Revisiting My Appreciation for the South African Wines of Stellenbosch

South Africa, the very dream destination for taking an African safari to see the big five, offers more to the traveler than just adventure. One can stay luxurious too. Just days before I left to visit the country I was invited to attend a South African wine expose in New York City. I discovered Africa was also an impressive wine destination and planned to confirm this when on South African soil.


south african wine tasting

the wines of South Africa

My initial confirmation came when stop for a tasting and lunch Dieu Donne located in Franschhoek, South Africa.. Translating from French into, “A gift from God,”  my moment was there was exactly that. I’ll always remember the views and the delightful wine (the culinary pairings too). I also realized it was not just the wine itself or the food, but also the setting which enhances the entire experience here. I certainly craved (and created) more.

Afterwards, my visit to South Africa also included wineries in neighboring Stellenbosch. Here, I discovered three unique locations; all different, all distinct, and all delicious.


I woke up early from a night out in Cape Town to head to Mooiplaas. I had put my best (cleanest) attire from my hostel home in an effort to stay classy. This was a wine tasting after all. Yet, during my first moments meeting the viticulturist we were off on the grounds to explore the different terroirs inside the mineral rich ancient soils found on this vineyard. I became fascinated with the environmentally friendly approaches used to keep the vines healthy, but according to my guide, I was not properly dressed for this adventure as my boots would certainly slip (and certainly lose their shine) on the terrain after the recent rain. So much for dressing the part.

the vies and vineyards at mooiplas in stellenbosch, South Afrcia

the vines at Moopilaas

tasting the wines of Mooiplaas

an intimate tasting at Mooiplaas

Yet, this all changed when heading back to the Cape Dutch architecture estate dating back to the early 1800s for the tasting. There I met the brother and the maker of the wines. Here we sat inside the estate at an elegant table with a lovely view to discuss (and taste) the wines.

Mooiplaas in Afrikaans translates to “beautiful farm” and from this beautiful vineyard comes some beautiful wines. In fact, you know it certainly reached a level of quality when being served on South Africa’s Blue Train.


One of South Africa’s oldest wine farms with history dating back to 1692, Spier provides an entire setting including a hotel, farm, and an opportunity to experience more than its wines.  Located on an estate, visitors can walk the grounds, experience award winning wines along with plenty of artisan experiences including South African contemporary art.

tasting onsite at Spier Vineyards in Stellenbosch, South Africa

tasting the Spier whites

tasting the reds at Spier Vineyards in Stellenbosch, South Africa

tasting the reds

For me, it was the place that became a perfect stop on a guided tour through South Africa.   An afternoon of tasting transformed into numerous purchases for the night’s stay with more bottles for the rest of the journey through the Cape Town attractions and beyond.

The winery is also noted for its conservation and good to people, good to earth campaigns. It was good to me.


Amani, a small boutique winery with a personal touch, was another vineyard visited on my travels. Defined by its grape sorting by hand, designed to increase the flavor intensity and its distant sea breezes creating more moisture on the grapes I found some wonderful wines here as well.

winery Amani located in stellenbosch, south africa

the veiw of the vineyards

tasting the amani wines in stellenbosch, south africa

a tasting of the Amani wines

Also making the South African Blue Train wine list, their promise to customers is (was) that “the best is yet to come.” Sadly, unable to find current information on the winery, I still hope this is true for this location at some point.  Nevertheless, I certainly enjoyed my time sipping the fruits of their labor during my passing through Amani which translates to peace in Swahilli.

South African Winelands

vineyards come with a view in stellenbosch, south africa

under an hour from Cape Town, enter South African winelands

Just a short drive from Cape Town, one can personally discover a unique, interesting, and the innovative wine region of Stellenbosch.  And no visit here is complete with sampling one of the region’s acclaimed reds, the Pinotage (a unique South African varietal from Pinot Noir and Hermitage created just under 100 years ago).  For whites, although the diversity continues  to increase, the one must sample remains the old grape of  Chenin Blanc. But honestly, taste everything.

On my travels I learned the soil here is essentially 180 million years older than other regions. This put a new twist on ancient wineries. And you may ask, what does that mean? Well, the soil is one of the determining factors on the notes found in the wine. Translation you can expect different tastes in these wines. So explore this wine region in person or at the wine store and start enjoy the opportunity to taste history along with innovation from South Africa.

Stay Tasting Wine, Craig

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