Day 1: The tour begins with a forty-minute drive from Cape Town to the Paarl Valley, one of the most significant of South Africa's wine producing districts. Just for the experience, our first visit is to the biggest and perhaps best-known winery of them all, the Nederburg Cellars (15,000 tons). From its early beginnings in 1792, this estate has grown to its present impressive volumes without sacrificing any of the quality for which it is renowned. A tour of the cellars, followed by an hour or two in the tasting room will reveal both the quantity (8000 barrels!) and the quality of these wines - no fewer than 18 wines from the range receive four stars from the John Platter Team.
We follow the valley to a winery of a very different character, isolated on the mountain slopes and far from the madding crowd. Ashanti is a smallish winery (70,000 cases) which has been happy to plant unconventional cultivars. Winemaker Nelson Buthelezi will demonstrate his successes with Malbec, Zinfandel and Sangiovese, as well as the more typical Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Wine tasting is followed by lunch at the friendly Ashanti Bistro, where we order a la carte.
Travelling towards Franschhoek we stop in at one further winery before bidding farewell to the Paarl Valley. The prestigious Rupert and Rothschild Vineyards offers a range of only three wines, a result perhaps of their close links with traditional French winemaking. These are big and bold wines of exceptional quality, and we sample them in a cool and elegant tasting room. We check in early to our overnight accommodation, the charming Akademie Street Guest House in the wine village of Franschhoek. Dinner is at Le Quartier Francais, a short stroll from the residence.
Day 2: After a leisurely breakfast we pay a visit to Achim von Arnhim's famous farm on the Franschhoek hillside, Cabriere. Although he is best known for his Cuvee Reserve, which is given a 60-month bottle maturation, Achim’s range includes a Cuvee Belle Rose and the very dry Brut and Brut Sauvage. We also taste his unique Ratafia, a sweet aperitif fortified with brandy made on the estate. With luck, we'll watch Achim's skills with his sabre as he opens his bubblies by chopping off the bottle tops with his blade!
Suitably light-headed from all the Methode cap classique sampled at Cabriere, we continue our Franschhoek experience by driving deep into the southern end of the valley. Here, at the end of the road, we arrive at the Boekenhoutskloof boutique winery. This is Syrah country, and for five consecutive vintages this wine has been awarded five stars by the John Platter team. We also taste The Chocolate Block, a blended wine which Platter calls "a hedonist's delight". The tour ends with the return drive to Cape Town.
Our tour price includes all entrance fees to the vineyards, wine tastings, transportation, guide, pick-up and drop-off at their Cape Town hotel, however lunch is to own account
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