On a recent trip to Paarl, I veered off the path most-travelled and ventured to one of South Africa’s lesser-known wine regions. Characterised by its off-the-beaten-path locations, cultural and culinary offerings, and a refreshing lack of bling, the Wellington wine route offers a novel perspective on the winelands of South Africa.
Visiting the wineries
The Wellington wine route might be one of the youngest wine routes in the Cape, but the region’s viticultural heritage dates back to the French Huguenots of the late 1600s. It has numerous spectacular wine farms with history, architecture and tasting experiences that are incomparable to any place else.
Most wineries charge a small fee per visitor for tastings, but on most occasions, tasting costs will be waived if you buy a bottle of wine. Also, keep in mind that the majority of Wellington wineries are medium to small-scale producers. These family-owned and operated enterprises are usually not staffed to handle casual, drop-in visitors, especially over weekends. Do some research to avoid disappointment.
You have probably never heard of Welgegund yet this family-owned winery produces some of the best (like seriously, the best) wines in Wellington and in South Africa. Don’t believe me? Take UK Master of Wine Tim Atkin’s word for it then. The finely crafted wines are an enduring expression of the ideal climate, beautiful landscape and exceptional light that the historic farm is blessed with.
Expect an authentic wine tasting experience unlike any and with the winemaker himself. Welgegund specialises in low-yielding dryland bush vine wines made from Chenin Blanc, Grenache and Cinsaut grapes. Be sure to book in advance, as wine tastings are exclusive and by appointment only.
During the visit, I popped in at Imbuko Wines for a gourmet pie and wine pairing experience. The pies included a biltong pie, a venison pie and a lamb pie. This is not the only unusual tasting experience the wine and buchu farm offer. Don’t miss the farmhouse toasties and decadent milkshakes. During the warmer months, the tasting room also offers delectable picnic platters filled with local goodies.
Where to eat
A sure way to enjoy the local food with wine is to treat yourself to lunch in the heart of the winelands.
Villamar Eatery and Coffee Roastery
Villamar, which translates to the house of the Marra`s, transports visitors to the heart of Italy with simple, yet sophisticated Italian inspired cuisine. Both Villamar Eatery and Coffee Roastery, situated between the olive groves on Oudeburg Farm en route to Wellington, have a strong sustainable farm to plate philosophy. Chef Lucar and his team make use of a minimalist and elegant approach to designing dishes.
Villamar’s coffee tasting experience offers a tasting of three different coffee types, during which the coffee steward explains the difference between the Robusta variety and the Arabica bean, the roasting process, and what to expect in various roasting degrees. Afterwards, tasters are invited to enjoy their favourite coffee.
The Grillroom @ Val du Charron
Famous for serving high-quality meats and delicious steakhouse-style food, The Grillroom offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience that is sure to please carnivores.
In addition to the Grillroom, Val du Charron also have an Italian restaurant on the estate. Pizza Vista offers diners the chance to soak up the views while munching on wood-fired pizzas and other tasty Italian classics.
Where to stay
If you are looking for a Wellington wine countryside stay, look no farther than one of the many accommodation options in the area. For the full five-star experience, you’ll find the region’s uniquely South African take on luxury stays to be nothing short of enthralling.
Arts & Crafts
As a close-knit community, Wellington embraces local arts and crafters, home industries and local produce that are available from various outlets.
Be sure to drop by the Breytenbach Centre, situated in the centre of town.
Built some 150 years ago, this multidisciplinary cultural centre was the former home of internationally acclaimed poet Breyten Breytenbach. After the Breytenbach family sold the house in 1974, it deteriorated to such an extent that the Drakenstein Municipality considered demolishing it. However, in the nineties, a group of enthusiastic art lovers bought the house from the Municipality and, with the support of the Breytenbach family, embarked on the lengthy process of developing the building into an arts and cultural centre.
Today the centre runs various arts programmes and training initiatives, making an indelible difference in the local community.
Outdoor activities are easily accessible with numerous hiking trails, bird and wildlife viewing, mountain biking and 4×4 routes available in and around Wellington.
A drive up the Bainskloof Pass, one of South Africa’s great mountain passes, is a must! The pass is great for mountain biking, hiking and swimming in the freshwater pools. The Bainskloof Ultra Marathon is an annual event that includes the pass as part of the route.
En Route Pit Stops
Morale Coffee To Go
If you are planning a road trip to Wellington, be sure to stop for a coffee on the go at Morale, a roadside shop made from haystacks on the R44 between Hermon and Wellington. Open from 7am until 5pm every day, Morale offers road-trippers coffee, cold drinks and boerewors rolls with a view over the Boland mountains.
For more information about the Wellington area, be sure to visit Wellington Tourism.