Mention the words “wine route” and “the Cape” and immediately the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Paarl come to mind, together with the big vineyards such as Boschendal, Nederburg and Neethlingshof.
Which is all well and good if mainstream tourist attractions are what appeal to you. But if you love wine, scenery, great restaurants, quaint country towns and a good dose of South African history, and want something a little more off the beaten track, then the Robertson Wine Valley could be just the ticket.
It’s part of Route 62, a tourist route and the longest wine route in the Western Cape, that meanders between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn, the Garden Route and Port Elizabeth. Route 62 offers a great alternative to the N2 highway, and while it is shorter than its concrete cousin, you may find yourself taking longer to get from point A to B because of all of the wonderful distractions along the way.
The Robertson Wine Valley is a 90-minute drive from Cape Town, nestled between the Langeberg and the Riviersonderend Mountains.
It’s a meandering route which follows the course of the Breede River, with pretty flower-fringed roads, towering mountains and picturesque vineyards making some truly world-class wines.
There are 48 wineries here spread out over the villages of Montagu, Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor, and the town of Robertson itself. Some are small, family-owned boutique wineries, others medium state-of-the-art estates and a few large modern vineyards.
The valley and its surrounds offer an excellent chance to take a slow, laid-back road trip, taking advantage of some wonderful B&Bs, country houses, guest houses and hotels en route, while sampling some of the best wines South Africa has to offer.
Here are some of the highlights of the route:
Places to Visit
Robertson: There’s lots to see and do in this lovely little town and namesake of the wine valley. Apart from the obvious attractions for wine-lovers, visitors can also enjoy a lazy river cruise on the Breede River, some great restaurants, interesting historical sites and an unending range of local farm stalls selling fresh produce, dried fruit, homemade breads, jams and preserves.
Bonnievale: Fruit and wine farms line the roads through this beautiful village. Known as the valley of cheese and wine, apart from some top wineries, Bonnievale has two cheese factories – Parmalat and Mooivallei Suiwel. Most of the cellars offer wine-tastings, there are 4 x 4 trails, golfing, fishing, canoeing and some great birdwatching on offer.
Swellendam: History comes alive in this picturesque town just off the main Route 62. Check out the fascinating Drostdy Museum complex and the marvelous Old Gaol coffee shop with some of the most scrumptious delicacies and traditional dishes on the menu.
Nature’s finest: Bontebok National Park, Marloth Nature Reserve and Die Hoop/Potberg Nature Reserve are all a stone’s throw.
Bon Courage: a historic and highly successful wine estate just outside Robertson, Bon Courage’s beautiful Cape Dutch homestead dates back to 1818. The Bruwer family are expert vintners and can trace their ancestry back to France’s Loire Valley.
Graham Beck Wines: The Graham Beck Robertson cellar is about 10 km outside Robertson. Not your average winery, the topography is the bare, rocky, environment of the Klein Karoo, but the cellar is warm and welcoming, nestled beneath a hill overlooking the vineyards.
Robertson Winery: a trend-setting and progressive winery which had humble beginnings in an old missionary church on the outskirts of the town from which it takes its name.
Van Loveren: situated between Robertson and the village of Bonnievale, Van Loveren has won a handful of accolades, including being named Wine of the Month Club’s 2004 Winemaker of the Year as well as Best Value Winery 2004/2005 in South Africa by Wine Magazine.
Where to Stay
De Rust Lodge: An attractive thatched lodge with large restaurant and conference facilities in Bonnievale, De Rust Lodge has two en-suite bedrooms hired out on a self-catering basis.
Kingfisher Cottage: A self-catering “honeymoon” cottage on the banks of the Breede River in Bonnievale, Kingfisher cottage is a perfect getaway for a couple. It has a private jetty, garden and boat for escapades on the river.
Jan Harmsgat Country House: Halfway between Montagu and Swellendam, this lovingly restored Cape Dutch farmhouse and its outbuildings is now an upmarket guest house with a difference – it has its own dairy farm making some great cheeses. There is also a cosy self-catering cottage for four people.