The renowned ‘French corner’ of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl along with Cape Town’s Constantia Valley where the country’s wine growing history originally started back in 1685 undoubtedly remain South Africa’s best known wine regions.
Though there is a very good reason to visit these places, it is well worth looking beyond!
Robertson Wine Valley, located in the breathtaking Breede Valley, even though much lesser known to international visitors, looks at a fairly long wine making tradition too; with the first estates founded around the mid 1800s.
What makes the region new is that local wines are now more forcefully marketed and sold internationally. In addition, local wineries have established an enticing range of services for the interested (but not necessarily expert) wine traveller.
Furthermore, the region saw the number of its local wineries doubling over the past twenty years and the area is now home to more than fifty award-winning wineries.
Bordering the Klein Karoo which is South Africa’s leading wine region for gin and brandy production (alongside excellent dry wines), many of the Robertson Wine Valley wineries too are distilling their own brandy and gin, adding an interesting twist to their wine offer.
If you wonder where to start, below are 10 wineries I personally feel are a great start to get to know more about the up-and-coming Robertson Wine Valley.
Founded in 1983, Graham Beck is one of the most famous South African wineries producing a large range of award-winning MCC (Methode Cape Classique) wines, whilst producing several dry wines too. It’s been the brut rosé that made me fall in love with the brand many years back.
Having passed the beautiful estate near Robertson many times on my way into the Klein Karoo, a stop here had been on my list for far too long!
The tasting room boasts a superb collection of South African and International art but what really took my breath away was the magnificent view over the surrounding vineyards towards the rugged mountain range in the distance.
There are four tasting options including a classic tasting (two wines free of charge), the Methode Cape Classique tasting, the Deluxe Cape Classique where you also taste the wines in different glasses to compare how this impacts the taste of the wines, and finally the flagship tasting.
Fun fact: Both Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama served Graham Back bubbly at their respective inaugurations. Now if that does not tell you something about the wines!
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
Closed on select public holidays
Nestled on the outskirts of Ashton, Zandvliet is one of South Africa’s first leading producers of Shiraz, with the winery’s first plantings going back to the 1870s.
Your wine tasting will place in the utterly gorgeous Kalkveld Lounge. It is a space that combines old elements of the building with a modern interior.
I particularly loved the eight metre long custom build chandelier made from recycled wine bottles.
The estate offers various wine experiences, including blending your own wine, a classic Zandvliet tasting and the Zandvliet ClemenGold pairing. ClemenGold is a special form of mandarines also grown on the estate and the tasting features four wines paired with ClemenGold infused food: a ClemenGold marmelade, a spicy panforte, biscotti and a dark chocolate.
Zandvliet also produces its own gin; its flagship gin is based on nine botanicals, with ClemenGold taking the flavour lead.
And while there, don’t miss the newly added exhibition space in the old wine cellar below the lounge which hosts changing exhibitions mostly from South African artists.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 5 pm
Excelsior Wine Estate
Founded in 1859, the estate is run in the fifth generation by the De Wet family, descendent from Jacobus de Wet, an official of the Dutch East India Company, who was involved in the early vine planting in the Cape after he came to South Africa in 1697. He is indeed recognized as one of the first wine makers in the Western Cape.
Excelsior features three different wine ranges, the Purebred range which yields to the farms history as a leading horse breeder, along with its classic and reserve range.
The tasting room extends outside with a deck spanning over the small dam letting you enjoy the local birdlife while sipping your wine.
The winery also bakes its own bread which is made daily in a wood-fired oven and served at Grace @Excelsior, the on-site restaurant where you will be offered a monthly changing menu.
Excelsior is also one of the local wine farms offering guest rooms. It’s beautiful historic Cape Dutch Revival Manor, one the family home, has been carefully restored and turned into luxury accommodation.
Open Monday to Friday, 10 am – 4 pm; Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 3 pm
Rietvallei Wine Estate
Rietvallei is one of South Africa’s oldest family-owned wine estates and also one of the first that was established in the picturesque Robertson Wine Valley back in 1864.
Fun fact: Many of the wines are named after family members. Now, is this does not demonstrate a dedication to wine, what else would?
The winery produces four different wine ranges and more than 20 different labels.
After a careful renovation, the historic manor house, once the home of generations of the Burger family, has become the winery’s tasting room and restaurant.
You can chose between four different tasting options and also enjoy wine by the glass, ideally paired with a cheese platter.
Open Monday to Friday, 8.30 am – 5 pm; Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 2 pm
The estate is family-owned in the ninth generation descendent from French Huguenots who came to South Africa bringing with them vines from their native Loire region.
Wines at Springfield Estate are produced according to natural processes and 80% of Springfield’s grapes are fermented with native yeast and most wines are bottled unfiltered. In addition, at the cellar, which dates back to 1902, the winery uses a gravity flow system and grapes are fermented whole, to limit any spoilage or damage to the fruit.
The small tasting room is nestled directly along the Breede river, and during warmer days the outside terrace is truly one of the most beautiful spots in the Valley to settle down with a glass of wine!
Open Monday to Friday, 8 am – 5 pm; Saturday 9 am – 3 pm
Van Loveren Family Vineyards
One of the ‘newer’ wine farms in the Robertson Wine Valley, Van Loveren was founded back in 1937, initially producing sweet wines and brandy. Only in 1980 the Van Loveren brand of excellent dry wines was launched and the winery has since transformed into one of the leading wine tourism destinations in the area.
Visitors are offered a wide range of activities, including off course wine tasting in the stunning modern tasting room or a shaded outside patio, cellar and vineyard tours as well as a bistro offering wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers and a variety of seasonal specialities.
There is a wide range of wine tasting and pairings which will give you a hard time to chose, including the Van Loveren Cheese Wine Pairing, Undiscovered Gems Tasting, Papillon Sparkling Wine Pairing, Tangled Tree Chocolate and Wine Pairing as well as a Papillon Kids Tasting (based on non-alcoholic drinks, off course).
Definitely try the ‘Almost Zero’ white wine; it has less than 0.5% of alcohol and with flavours of apple, litchi and citrus, it is the perfect match for seafood and salads.
Open Monday to Friday, 8 am – 5 pm; Saturday 9.30 pm – 4 pm; Sunday 11 am – 3 pm
Esona Boutique Wine
This quite unique winery is located close to the Breede river at the outskirts of Robertson. Definitely head up to the deli, if not for the excellent products than for the fantastic views over the vineyards, the nearby Breede river and the majestic mountain range backdrop.
Esona looks back at nearly one hundred years of wine making, boasting a truly unique wine cellar built into the underground with fermenting taking place in cement tanks (kuips).
If you want to explore the cellar and kuips, the winery offers a special tasting option which takes place in this very location. The tasting includes two of the winery’s single vineyard limited release wines with the session offering a comparison of the wines tested in ordinary wine glasses and specific crystal glasses. Prior booking is required.
There is also a standard tasting available with no prior booking required.
I love quirky, unusual labels and the Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir ‘Frankly My Dear’ is a delightful fresh rosé that is perfect for a light summer lunch. Other wines include a Sauvignon Blanc, a Chardonnay and a Shiraz.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 4 pm.
Weltevrede Wine Estate
Founded in 1912 by Klass Jonker, the winery is now family-run in the fourth generation. Today, it is mostly known for producing an excellent range of Chardonnay along with a range of MCCs all containing Chardonnay to some extent. Other wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.
The charming tasting room mixes historic with modern elements and the regular wine tasting is free. In addition, an interactive wine tasting including two cheeses and four chocolates paired to the winery’s Simplicity collection wine range is available.
For a more unique experience, there is a special tasting taking place in the underground cellar with an art installation of 80 year old fermentation tanks leading to the tasting area. Prior booking is required for the pairing and underground tasting.
Open Monday to Friday, 8 am – 5 pm; Saturday 9 am – 3.30 pm
Founded over half a century ago, today Bonnivale Wines is one of the larger wineries in the Robertson Wine Valley, producing a fairly large range of different wines. They can be tasted in a range of various tasting options, including a unique cookie and wine pairing.
Though I liked the modern tasting room and shop, during warmer days and place permitting, the beautiful shaded courtyard is definitely the place to settle down for a tasting.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm; Saturday and public holidays, 10 am – 1 pm
The Viljoen family looks back at a wine making history that started in 1818 whilst today’s winery run by brothers Fred and Manie Viljoen kicked off in 1998. They produce a range of award-winning wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and a MCC sparkling wine.
The winery is nestled south of Elandsberg Mountains directly at the shores of the Breede River and apart from wine, many visitors will head here to enjoy a river cruise. Cruises are approximately an hour, and whilst they allow for breathtaking views over the surrounding landscape most visitors boarding the Viljoensdrift river boat will do so for a relaxed picnic on board. A range of food options are available in the winery’s Deli where you can also purchase their wine.
Open Monday to Friday, 9 am – 5 pm, Saturday and 1st Sunday of each month, 10 am – 3 pm
Have you been to the Robertson Wine Valley and its exquisite wineries yet? Let me know about your experience.