Expect exotic themes, delectable brunch dishes and destination-inspired cocktails
Whale, Wine and Wors Tour by Wine Flies
The off-the-beaten-track day trip that lets you explore three of South Africa’s most famous W's
It’s 7:30am, and I am the first to board the minibus called Arya, which, as certified tour guide Riaan Renke points out, is named after a goddess who was known as the ‘bringer of joy’. Of course, there couldn’t be a more appropriate name for the vehicle as I was about to be whisked away on the ‘My Big Fat Whale, Wine and Wors Tour’ - it runs every Tuesday and Thursday from August until December courtesy of boutique vino trip operator Wine Flies.
The company, owned by Francois van Binsbergen, is also responsible for the popular Wine Flies Wine Tour and Forgotten Route to Matjiesfontein trip. As their latest offering, this excursion completes a trio of adventures that afford locals and tourists the opportunity to discover Cape Town and its surrounds in a laidback and offbeat manner.
But, onto company of a different kind: my fellow explorers were picked up at their respective places of accommodation and soon Arya filled up with a few South Africans, an American couple and two Australians. Riaan, ever the amiable tour guide, quickly quizzes the duo from Down Under on their understanding of “wors”. The chatty brunette Aussie hazards a guess, “Um, is it beer?” Riaan clarifies that is Afrikaans for sausage. The Australians giggle.
And on that note, Riaan starts driving in the direction of the Cape Winelands region of Stellenbosch, regaling us with a concise history of Cape Town, Table Mountain and Robben Island along the way. He negotiates the lesson as skilfully as he does the morning CBD traffic, and after about 40 minutes, a few more historical anecdotes (Riaan points out the routes the early settlers traversed with their ox wagons) and a couple of road trippy tunes – think Pearl Jam, Guns ‘n Roses and even Rihanna- we arrive in the City of Oaks. Our first official stop is Oom Samie se Winkel (Uncle Samie’s Shop). Decorated like a Victorian-style trading store, the shop stocks everything from a selection of dried fruits and antiques to sweet treats and boutique wines. The brunette Australian, rather predictably, purchases a quirky ‘African’–themed postcard.
From there, we take a quick drive through the tree-lined streets of the charming town – we learn it’s the second oldest in South Africa – and then are set to tackle our first ‘W’: wine tasting.
“We visit smaller, family-owned vineyards,” Riaan explains. “We want people to experience local gems that are off the beaten track.”
Enter Middelvlei Wine Farm, which is where we settle down to sample some reds and whites. Riaan gives us a brief Wine Tasting 101 course and schools us on the ‘five Ss’ of the sensory experience’: sight, swirling, smell, sipping and savouring. The stop at the farm also includes a cellar tour where you get to taste wines at different stages of maturation straight from the barrels. I’m tempted to add ‘wine thief expert’ under “Skills” on my CV (to clarify, a wine thief is an apparatus that is used to extract wine from barrels - one of the many things I learned along the way).
We amble back to Arya (the group seems a little more sociable thanks to the free-flowing Pinotage, no doubt) and Riaan reminds us about the first ‘rule’ of the tour. “Remember, you have to sit next to someone new. We play musical chairs on the bus!” And so I spend the short trip to Grabouw, a small town in the Elgin Valley, sitting next to Mike, one of the two Americans.
Our eclectic group arrives, ready to indulge in the “wors” part of the big fat tour. Our stop? The Grabouw Butchery, which is also known as the home of the famous Grabouw Boerewors. The general manager of the butchery, Marais Nieuwoudt, gives us a short history of his famous meat product (two plates of biltong and droëwors from his shop are passed around for us to sample during the talk), and he explains that, according to Act 54 of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, sausage can only be labelled as ‘boerewors’ if it contains a minimum of 90% meat content. Next, our friendly driver, who purchased some authentic boerewors for us to pair with our next beverage tasting, shepherds us back to the minibus. We hit the road and we make our way to meet William Everson, a ‘garagiste’ who is responsible for Everson’s Cider and his namesake handcrafted wines.
We drive up to William’s backyard where he greets us with a smile. Behind him, a braai (barbeque) has been prepped so that Riaan can grill some Grabouw Boerewors for us and give us a taste of a truly unique South African experience. Of course, we get to pair the meat with William’s refreshing pear and apple ciders - a marriage that rivals even a chocolate and wine tasting!
So, with our appetites sufficiently whetted, we’re excited to find out that our next destination is the ELL (Eat, love, life) restaurant, our lunch stopover on the way to Hermanus. The eatery, which is situated on the Spookfontein Farm in the upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, prides itself on serving dishes made from ethically sourced ingredients and on its uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains. I opt for the venison burger (there are also vegetarian and vegan options) and I can safely say that it is one of the best choices I have ever made. And as for dessert, well this time around, we pair Port with chocolate - a perfect ending to a fantastic dining experience.
Feeling restored and ready to tackle the next leg of our unique day trip, we head towards Hermanus for the third integral part of the tour: land-based whale watching (binoculars are provided by Wine Flies). The quaint seaside town is world famous for being a prime location from which to spot the majestic beasts of the ocean, and we’re lucky enough to spot two whales from our shoreline vantage point: the first mammal breaches in the distance and the second one, which is about 100m from where we are, sporadically flashes its pectoral fin.
It’s roughly 3:30pm now and, believe it or not, the tour is scheduled for one more official wine tasting stop. Our final destination is the Wildekrans Boutique Wine Estate, which is where we sample some of the estate’s award-winning wines and Grappa. The espresso-infused version of the latter is a definitely a standout, and just as Grappa is traditionally used to round off an incredible meal, the tasting is the 'night cap' on a memorable adventure.
And so, after a jam-packed day of exciting activities, it is time for us to head back to the Mother City.
All in all, the Whale, Wine and Wors Tour is an entertaining and informative experience and is most certainly a unique way to explore the Cape Winelands.
Tip: Be sure to take some extra cash with as you will most certainly want to purchase some of the goods on offer at some of the stops. Whether it is some Grabouw Boerewors, handcrafted wines or a tacky postcard, there is definitely something for everyone.
The Bill: Offering great value, the Whale, Wine and Wors tour will set you back just R820 per person, and this includes all tastings, pairings and lunch. Tours run every Tuesday and Thursday (August to December) from 7:30am-6pm. Contact us at email@example.com or tel +27 (0) 21 462 8011
by Gary Hartley
Eager to embark on a different classic tour with a unique twist? Why not try the Wine Flies duo's Forgotten Route tour to Matjiesfontein.
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