South Africa's oldest wine farms are situated in and around Cape Town, the beautiful city at the southernmost tip of the African continent. The first vineyards were planted shortly after the Dutch settlers arrived in 1652 to set up a half-way station for ships going to India. This historic vegetable and fruit garden inspired the Garden at Babylonstoren.
But it was the first Dutch-born Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon Van Der Stel, who is credited with founding the Cape wine industry. He recognised that the soil, Mediterranean climate and geography were well-suited to winemaking.
The fertile Constantia Valley is situated on the slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain and is home to the country's oldest wine farms. Only 20 minutes from the city centre, many of these historic wine farms have lovely hotels and excellent restaurants. Among them are:
Groot Constantia, the home of Simon Van Der Stel, is one of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture and one of the country's best museums. Visitors are invited to wander through the beautiful old buildings before enjoying a wine tasting.
Originally part of Constantia, Buitenverwachting was founded in 1773 and has been one of the premier wine farms of the region with an exceptional restaurant.
This wine farm was also part of the original Constantia farm, but has over the centuries developed into a top wine estate on its own - with a hotel, three restaurants and award-winning wines.
The manor house at Klein Constantia dates to 1818 when the farm was split from Groot Constantia. It boasts a colourful history as well as a cellar, which received a merit award from the Cape Provincial Institute of Architects.
Just north of the city, in the Tygerberg Hills, but still considered part of Cape Town, lie the golden vineyards of Durbanville. Starting off as a meeting place for transport riders, farmers and explorers in the 19th century, Durbanville today boasts a wine route with nine wine estates, among them:
One of the country's top wine farms, Durbanville Hills may not be one of the oldest, but it produces some of the most awarded wines in the country.
Bloemendal Wine Estate
Bloemendal is known not only for its fine wines, but it also is a lovely farm to enjoy a picnic lunch.