Located round about 90 minutes from Cape Town, the small wine growing area around Worcester in the Breede River Valley is well worth a visit. Especially if you want to avoid the crowds.
After many years merely passing through the Breede River Valley on route to the Klein Karoo, I finally started to explore this amazing corner of South Africa during a short stay in Robertson last year.
This was in fact the first time I began to explore the country’s amazing wine scene outside of the major historic areas around Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Constantia.
So after discovering the Robertson Wine Valley, the Klein Karoo Wine Route and the Plettenberg Bay Wine Route last year, I was ready for more off the beaten path wine tasting experiences.
Located around 120 kilometres from Cape Town, the little town of Worcester is the administrative capital of the Breede River Valley and your gateway to several small wine-growing areas you should put on your list to visit.
The Worcester Wine and Olive Route has started to attract more and more visitors to the area over the past few years who come for the excellent yet affordable wines and to enjoy a nice snack or lunch in the restaurants several of the wineries have added to their offer.
Today, there are twelve wineries and an olive farm participating. This does not seem a lot if compared to the huge number of wine estates found around the major historic wine producing areas, but wineries along the Worcester Wine Route nevertheless produce around a quarter of the total volume of South Africa’s wine and spirits.
Local wineries along the Worcester Wine and Olive Route are located in three distinct areas, the Nuy Valley, the De Doorns area and along R43 from Worcester towards Villiersdorp.
The region is particularly known for its excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc whilst you will find typically a large range of other types as well, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and MCCs, the South African version of sparkling wines produced according to the classic champagne method.
However, when you visit you should definitely keep in mind the Worcester area not only produces wine. In fact, the Breede Valley it is considered to be the most important region in South Africa producing brandy as well. Indeed, several of the local wineries also include distilleries producing excelling brandy and even gin.
Though I did not have enough time to include a visit, the town of Worcester is the home of the world’s largest brandy cellar, KWV and Olof Berg Solera Cellar. They are definitely still on my list, so watch this space.
Five wineries to visit along the Worcester Wine and Olive Route
I’ve been particularly keen to include a visit to Nuy Winery since they also produce an excellent gin, a spirit I am more and more obsessed about lately.
The winery was founded in 1963 and in 1965 the first grapes were harvested. However, it wasn’t until 1978 that the first Nuy wine was released – demonstrating the high level of quality the winery focused on right from the start.
The Nuy on the Hill tasting room and restaurant is likely the largest and busiest of the various Worcester Wine and Olive Route wineries. As the name suggests, it is located quite prominently on top of a small hill right on the exit into Nuy Valley from R60, in some distance from the actual cellar.
Including a tasting room, restaurant and small deli, Nuy on the Hill is definitely one of the most stylish facilities that you will encounter on the Worcester Wine and Olive Route.
It also offers one of the most breathtaking view over the surrounding Breede Valley.
The Nuy wine range includes the main varietals produced in South Africa including Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Shiraz. In addition, you will also find an excellent MCC, a copper potstilled brandy, and as mentioned before the winery’s own gin.
Open Mon to Fri, 9 am – 5 pm; Sat, Sun & public holidays, 9 am – 4 pm
Conradie Penhill Artisanal Wines
Nestled within the Nuy Valley area you will find the small tasting room of Conradie Penhill. Though there is only a small tasting room with no additional food offer, it is well worth stopping for the excellent wines. Plus you are unlikely to bump into large crowds which offers a fantastic opportunity to engage into some inside wine-talks with the tasting room staff.
Founded in 2015 by Gareth and Kate Penny, who own the nearby Penhill Manor, and fifth generation winemaker C.P. Conradie, this small boutique winery produces two ranges of already award-winning wines. The Conradie Family Vineyards range includes a Method Cap Classique sparkling wine and a 2009 Red Muscadel whilst the Penhill range currently consists of a while and red blend.
Open Mon to Fri, 9 am – 4.30 pm; Sat 9 am – 3 pm and Sun 11 am – 2 pm
Aan de Doorns Winery
Located along R43 driving towards Villliersdorp, the Aan de Doorns Winery is one of the larger wine cellars in the area.
Established as recently as 1954 the cellar has made great strides in improving quality and crafting good yet very affordable wines.
Definitely worth a try is the Chenin Blanc with some really delicious fresh apple and floral notes. On the reds, I particularly liked their Pinotage as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon.
Whilst it’s not my favoured type of wine, they also produce a port wine style wine called Cape Ruby.
Open Mon to Fri, 8 am – 5 pm; Sat 9 am – 1 pm
Located on R43 towards Villiersdorp, Cilmor Winery was on my list as it was conveniently located along the route into Elgin Valley, my next stop.
Another reason it made my list was that Cilmor is 100% Fairtrade Certified. This means, it has to meet the rigorous Fairtrade Standards, which focus on improving labour and living conditions for farming communities and on promoting a more sustainable way of farming.
Unfortunately, the winery is closed on Saturdays (and Sundays) so I only got to see the cellar from a distance.
Cilmor produces a large range of wines including all major varietals grown in South Africa. In addition, it produces a Merlot rosé which is described as ‘ a delightful combination of ripe strawberries, red cherries and Turkish delight aromas`. One I definitely have on my list to try one day.
Open Mon to Fri, 9 am – 4.30 pm
Stettyn Family Vineyards
Perhaps my favourite winery on the Worcester Wine and Olive Route, Stettyn Family Vineyards are located along R43 towards Villiersdorp, and they are indeed the final stop on the route.
The whitewashed small tasting room is nestled on a small gentle slope offering a lovely view over the surrounding area.
Whilst Stettyn Family Vineyards was founded in 1963 the tasting room is actually located in an old Cape Dutch homestead that dates back to 1777. Today the carefully restored building is a National Monument.
Weather permitting however, the small garden dotted with wooden tables and benches is definitely the place you want to settle down for some wine along with one of the amazing cheese platters.
The winery produces three different wine ranges – the Signature Reserve Range, the Stettyn Family Vineyards Range and the Stone Range. From the letter, I most like the Stone Range red wine whilst both the Chenin Blanc and the Chardonnay Pinot Noir were also both excellent.
Open Mon to Thu, 9 am – 5 pm, Fri 9 am – 4.30 pm, Sat (Oct – Apr), 10 am – 1 pm
Have you been to the Worcester Wine and Olive Route yet? How did you like the local wineries? Let me know about your experience.