Cape Town wine tour
Cape Town seems to be drowning in a sea of vineyards. Even the City Sightseeing Tour bus stops at a few, and once you leave the city centre, it isn’t long before row after row of beautiful vines becomes the norm. With 21 wine regions, over 560 vineyards and hundreds of types of wine, selecting your wineries can be a real headache. However, one Cape Town wine tour you should not miss is in the beautiful small town of Franschhoek, less than an hour from the city. This quaint place, nestled at the base of dramatic mountains, offers a wine tasting train like no other!
Get merry on the Franschhoek wine tram tour
You may have heard of a pub crawl but have you heard of a vineyard crawl? The Franschhoek wine tram tour takes thirsty visitors on a journey of discovery amongst 22 wine estates in the Franschhoek valley. Visitors can choose from six different Franschhoek wine tram tours. Each is a combination of bus and tram, carefully choreographed into a timetable allowing a maximum of eight stops and plenty of opportunity to sample wines from the area. The bus/tram passes by each estate on an hourly basis allowing you to spend one or more hours in each.
Rest assured that even non drinkers will enjoy the ride, as many vineyards offer access to museums, farm shops, gardens and restaurants. Plus, the unparalleled views of the valley are worth the price of the ticket alone
We opted for the orange line which takes in the vineyards of Solms Delta, Vrede en Lust, and Babylorenstoren amongst others. Each offers different specialities and attractions. Sadly on the day we visited, I had a stomach bug and could not face wine tasting (I know that may be hard to believe for those who know me!) so Jason, and our friends Michala and John are helping out with pictures and commentary for this tour.
Planning your day
We decided to visit three vineyards during the day, as we felt that this would allow us more time to enjoy each location. We also wanted to savour the wine tasting, and enjoy a relaxed meal, without feeling rushed.
Most people seemed to visit every stop, as we had the bus to ourselves on virtually every transit after the first stop. I would strongly discourage this. Some vineyards were extremely busy, and you might struggle to complete a full wine tasting session in just one hour.
Our first stop of the day was Babylonstoren. It’s easy to see why they have named it after biblical gardens, as it is in an exquisite setting and is perfectly manicured. It houses a luxury boutique hotel with a fabulous spa, healing garden, selection of restaurants and stunning gardens.
You could easily spend the whole day here. The sun was beating when we visited, but with my body wracked with chills, exploring proved a challenge. Thankfully, Jason captured some pretty incredible snaps of the gardens to convince you that this vineyard is a must.
Given the early hour, we skipped the wine tasting at this estate, and opted instead for a leisurely brunch. Well, they did! I just looked on woefully, sipping on my rooibos iced tea.
Solms Delta offers a sharp contrast to Babylonstoren. The estate is operated under shared ownership with the local community. Locals live and work on the farm, as well as taking shares in the business.
It is a more rustic affair, with just one main restaurant, and a large lawn for wine tasting. As you enjoy sampling the different wines on offer, you can enjoy views of autumnal vines in a quiet, rural setting. You can even bring your own picnic to this estate.
Wine tasting costs 45 Rand (around £2.25) for five ‘lifestyle’ wines or 65 Rand for four ‘heritage’ wines. (It is usually 85 but one of our wines was sold out). Our server provided a little introduction to each wine and a small sample. Jason, Michala and John sipped contentedly on the wines, soaking up tales of German princesses and ancient wine.
The estate also houses Music and Slavery museums providing some insight into the terrible struggles of the local population during the slavery period.
The Vrede en Lust
Our third vineyard of the day was my favourite for wine tasting. The estate has spectacular tasting rooms, and a terrace overlooking the Simonsberg mountains. You can wave to the tram as it leisurely passes by, or simply bask in the sun while you sip on a cool Sauvignon Blanc or their flagship Blanc Fume. The estate only produced 2,600 bottles of this wine so please do not to spill a drop!
If it’s too cool for the terrace, the indoor tasting lounge has several large comfortable sofas arranged around crackling log burners. It feels more like a boutique hotel than a wine estate, and was packed to the rafters on the day we visited.
The wine tasting at Vrede en Lust is an absolute steal at just 25 Rand per person. That includes around seven generous portions of wine (although I did lose count if I am honest!) and absolutely no pressure to buy. I have no doubt that if I had not felt so ill, I would have walked out of there with at least a few bottles.
Things you need to know
Franschhoek wine tram price
The wine tram costs 220 Rand for adults and 90 Rand for children. It is wise to pre-book for tours to avoid disappointment.
The first buses leave at 9:40 and the last return at around 6pm. At each stop, you will receive information regarding the next tram/bus, and of course details of the last pick up. The first bus to return to Franschhoek leaves at around 2pm, so if you only plan to be out a few hours, you may wish to book onto a later departure in the morning.
There’s no need to worry about carrying your packages. You can hand these into the driver on the bus/tram and pick them up at the end of the tour. Franschhoek is definitely a merry place in the early evening as revellers return laden down with packages.
Don’t get drunk
Clearly the idea of the tram is for you to try the wine, however the terms and conditions of carriage clearly state that they will refuse entry to anyone who is too inebriated. Get plastered at your peril!
You can check out the various routes in the Franschhoek wine tram brochure, and a google search of each vineyard will tell you a little more about each.
Where to stay
There are a variety of guest houses in the town of Franschhoek, but we opted for a stunning Airbnb on the Chamonix wine estate. Surrounded by views of mountains and with panoramic windows, it was utterly captivating. It even had a resident dog Lea, who we wanted to adopt by the time we left! If you have yet to sign up for Airbnb, use this link for £25 of free credit.
Even though I felt shocking all day, taking the Franschhoek wine tram tour was a fabulous way to visit the area, and see a variety of very different wine estates. We loved the quaint little trams, the spectacular scenery of vineyards overlooked by the Simonsberg, and the open air busses. I really cannot think of a better Cape Town wine tour to take, but do stay over for the night after your drinking excursion. Franschhoek has plenty of gorgeous boutiques, bars and restaurants to explore.