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Stellenbosch, the centre of the Winelands, is the oldest and most attractive town in the region, with a large university giving it a liveliness which is lacking in other nearby towns. The centre has a pleasing mix of architectural styles: Cape Dutch, Georgian, Regency and Victorian houses line broad streets, dappled with shade from centuries-old oak trees, and furrowed with water ditches which still carry water to the gardens. It’s a fairly large place but, with its handful of good museums and fun nightlife, is a perfect base for visiting the wine estates.
Stellenbosch offers two approaches to sightseeing: walking around the town centre viewing public buildings, oak-lined streets and stately homes; or going on a wine tour, visiting any number of the roughly 130 wineries and private cellars. Spend a couple of days in Stellenbosch and you’ll get to do both. No other town in South Africa has such an impressive concentration of early Cape architecture. However, many of the earliest buildings were lost to fires in the 18th and 19th centuries; what you see today is a collection of perfectly restored buildings.Read more
Stellenbosch wine route was the first wine route to open in South Africa, in April 1971. It was the idea of three local farmers: Neil Joubert, Frans Malan and Spatz Sperling. It has been hugely successful, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year, and today the membership comprises around 130 private cellars. It’s possible to taste and buy wines at all of them, and the cellars can arrange for wine to be delivered internationally. Many of the estates have excellent restaurants as well as providing very popular picnic lunches.
Some of the most popular vineyards include: Delaire, a small estate with stunning views; their flagship Merlot is popular, while the Chardonnay remains a favourite export label. Neethlingshof, with its long pine-lined avenue and cluster of Cape Dutch buildings, is a pleasant estate to visit and taste the award-winning Lord Netthling Pinotage ’98. Saxenburg has a manor house dating back to 1701 and produces a small number of fine reds. Spier, the area’s most commercial vineyard, showcases a number of wines; the Chenin Blanc ’01 is particularly good. Simonsig, which has been in the same family for 10 generations, is known for its excellent sparkling Kaapse Vonkel. Uittyk boasts a fine Georgian-style manor house and views of Table Mountain and produces a small number of fine wines and brandy.