Expect exotic themes, delectable brunch dishes and destination-inspired cocktails
Wine Flies Cape Town Wine Tours
Wine flies when you’re having fun: Experience real wine with real people on this blast of a wine tour
“Welcome aboard Mave the Gaelic Goddess,” trumpets Lord Riaan Renke, as he swings the minibus onto the highway in the direction of the Cape Winelands. Riaan and his fellow Wine Lord, Francois van Binsbergen, are the team behind Wine Flies - a boutique wine tour company that operates daily.
“We visit smaller, family-owned vineyards,” Riaan explains. “We break that stigma of pretentiousness that wine can sometimes have.”
Styling themselves as ‘hopeless romantics’, the duo focus on creating ‘unique and real experiences’ - with a whole lot of fun along the way. Though, there are some rules.
“Lord Mave’s rule number one,” intones Riaan, commanding the attention of the eight of us (a mix of Americans, Germans, Italians and, of course, the token Capetonian, me.), “We play musical chairs: every time we get back onto the bus after a stop, you have to sit somewhere new. Number two, we leave no wine or no one behind. And lastly, no politics, religion or sex before lunch.”
Today we’ll be visiting five wine estates, kicking off the tour at Villiera in Stellenbosch with a glass of bubbly. Riaan says the vinous excursion starts off light and gets more serious in terms of wine as we go along, ending off at Annandale, the domain of rugby legend Hempies du Toit.
The cheerful driver regales us with stories of Cape Town and its wine industry. He tell us to “pay attention”, as there will be a quiz after lunch; apparently, we get bonus points for spotting game or birds of prey.
“Who can see it?” Riaan asks. He’s pulled over to the side of the road, two minutes short of our first stop. We crane our necks, peering through the glass. “Ah, a giraffe!” shouts someone excitedly - and just like that, it’s game on.
Soon we find ourselves walking through Villiera’s vineyard, some of us are now wearing ‘drinking hats’ gamely supplied by Lord Riaan. We were warned that there would be ‘a little education’, and this is where it happens. Glass in hand, our tour guide goes through the winemaking and viticulture processes in his casual upbeat style, and in no time we know our de-stalking from our punch downs. A cellar tour follows, after which, we sit at a long table in the courtyard.
“Did you know it takes 5 ½ twists to open a wine bottle?” says Riaan, demonstrating with a bottle of Villiera Sauvignon Blanc.
“Wine tasting is a sensory journey. We drink to remember—not to forget.” He proceeds to tell us about the ‘five S’s of the sensory experience’: sight, swirling, smell, sipping and savouring. The last ‘S’ is amplified when Riaan pairs biltong (a local cured meat product) with red wine.
Once we’ve tasted through the range, we clamber aboard Mave, excited for the next destination.
Cheese, the city of oaks and braaivleis
Our jolly group arrives at Fairview Wine Estate in Paarl for a cheese and wine tasting (not to mention photo opps with the resident billy goat). We’re directed to a wine pod and form a circle around it. A tasting host takes us through the tutored pairing; we try camembert, blue cheese, and even chevin dusted with chakalaka, a spice mix modelled on the typically South African tomato and onion relish.
Feeling appropriately cheesy and firmly wearing our wine legs, we continue our journey and head through the historic town of Stellenbosch aboard the marvellous Mave. We learn the town is also known as ‘Eikestad’, which translates from Afrikaans to ‘city of oaks’, as almost every street is lined with the towering trees.
Riaan points out historical buildings and sites, weaving them together with tales of the 300-year winemaking legacy. Even as a local, it’s fascinating. Stellenbosch is revealed to me as I’ve never seen her before.
The drive takes us to Middelvlei wine estate. There isn’t any pretence here. This is a real farm, complete with mud, cats curled up in the sun and, inexplicably, a wallaby fraternising with a coop of chickens.
Lunch is served at a long table overlooking rolling green fields, the sky hot and blue above. A traditional boerebraai (farmer’s barbeque) is the order of the day: starting with butternut soup in an enamel cup and braaibroodjies (cheese and tomato sandwiches toasted over a fire) smoky off the coals, followed by boerewors (farm sausage) and chicken kebabs.
Feeling restored and ready for more wine, we head into the cellar with a sleepy boerboel dog loping after us. Here we taste red wines straight out of the barrel.
The group, now all fast friends, walks amiably back out into the sunlight after the tasting towards Mave. It’s time for our next stop, Lovane, one of the smallest wine estates in South Africa.
The boutique winery was named after the copious chameleons that inhabit the property (Lovane meaning chameleon in Xhosa). We immediately file downstairs into the cellar, a space not much larger than a bedroom. All the wines have Xhosa names, and we taste through the range, ending with a port. This is when Riaan breaks out the chocolate, and the women in the group let out audible sighs of delight.
Onward we go: from one of the smallest wine estates to one of the oldest. The sun is just beginning to dip, cutting dramatic shadows through bare tree branches across Annandale’s wide driveway. Covered in dust and cobwebs, the estate’s cellar building has that derelict magic about it. The range of red wines is outstanding. The tasting host explains that they age the wine in the barrel for eight to ten years, rather than in the bottle.
After drinking deep glasses of the voluptuous wine we trawl outside to catch the sunset. Riaan has one last trick up his sleeve. He passes around glasses filled with South Africa’s favourite spirit, brandy (made in the same style as Cognac), with pieces of dried apricot. A delicious pairing, not to mention a delicious ending.
The next stop? Home. Riaan drops me off at my gate and leaves me with these parting words: The only way to learn about wine is to practice.”
And the quiz? After enough wine, we decided we were all winners.
Tip: Wine Flies runs these scheduled tours seven days a week and they only operate in the Stellenbosch area. Also on offer are the Wine Lords Private Tours that can be customised based on what you want to see (drink). These private tours also allow you to visit other regions outside of Stellenbosch.
The Bill: Offering great value, a Wine Flies tour is reasonably priced at R750p/p, and this includes all tastings, pairings, lunch as well as a full day’s entertainment. It’s a small price to pay for an unforgettable day in the Stellenbosch Winelands, a trustworthy and knowledgeable guide and seemingly unlimited wine and food.
By Malu Lambert
Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt? Why not try the Wine Flies duo's Forgotten Route tour to Matjiesfontein. The excusion whisks you off to a Karoo town where time stands still.
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