A Tour of South Africa

The mountainous bowl surrounding  Cape Town

The mountainous bowl surrounding Cape Town

I had mentioned on my previous post that I was on my way to South Africa to tour a few wine regions…well, I’m back.

I must confess that, before venturing to this beautiful country, South African was not normally the first bottle I choose when it comes to my wine drinking. Hopefully after reading this you will find, as I did, that picking a South African wine over your usual bottle can be a very exciting experience. The most I knew about South African wine was they call their Chenin Blanc “Steen” and the hybrid Pinotage was their most popular red varietal…wrong on both! In the week I was there we drank many bottles of Chenin Blanc and not one was called Steen. In fact, I did not see the name Steen once the entire trip. As far as Pinotage, yes this hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault was developed in South Africa, but it is not the dominate grape variety in South Africa I thought it was. What I know now is this…

The wine country and areas surrounding the city of Cape Town are some of the most beautiful natural sights I have ever seen. The provincial capital, Cape Town, is enclosed by what is called the “City Bowl,” a mountainous range of over 70 peaks–Table Mountain in the center with Devils Peak and Lion’s Head to either side all leading down to the Atlantic Ocean which provides the Cape Town area with some of the most dramatic ocean side views you’ll find anywhere. Cape Town’s typically Mediterranean climate, rugged mountains and beautiful coastline reminded me a lot of Southern California.

One of the beautiful sights along the coastline in South Africa

One of the beautiful sights along the coastline in South Africa

The people we met were extremely friendly, which made sense when I found out that Condé Nast, the renowned travel guide, has ranked Cape Town third behind San Francisco and Rio de Janeiro as the most highly rated travel destinations. It was also very helpful to me that there weren’t many, if any, language barriers. Though our host, who was born in Cape Town, did speak fluent Afrikaans, which came in handy as we traveled through the wine regions of Stellenbosch, Elgin, Paarl and Franschhoek.

Our small group of five were all stunned at the incredible views, from every direction, at every time of day…and though the 20 hours or so of flight time from Florida to South Africa was a little challenging, I would do it all again. In the coming weeks I will chronicle each day of the trip and talk extensively about each of the wineries we visited. I look forward to sharing with you stories of the unique people, foods, wines, places and experiences I had the pleasure to enjoy.

Ken Amendola, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits wine supervisor

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