People around the world are finally starting to learn more about South African wines, realizing just how exceptional they are. With a wine-making history that goes back to the 17th century, South African wines are amongst the most mature and well balanced in the world. One of the centers of this wine culture in South Africa is the Stellenbosch wine region, home to more than 200 wine and grape producers. From my own experience I can attest to just how amazing this part of South Africa’s Western Cape is, but it’s not only about the wine. There’s a lot more to the region and many wineries are leading the way in presenting more to their guests than just wine.
Wine trips are great but even the most ardent oenophile will get tired of seeing the same old routine of barrel cellars and tasting rooms from one winery to the next. That’s why several wineries in Stellenbosch have decided to offer more than just a normal wine tasting, from food pairings to scenic drives and even a Segway tour.
Spier Wine Farm Segway Tour – Spier is one of the oldest wineries in South Africa and has a long traditional of producing some of the best wines in the country. A visit to their wine farm is far from standard though; the winery has done a lot to enhance the visitor experience, from a beautiful luxury hotel to award winning restaurants and even shows. But what is probably one of the most unique activities found at a winery is also becoming one of its most popular – the vineyard Segway tour.
Guests have the chance to jump on this strange machine and race through the vines, learning more about the winery and enjoying some stunning scenery in the process. Just like Segway tours anywhere in the world, no previous experience is necessary, but you do have to be mentally prepared for taking the Segway off-road. The machines are safe though and soon you’ll forget about the mode of transportation and enjoy being immersed in the farming side of the wine business in a very unique way.
Chocolate pairing – Food and wine pairings are nothing new; wineries teach guests how to match up meals with vintages every day. What is new though is what Waterford Estate has done in pairing wine with one of the most popular treats in the world, chocolate. For both wine and chocolate connoisseurs, accurately matching the two is notoriously difficult. Owner Kevin Arnold knew this and understood the challenges, but rightly guessed at how popular the experience would be if he could master it. Master it he did in a most unique way, by producing his own chocolate. Perhaps the only winery in the world that produces a line of chocolate, they are designed every year to perfectly match that year’s varietals.
Guests receive three pairings and an introduction not only to the amazing wines, but the chocolates as well. Just as important to the experience, you will walk away knowing more not just about wine but the sweets as well. Something I loved was a very smart product that includes the wines and chocolates in a handy, customs-friendly package that you can take home and share with friends. Using your newly acquired wine and chocolate knowledge you can lead loved ones through the process; a fun way of reliving memories from your trip.
Salt tasting – A Cape Malay cook once told me that salt is love, and I absolutely agree. Just like chocolate though, even salt can be complicated and there are hundreds of different kinds from around the world, each imparting its own unique flavors. Fleur du Cap Winery decided to jump on the salt bandwagon and now offers its guests wine and salt pairings.
Walking into the old mountain cellar, it’s hard not to feel transported to another century, one when caves and deep cellars were the best places to age precious wines. There in the heart of this cellar I sat, faced with a variety of salts and foods made with them. Rather than just taste the salt, Fleur du Cap smartly put together a series of small bites showcasing the different salt types so the guests can experience how the wine and salt together makes for an enhanced experience.
Wine Safari – South Africa enjoys a glut of beautiful places to explore and Stellenbosch along with the Western Cape are near the top of this list. From lush, fynbos covered mountains to the rugged shoreline; it’s one of my favorite places on the planet. The good folks at Warwick Wine Estate decided to include these stunning landscapes on their popular Big Five Wine Safari.
Guests trundle through the vineyards in a traditional safari truck, stopping at spots along the way to sample wine and to immerse themselves in the views. The pinnacle is their tasting facility on top of a mountain, the rolling vines extending in all directions and surrounded by a beautiful mountain range. In the distance Table Mountain is clearly visible and you feel like you are standing on top of the world. I love getting out of the tasting room and into nature, because for me that is what South Africa is all about.
Wine Blending – A couple of years ago in France I joined in on a cognac blending class; a great way to learn more about the beverage and the brand. Middelvlei Wines has introduced something similar and from what I hear it’s just as much fun. Guests are led through a basic introduction to the elements of wine making, learning about each component and why they’re all so important to the final product. Guests then use this knowledge to blend their own wine; nothing is out of bounds as they create a unique beverage that is suited exactly to their tastes. Afterwards you receive a souvenir bottle of your personal wine to take home along with a greater appreciation for wine making and the folks who have the skills and love to do it as a profession.
These are just some of the wineries that are actively trying to give their guests not only greater benefit to their visit, but a much more enjoyable experience. They know that people want something more than a standard wine tasting, and these fun, engaging activities go a long way to accomplishing that goal.
What non-wine activities have you experienced at wineries?
This campaign was created and sponsored by the Stellenbosch Wine Routes and Destinate in partnership with iambassador. LandLopers retains all editorial control of what is published and as you know, I never shy away from honest commentary.