Bordeaux, Provence, Porto, Tuscany, Napa Valley and the Cape Winelands of South Africa.

All Wine Capitals of the World – and a must as much for the senses as the taste buds! Where else can you drink some of the world’s best wines and possibly hear - or even see - monkeys and other wildlife nearby?

Producing over 264 million gallons of wine, South Africa is a thriving wine scene. Centuries-old wine estates in classic Cape-Dutch homesteads share their grand heritage with wine connoisseurs from all over the globe. A visit provides a truly unique opportunity to try different wines with varietals you can only find in South Africa. The approach to wine tasting here is also distinctive and special. Ever paired a cupcake with wine? Or specialty salts? Here, they often go beyond traditional European pairings. Of course, wine isn’t all you should drink up in the majestic Winelands. South African wineries are also some of the most picturesque in the world. Nestled between rugged mountains and oak-lined streets, the winelands are always a hotspot for weddings, conferences and receptions.

The Winelands near Cape Town are comprised of the Stellenbach, Franschhoek and Paarl valleys and take advantage of the coastal influences of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Stellenbach is often considered the heart of the South African wine industry and their many vineyards are known for red wines with terroir distinction – particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz. The fortified wines produced in the Paarl valley is terroir-driven as well. Franschhoek is known for its full-flavored white wines with noticeable acidity levels. Visiting two wineries here will be a special treat!

South Africa has been home to some of the world’s loveliest – and most delicious – wineries ever since the days of European settlers bringing along such grapes as the Chenin blanc back in the 1600s. In 1652, Dutch settlers may have been the ones to originally bring the grapes over when they established South Africa as their midway point to India. At the time, the prosperous Dutch East India Company saw a perfect spot for a way station here and a place for its ships to fuel up with fresh food and drink.

Or perhaps it was a few years later, in 1688, when French Huguenots were fleeing religious persecution but didn’t forget to bring the grapes. (Nothing says home like a good glass of vino!) Or it may be some combination thereof, with the French (and later, the Germans) working with the Dutch to start the local wine industry.

Nowadays, excellent restaurants, antique stores and enchanting galleries full of history and charm have sprung up nearby. A visit to the Winelands is a delightful way to experience South Africa.

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