People live in a city for years and seldom attempt to explore it through the eyes of a tourist. Of all the many reasons that bring tourists to Cape Town, there is one that both South Africans and international visitors share a mutual love and appreciation of, and that is the Cape Winelands.
Breathtaking mountain ranges, picturesque vineyards, superb restaurants, and our growing reputation of producing some of the best wines in the world make for a recipe that memories are made of.
I can attest to this having recently experienced an unforgettable tour in the Winelands hosted by Vegan Tours Cape Town.
Vegan Tours Cape Town is a new tour company offering experiences geared towards vegan, plant-based and sustainability-conscious visitors to the Mother City. Founded by Matt Newman, its aim is to showcase our vegan food scene while incorporating the city’s rich history and natural beauty.
The first tour to launch is the Private Vegan Wine Tour. I’m not a huge drinker, but I discovered it goes far beyond just tasting wine. Over the course of the day, we visited 4 hand-picked wine estates that showcase some of our best wines along with spectacular views and, of course, food to match. The farms are all part of the Stellenbosch Wine Route, which Matt informed us was the first wine route to launch in South Africa in 1971.
Our first stop on the tour also happens to be one of the oldest farms in the region, Neethlingshof Wine Estate.
Travelling up the impressive, tree-lined driveway is a breathtaking introduction to the beautiful grounds and buildings that eventually appear.
We began our experience with a cellar tour with a member of the Neethlingshof team, which included a brief introduction to the farm’s history and the winemaking process. I’d never given it much thought, but it was a fascinating way to kick off the tour and offer some context as to how the grape on the vine ends up as the wine in the bottle. Neethlinghof is a member of the WWF Conservation Champions, which means they’re committed to biodiversity-friendly and regenerative farming practices, including removing alien vegetation, planting indigenous trees, wise water management and avoiding sprays and pesticides. A huge thumbs up there!
We then headed to the tasting room, and Matt and the tasting room assistant offered some advice and recommendations on which wines we might like to try. I’m not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination, but I could appreciate the different characteristics of each wine we tried and how they would pair with certain foods.
On route to our next destination, Matt gave further insight into Stellenbosch’s history and various facts about our wine industry before we arrived.
If I had to describe the next estate in one word, it would simply be BIJOU!
DeMorgenzon Wine Estate is one of the cutest, most picturesque farms I’ve ever visited. The tasting room is located in the old Homestead overlooking a beautiful garden which is given the same amount of care and attention as the fruit-baring vines.
Owners of the estate, Wendy and Hilton Appelbaum, believe that a biodiverse environment produces better grapes and that the beauty of the garden is captured in the wine. Not only this but…and this is honestly my favourite part…they play classical music in the vineyards 24/7 and have done so since 2009! It was such a calming experience to stand there with music playing and consider how this might benefit the vines and their produce. The attitude towards sustainable practices at DeMorgenzon is again very evident, and the visit is a true highlight of the day.
And all of this before we’d tried any wine! Komani took us through 4 superb tastings outside on the terrace. Their MCC (Method Cap Classique aka South African “Champagne”), Chenin Blanc (which is the most widely produced grape in South Africa), Chardonnay and Syrah.
The wines matched the beauty of the vineyards and the garden, and I was seriously impressed.
We also tried some of the estate’s olives and olive oil (with sourdough) which is included on this tour and not if you visit independently. I have for a long time avoided olives but, “when in Stellenbosch”… I can honestly say they were delicious. But it was their olive oil that had me licking the ramekin. I could have sat here all day, but I knew that the next stop was lunch, and after a few tastings it was time to balance it out with some food… before I literally lost my balance altogether.
Warwick Wine Estate has been one of those leading the way for plant-based options in the Winelands, and they show no signs of slowing down this season! On previous visits, I have enjoyed their picnics. They also offer a vegan platter with wine tasting and a Four-Course Vegan Harvest Table for a more substantial lunch, which was our option as part of the tour!
The first course was a selection or “smorgasbord” (as I love to call it) of various delights, including roasted garlic and white bean dip, hummus, a trio jar of vegan cream cheese, pesto and sweet chilli, rustic bread and a toasted sweetcorn salad with maple roasted baby marrow, avocado, crunchy sprouts and a chipotle dressing. Everything was delicious!
The second course was the tomato gazpacho with rainbow bruschetta, which left us room for…
The main course of Orzo pasta (a fave!) with asparagus, tender stem broccoli, summer peas, spinach and crunchy kale with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Yup, we were definitely having a harvest!
Dessert was a baked vegan cheese with micro greens, a spicy green dressing and a lemon blondie slice.
After the four courses were conquered, my balance was happily restored.
For the final tasting, we headed to Tokara Wine Estate. Firstly, I loved how different this was to the previous farms architecturally, aesthetically and from a vibe perspective. I can understand why it was chosen for the tour. The views from the tasting room are breathtaking, as are the views from the vineyards. Local art is also showcased in the building and plays a pivotal role in the style of the space. It’s modern, sleek and very sexy.
I opted out of the final tasting (I enjoyed having my balance back), but Tokara has a stellar reputation for producing outstanding wine!
The entire day really was a phenomenal experience! I loved how the tour showcased our historical Winelands beautifully, with its epic landscapes and farms that focus on sustainable practices whilst giving the guest a little more background into winemaking. It also reminded me just how completely stunning our country is.
Whilst I was invited as a guest on the tour, I also love how everything (except for your drinks at lunch) is included in the price!
Pick up and drop off from your accommodation, all wine tastings, olive tasting and a four-course lunch! And a guide that will give you the lowdown and enough background to keep you interested but not bore you to death. Also, it’s a private tour, so the vehicle and guide are exclusively yours.
To my knowledge, this is the first private vegan wine tour focused on the independent traveller, and I’m thrilled that this experience is available for visitors (and locals) to enjoy.
A vegan tour of the Cape Peninsula is in the works, and Matt is also open to customizing tours to suit your preferences. Just drop him an email.
All info, including prices and contact details, can be found on http://www.vegantourscapetown.com