are set amidst the tranquility and splendour of Mother Nature on the estate in the picturesque Robertson Wine Valley. The structure, with its eye-catching and distinctive architecture blends effortlessly into the surrounding veld.
Upon entry the sense of lightness is underscored by glass stair panels and glass walls separating the cellar from the wine-tasting areas and lending a sanitary air, necessary in the modern world of winemaking. The bold use of glass extends to the way the bottling area, usually hidden away, is revealed and also to the VIP area, which contains sought-after art and sculptures collected by Graham Beck, including works by Edoardo Villa, Stella Shawzin, Tamar Mason, Jackson Hlungwani and Alessandro Papetti.
Graham Beck wines have matured over the last few decades and this building reflects that confidence, revealed in the superb finishes and language of the public spaces.
Tasting: Mon-Fri 09:00 to 17:00; Sat & Sun: 10:00 to 16:00. Closed on selected public holidays.
Best described as a heavenly setting, high up the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge near Hermanus, Creation’s vines climb the steep hills of Babylon Toren Mountain to a lofty altitude of 350 metres above sea level.
Creation’s tasting area was built according to the owner’s preference – in a location that best exhibits all that Creation and the area has to offer.
The modern and bright structure opens up onto wide balconies and a small garden in which visitors are welcome to enjoy their wine tastings and pairings whilst being surrounded by beautiful artworks and architecture that create the overall impression of light and elegance, something that Creation has always aimed to achieve in both their wines and their food.
Wine tasting daily between 10am and 5pm. Booking essential.
Idiom Tasting Centre and Restaurant offers spectacular views of the majestic "Helderberg basin" mountains and the full profile of the Cape Peninsula from Table Mountain to Cape Point. Old World classically-styled Roman arches and stone-clad porticos support a contemporary New World timber pavilion and concrete wine tasting cube making Idiom a must-visit destination in the Cape Winelands.
The building, masterfully designed by architect Thomas Leach in close partnership with Idiom owner Alberto Bottega and his son, Roberto, mirrors South Africa’s unique positioning in the world of wine; a composition of New World modernism on a base of Old-World support.
Tasting Centre open Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00 to 16:30
High on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain, 50km from Cape Town, lies the family-owned Delheim estate. Here the Sperling family has been making wines of character for many decades.
A source of much pride is the atmospheric “Downstairs” cellar door, with its famous cobwebbed window.
Very little has changed here over the years since it became the birthplace of the Stellenbosch Wine Route in 1971. The patriarch of the Sperling family, Michael “Spatz” Sperling, was one of the three founder members of this wine route, from which all the other wine routes in the country originated.
The Sperlings continue to provide guests with a truly unique South African hospitality experience. A visit to Delheim really is worth the journey.
The visitor enters a courtyard enhanced by a sculpture by Marco Cianfanelli and proceeds to the central entrance foyer, with immediate views of the fermentation cellars through large glass panels… The wine-tasting areas are defined primarily by glass, concrete and timber, with exposed off-shutter concrete walls and large panels of glass revealing the views across to Stellenbosch and the rolling hills of the Tokara vineyards.
Says Miles Mossop, Winemaker for Tokara: “Tokara is about precision, focus and zero compromise. The wines reflect a sense of place, have elements of restrained power, elegance, finesse and balance, and the ability to improve with age. They are classic in style yet modern in character. While the architecture also reflects this philosophy, to me it is a lekker building that is functional and works well.”
* "Modern Wineries of South Africa" is touring with the TOPS at SPAR Wine Show this year, with the next stop on the 7-city tour being Montecasino in Johannesburg from 6 to 8 June. Book your tickets hereusing "IOL" as the Promo code and get an exclusive 30% off general access tickets.