With a continuous increase in quality year after year, South African wine has really become a force to be reckoned with and has firmly rooted its place in the world of wine. As of 2022, South Africa ranked 8th in the world as a wine producing country, making up around 4% of the total world production.

Wine tourism is rife in South Africa and has been ever-growing and locals love nothing more than visiting a winery on the weekends for a casual tasting or bottle of their favorite vino.

Now, as a local and lover of wine, I’m here to lend a helping hand. I’ve sorted through some of the best winery tours in South Africa, per region, so that all you need to do is book and show up. It’s that simple – all of these tours are run by locals who know their estate like the back of their hand.

Let’s get cracking!

 the lush green Garden Route National Park with a river running through it
A look at South Africa’s stunning scenery.

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What is a Vineyard Tour?

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard the term “vineyard tour” before but aren’t entirely sure what it is. I mean, is it a walk around the vineyards with a guide? Well, yes, that’s part of it but there’s a whole lot more to it.

A vineyard tour takes wine lovers on a journey through an individual winery and if you are lucky, you’ll visit multiple wineries in a single day. You’ll learn about each individual wine estate, from the history of the vineyards, to the production techniques and of course, the wines!

Four people enjoying wine and picnic on a rock

Each individual winery tour is unique and the estate will bring its own personal flair to the experience. Whether it’s a walk into the vineyards, sampling wine out of tank or barrel, or a lesson in geology, you’re going to have a great time. You know what they say, geology rocks, but geography is where it’s at.

Before I get into the top winery tours in South Africa, let’s take a look at the regions we’ll be covering, below.

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    Wine Regions of South Africa

    a screenshot of a South Africa Map
    The country is a lot larger than you might think.

    If I had to sum up South Africa in a single word, it would be “diverse” – and the wine regions are no different. South Africa is blessed with a whole host of diverse wine regions that are located mainly in the Western Cape. While each region is unique, you can be sure that there is great wine to be found everywhere.

    South Africa, unlike France, Italy, and Spain, is also a lot more relaxed when it comes to classification and there is no real appellation control. This means that you are not bound by the appellation and can plant grape varietals freely. It’s more about which varietals are suited for that particular region. Instead, a much simpler classification is used known as W.O. – Wine of Origin.

    This has also led to many independent producers, who outsource grapes and produce wines under contract at nearby cellars, popping up on the market. These independent winemakers have the freedom to work with individual farmers throughout the year.

    Let’s now look at some of the most notable wine regions in South Africa.

    Swartland

    birds eye view of a winery in south africa called Swartland

    The Swartland, which translates to “Black Land,” derives its name from the indigenous Renosterbos shrub which turns a dark hue at certain times of the year. The region is located about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of the ever-popular Cape Town, starting from the Paardeberg and continuing up to the Berg River.

    The Swartland was a previously overlooked region before pioneers like Eben Sadie and Adi Badenhorst really put it on the wine map. Much of its claim to fame came from its gnarly old bush vines that allowed for the production of some stellar wines. The focus is on Chenin Blanc with some great Shiraz, Grenache, and Mouvedre being produced too.

    While the predominant soil type found in the Swartland is Malmesbury shale, there are also pockets of granite found around the Paardeberg area. Many of the farmers in the region believe in irrigation-free farming. This results in resilient vines and a concentration of flavor in the grapes – a win-win situation.

    Stellenbosch

    visiting winelands south africa on a cloudy day
    Now that’s what I call a unique vineyard.

    Stellenbosch is regarded as one of the most famous wine regions in South Africa as it is the birthplace of Pinotage, a uniquely South African varietal. It is the indigenous crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. Cabernet Sauvignon is the main focus in Stellenbosch, with some of the world’s best renditions coming from the region.

    Aside from these two, other common varietals planted in Stellenbosch include Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc on the white side and Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc on the red side.

    The region has a rather diverse topography, ranging from rolling hills closer to the False Bay ocean, up to higher reaches in both the Helderberg and Simonsberg mountains. While the predominant climate is hot and dry, there is a definite maritime influence from the nearby ocean. There are also a variety of soil types ranging from decomposed granite to shale, clay and Table Mountain sandstone.

    Elgin

    dry moutnains towering over vineyards in Elgin South Africa
    This place is still off the beaten track as far as South Africa wine regions go.

    Elgin is one of the emerging South African wine regions, located 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Cape Town, making it an ideal day trip during your weekend in Capetown. While previously associated with the farming of apples and pears, it’s also suitable for the farming of grapes.

    Situated at a higher altitude, vines here are generally planted between 250m and 400m above sea level. This elevation combined with Elgin’s proximity to the ocean (7.5 miles/12 kilometers) means that the climate is generally a bit cooler, even in the summer months. This results in a longer ripening period and phenolic ripeness, ultimately leading to more balanced wines.

    The soil types within the valley vary greatly but the area is generally comprised of weathered shale, gravel, Table Mountain sandstone, and clay. Varietals that seem to flourish in Elgin include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and even Riesling, with small plantings of Shiraz and Merlot too.

    Walker Bay

    a wooden bench overlooking the ocean in Walker Bay South Africa

    The final South African wine region is Walker Bay, an area found further southeast of Elgin about 60 miles (95 kilometers) from Cape Town. The Hemel-en-Aarde regions are heavily influenced by the nearby ocean and the cooling breeze tends to ascend the valley.

    This results in a natural cooling of the grapes in the summer months which helps to retain precious acidity. The Bot River region is also influenced by the ocean but it’s a bit further inland and hence the cooling effects aren’t as pronounced. It is, however, still considered a cool, maritime-influenced climate.

    The Burgundian varietals flourish in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and the region seems to be made for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. There are also plantings of Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz, Grenache, Mouvedre, and even Cabernet Sauvignon. The predominant soil types you can expect to find in the Walker Bay region are Table Mountain Sandstone and Bokkeveld shale.

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    The Best South Africa Winery Tours

    Right, now that you know about the wine regions, let’s get into the crux of the article – the best South Africa winery tours for 2024.

    Wine tourism in South Africa is ever-growing and there are so many great wineries to choose from, each with its own unique offering. It can get overwhelming with so many places to stay in the country but luckily I’m here to help and guide you to choose the best one. I’ve been there and done that so rest assured you’re in good hands!

    Let’s check them out:

    Stellenbosch Wine Tour

    lush green vineyards and hills on a Stellenbosch Wine Tour in South Africa
    Can you see why it’s so famous?
    • Cape Town
    • 5.5 – 9 hours
    • $130

    First and foremost, is a vineyards tour to the iconic Stellenbosch wine region only about a 40-minute drive from your Cape Town stay. You will head out from the city and into the Cape Winelands for a day of exploring and wine tasting.

    The tour starts off with a tasting at the 300-year-old Jordan winery after which you will be driven to the second venue, Lanzerac, for your second tasting. Once done, you will ascend up the Helshoogte Pass to your final Stellenbosch vineyard visit at Delaire Graaf followed by lunch. It’s then on to Franschhoek for your final winetasting at Mont Rochelle, an estate owned by Sir Richard Branson.

    Walker Bay Wine Tour

    a family standing in front of a white wine cellar on a winery tour in Walker Bay
    • Hermanus
    • 4 – 8 hours
    • $81

    Once you’ve been picked up from your accommodation, this Walker Bay vineyard tour commences at the bottom of the Hemel-en-Aarde. The first stop is at Bartho Eksteen, after a short drive from Hermanus town. You will taste wines at the iconic Wijnskool before heading off to Bouchard Finlayson for more.

    From there, you’ll make your way up the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley until you reach Creation Wines where you’ll get into a wine pairing. The final stop for the day is at the picturesque Ataraxia estate – where the tasting room is located in a church-like building on the hilltop. From there, you will drive back down the scenic valley and be dropped back at your accommodation.

    Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch Winery Tour

    four people cheersing glasses of wine in a green vineyard
    This wine tour is great (and cheap) for a group.
    • Cape Town
    • $35
    • 8.5 hours

    Departing from Cape Town, this action-packed vineyard tour takes guests through no less than three South African wine regions. You will start the day with a cellar tour, sample some chocolate, and have a wine tasting at Rhebokskloof in Paarl. It’s then on to Franschhoek for some free time exploring the town and an additional wine tasting.

    The day concludes in the famous Stellenbosch region with a wine tasting at Simonsig Estate that is accompanied by some delicious local cheeses. The tour then finishes with a drive back to Cape Town and some fun facts along the way.

    Cape Winelands Vineyard Tour (Elgin)

    a small walk way and round building on top of a river in Cape Winelands Vineyard Tour (Elgin)
    • Cape Town
    • $96
    • Full-day

    This Cape Winelands vineyard tour is a rather unique one – it is tailored to your wine preference (red or white) and wine region of choice. You have the luxury of choosing from the Paarl, Stellenbosch, and Franschhoek.

    However, it’s recommended to try the Elgin wine region, a smaller and less commercialized one. Each tour suggests including at least three wineries and a lunch stop, which will all be recommended to you by your guide, Anesu. It is a fully customized day tour that promises to be both informative and fun, with lots of delicious wine!

    Franschhoek Wine Tram

    the green Franschhoek Wine Tram
    • Cape Town
    • $38
    • Full-day

    The final tour to conclude the list is another private vineyard tour that is once again, fully customizable. This unique winery tour will allow you to get to know the wineries of Franschhoek not far from Capetown.

    At the start of the day, your guide will explain your wine options. You’ll then get to pick where you’d like to go explore. What better way to discover the wines of one of South Africa’s best wine regions

    Swartland Wine Tour

    cows hanging out in front of rows of green vineyards in south africa
    • Cape Town
    • 9 hours
    • Price on Application

    Next up is this awesome full-day private Swartland wine tour that kicks off with an MCC (the South African equivalent to champagne) tasting at Huis van Chevallerie. The tour then moves over to one of the neighboring wine estates for another tasting and cellar tour.

    It’s then onto a winery called Lammershoek for more tastings and a traditional South African barbecue known as a braai. The braai is embedded in South African culture and is something that is even celebrated on National Heritage Day. The final stop for the day is in the town of Riebeek Kasteel for a final tasting and shop at Wine Kollective.

    Elgin Wine Tour

    the dry and green landscape of elgin in south africa
    • Cape Town, Franschhoek, or Stellenbosch
    • 8 hours
    • $177

    This Elgin winery tour kicks off with a visit to the iconic Peregrine Farmstall where you will be able to pick up a bite to eat and a delicious cup of coffee. It’s then on to the first winery visit and tasting for the day at Almenkerk Estate, a small family-owned and run estate. Next, you will be taken to Iona who is a specialist in cool-climate wines like Sauvignon Blanc.

    It’s then on to the lunch stop at Paul Cluver wine estate, after which you will taste some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that the valley has to offer. After being treated to these delicious wines, it’s back to your drop-off point with a full heart (and stomach) and a satisfied palette.

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    Final Thoughts on South Africa Wine Tours

    Right, that unfortunately brings us to the end of the best South Africa winery tours for 2024 (sad face). I hope that you find this guide incredibly helpful when planning your next visit to the country. And most importantly, helped you decide which winery tour (hopefully lots of them) that you plan on taking.

    Wine is meant to be fun and unpretentious, and while it can be intimidating at times, guides like this and the recommended tours are meant to bash those stereotypes. So, book that flight and book the trip – the wine tourism train is leaving the station and you’ve got a first-class ticket!

    Cheers!

    backpacking South Africa with your own car
    The roads to South Africa’s wineries await!
    Photo: Ana Pereira

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