Most visitors exploring the South African Winelands are headed to the famous wine growing areas around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Constantia Valley; and for a good reason. But it is more than worth to keep in mind that wine production in South Africa is much wider spread, with many excellent wineries located in areas off the beaten track.
The Klein Karoo Wine Route, stretching along Route 62 from Montagu to De Rust, is one of the lesser know wine regions that should definitely be on the list of every wine enthusiast.
Located about 300 kilometres (three to three and a half hours) east of Cape Town, the Klein Karoo is a semi-arid valley surrounded by the dramatic mountain ranges of the Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains in the south and the Swartberg in the north. This slightly remote area (which is strongly growing as an attractive tourist location) offers many interesting activities ranging from visits to the many ostrich farms around Oudtshoorn to exploring Cango Caverns and spectacular mountain pass drives. Also in the area are several private game reserves home to a large wildlife population, including the Big Five.
On first sight the area does not look like your typical wine growing region. That said, the Klein Karoo actually forms part of the Succulent Karoo Biome and is recognized as one of the top 26 areas in the world for biological diversity.
Various different microclimates along with hot, dry summers and cold winters mean the Klein Karoo produces excellent, hugely diverse wines. The area is in particular known for its award-winning port-style fortified wines and brandies. In fact, most wineries originally have been distilleries and the R62 wine route is also often referred to as South Africa’s ‘brandy route’.
Almost all of the local wineries, taking advantage of excellent growing conditions, have nevertheless added production of dry wines at a later stage and many today are producing excellent wines.
That said, expect the Klein Karoo wineries to be quite different from the estates found around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. What you will encounter are small, family-led facilities that allow tasting and buying wines whilst not designed to invite guests to stay for longer – albeit several also offer food.
Today there are around 40 wineries spread over a distance of nearly 300 kilometres, making the Klein Karoo wine route one of the longest in the world. As a result, you will need to allow for a couple of days if you want to visit various wineries.
As an alternative when only passing through the area, at least plan a stop at Karoo Vine in Ladismith. The little wine shop sells all wine labels from the Little Karoo and is open seven days a week from 9 am to 5 pm (except Christmas Day and Easter Sunday).
Otherwise, below are a couple of wineries I would definitely recommend to put on your list.
Barrydale Cellar, Barrydale
Barrydale Cellar, located just outside Barrydale has become a popular stop for travellers along the R62. The winery started to distil brandy in 1941 and today is South Africa’s leading independent distillery. In addition, they also produce a range of excellent dry wines – the Tradouw range – which took off in 1976. Grape originate from the smallest region of origin in the country, the Tradouw valley just outside Barrydale.
There is a small tasting room offering a special wine and brandy tasting and a charming little restaurant which offers wood fired pizza, salads and platters.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday and public holidays, 9 am – 3 pm
Closed on Good Friday, Christmas and New Year
Boplaas Family Vineyards, Calitzdorp
Wine making at Boplaas goes back to 1880 albeit at the time the estate focused on production of brandy for export to London. It is only since 1980 that the winery launched into dry quality wines and a couple of years later started to produce an award-winning port wine whilst later also returning to distilling brandy.
Located at the outskirts of Calitzdorp, Boplaas tasting room is nestled in the midst of the vineyards, offering lovely views towards the distant mountain range.
There is a small restaurant too where local bistro-style food is served.
Open Monday to Friday and public holidays, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday, 9 am – 3 pm
Calitzdorp Cellar, Calitzdorp
Founded in 1928, like most other Klein Karoo wineries Calizdorp Cellar initially focused on distilling brandy. Later on sweet wines and port became their flagship wines before adding dry white and reds.
All wines can be tasted in the small tasting room.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday 9 am – 1 pm
De Krans, Calitzdorp
The winery itself dates back to the 1890s whilst the current wine cellar was built in 1964. Production is focused on Portuguese-style red wines and the winery has won numerous awards.
The De Krans wine tasting offer spots a special wine and biscotti pairing. Whist typically biscotti are enjoyed dipping into sweet wine, here a selection of different biscotti are paired to the winery’s range of red wines.
The on-site De Krans Bistro & Deli has won the Klein Karoo gourmet awards in 2017 along with the Gourmand Destination Award in the farm stall eatery category. It is open for breakfast and lunch.
Open daily 9 am – 5 pm
Closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday
Grundheim Craft Distillery, Oudtshoorn
This little estate was founded in 1858 and is family-run in the sixth generation.
Located just a couple of kilometres outside of Oudtshoorn, along an unpaved road, Grundheim Craft Distillery is one of the few wineries in the area that is not producing any dry wines. It is however well known for producing excellent double-distilled witbits, brandy and a locally very popular Black Mountain Gin range.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday, 9 am – 1 pm, public holidays, 10 am – 3 pm
Karusa Vineyards and Wines, Oudtshoorn
Located close to Oudtshoorn in the Schoemanshoek Valley at the foot of the impressive Swartberg, Karusa is another one of the local estates that is not only a winery but also a craft brewery. However, as a wine lover you will come here to enjoy the excellent Mediterranean-style reds and Cape Classique wines.
The tasting room is located in a historic Victorian-style homestead that dates back to the 1800s. On warmer days, visitors will however flock to the tables spread across the lawn, overlooking the nearby vineyards.
The winery is located along Route 328 from Oudtshoorn to the famous Cango Cavernes. Time your stop here after your visit to the Caverns around midday. That way you can enjoy a glass of wine with the estate’s excellent tapas and (enormous) pizzas made with products sourced strictly locally.
Open Monday to Friday, 9.30 am – 4 pm; Saturday, 10 am – 2.30 pm
Mons Ruber Winery, De Rust
Established in the mid 19th century, this little family-owned winery produces dry wines, port and sweet wine along with brandy, which is still produced over an open outdoor fire.
Just off the N12 outside of DeRust, the small tasting room is nestled in a historic homestead built in1854 that once has served as a tollhouse and also a hotel.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday 9 am – 1 pm
Have you been to the Klein Karoo, exploring local wineries? Let me know about your exprience!