By Alicia Erickson, Epicure & Culture contributor 

Driving through Durbanville Wine Valley, our 4×4 bumps along dirt paths, winding through rows of vineyards divided by grape varietals.

Shiraz, pinotage, sauvignon blanc, merlot. Each type of grape has been carefully placed according to their need for afternoon or morning sun and the sea breeze coming in from the coast.

The further up the hill we drive, the more expansive the views are over the Tygerberg Valley.

The land is dry and browned, a testament to the drought that has parched the Western Cape for the past few years.

Yet nonetheless, wine production persists.

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Durbanville Wine Valley: South Africa's Lesser Known Wine Region

Durban Wine Valley: A Lesser-Known South Africa Wine Region

Vineyards at Meerendal
Vineyards at Meerendal and views into the distant Tygerberg Valley. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.
merlot grapes in durbanville south africa
Filled wooden boxes of merlot grapes after a morning of picking. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.

On my wine tour in South Africa, vineyards cover the sloping hills, which disappear for miles into the distance.

Tangles of vines weigh heavy with deep purple grapes on the cusp of harvest.

And just past the series of hills rests a bright blue strip of the waters of False Bay.

Each afternoon, the Atlantic provides a cool, salty breeze over the valley, a distinguishing characteristic of the Durbanville Wine Valley.

The afternoon mist is ideal for growing the valley’s most important varietal, sauvignon blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Meerendal's vineyards
Closeup of sauvignon blanc grapes in Meerendal’s vineyards. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson

About a 25-minute drive outside of Cape Town with only 12 wineries is Durbanville, one of the Western Cape’s most niche and accessible wine valleys.

Overshadowed by the infamous Stellenbosch, it is still a little-heard-of name outside of South Africa.

Family and history are at the heart of this petite wine valley, which has been producing wine since as early as 1702.

Many award-winning wines hail from the cluster of wine farms, each with their own distinct character.

All the wineries are worth a visit if you have time for an all-encompassing Durbanville wine tasting; however, below are four that left a particularly lasting impression on me.

By visiting the below properties, you’ll get to sample some of the best South African wines available. 

Have you heard of #Durbanville Wine Valley in #SouthAfrica? Here is why you should visit this lesser-known #wine region! Click to Tweet

Durbanville Wineries Not To Miss

1. Klein Roosboom

I carefully swirl the merlot before tasting.

A rich burgundy liquid splashes against the sides of my glass.

Wafts of chocolate and plum hit my nose.

While merlot is not typically my red wine of choice, South Africa has started to shift my opinion.

This particular vintage, named “Nicol,” is full-bodied and incredibly smooth with deep berry notes and a hint of spice.

It’s an easy-drinking South African red wine with layers gradually unfolding on the palette.

Klein Roosboom, a boutique family-run winery, has curated a wine-tasting experience that one is not soon to forget.

Tastings take place in small, private caves that were once wine cellars.

Each cave has been decorated to a unique theme.

As I step foot into the red cave, I admire the burgundy-stained walls of the former port cellar and sink into a plush, red velvet couch.

Moroccan Berber rugs line the floor and intricate lamps softly illuminate the room.

Chic and intimate, this tasting room sets the mood for red-wine lovers alike.

Klein Roosboom Winery in durbanville south africa
The “red” tasting cave at Klein Roosboom. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson

After the initial wine tasting, I partake in one of their newest experiments, an unusual wine tasting experience:

A wine and gelato pairing.

The gelato is homemade on site, and each flavor has been carefully selected to accompany wines:

Sauvignon blanc with lemon, merlot with strawberry, and shiraz with chocolate.

Another reason to visit: 

Late 2019 will bring a newly constructed restaurant with a menu carefully curated by veterans of the Cape Town food scene.

For lighter bites, hearty charcuterie boards are on offer, filled with cheese, cured meat, fruit, and bread freshly made by the matriarch of Klein Roosboom.

White wine tasting and charcuterie board at Klein Roosboom
White wine tasting and charcuterie board at Klein Roosboom. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson

Family is at the heart of Klein Roosboom, a dairy farm turned vineyard.

Each wine has been named after a member of the owner, Karin’s, family: her children, her late husband, her mother-in-law.

“My liefste Jéan,” reads the label of the sauvignon blanc, a refreshing white with tropical and citrus notes. “For years we dreamed of a wine with pure aromas of passion, a heavenly hint of honesty and a definite taste of dedication. Now we can enjoy the fruit of your labor of love… taste the skillful manner in which you expertly nurtured the vines.”

On the back of each bottle, Karin has written a tribute to the individual the wine was named after.

Through these subtle touches, the heart and creativity of Klein Roosboom shine through and offer a delicious look at New World Southern Hemisphere wine at their finest. 

Wow! #Wine paired with gelato in #SouthAfrica? Yes, please! Click to Tweet

2. Meerendal Wine Estate

Meerendal, which quickly became one of my favorite South African wine brands, is steeped in history, dating back to 1714.

Today, it is still family-owned.

Meerendal is among the largest of the Durbanville wineries.

Their expansive property offers the most extensive network of bike trails on the continent.

In addition to a high-ceilinged, spacious tasting room that blends contemporary and rustic aesthetics, Meerendal has two restaurants—Carlucci’s and Crown—and a boutique hotel on site.

Meerendal Boutique Hotel was originally a house the farm owner built for his wife. It reflects the Cape Dutch architectural style that is typical to the region.

Today, it is the ideal place to stay for a night or two while exploring Durbanville wine valley, to wake to views over the Tygerberg and have immediate access to a dozen vineyards.

Meerendal is seeped in tradition and hard work. Through its expansions over the years, the property has never compromised quality.

Grapes are handpicked, ensuring that only the best are used. The other benefit of this is that machine-picked grapes collect insects and birds, as well, which all go into the wine.

With hand-picked processes like that of Meerendal, wines are ensured to be vegan.

meerendal's vineyards durbanville wine grape picker
A grape picker proudly displaying his morning of hard work at Meerendal’s vineyards. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson

Visiting Meerendal during their February harvest gave me a peek into the laborious, intricate process that goes into wine production.

Grape-picking calls for early mornings in the vineyards.

We use sharp tools to snip off entire bunches of merlot grapes to the backdrop of the sun rising over the Tygerberg Valley.

After stacks of wooden baskets have been filled, we load up the truck to head back to the cellar, where this year’s picks are fermenting in barrels.

Fermentation is a tedious process, which requires punching down of the grapes into the juice.

This task is repeated every three hours until the juice has reached the appropriate sugar levels.

For novices such as myself, being attached to a harness is a necessary precaution to prevent falling into the barrel of juice.

Perhaps I can think of worse things than swimming in a wine barrel, though.

Baskets filled with merlot grapes after a morning of picking in Meerendals' vineyards
Baskets filled with merlot grapes after a morning of picking in Meerendals’ vineyards. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson

Age is the best friend of Meerendal wines, which continue to deepen in complexity with time.

The 2017 Sauvignon Blanc is a testament to the fact that age can do South African white wine justice, allowing tropical notes to come through in this particular vintage.

As I move through the reds, I am drawn to the peppery spices of the shiraz.

And then I settle on the Heritage Block Pinotage, a grape varietal exclusive to South Africa.

Sauvignon blanc and Pinotage rose tasting paired with grapes at Meerendal
Sauvignon blanc and Pinotage rose tasting paired with grapes at Meerendal. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.

This particular pinotage comes from vines planted in 1955, a factor that has greatly impacted its concentration of flavors.

The 2016 vintage offers deep notes of red fruits and soft spices, elegantly finished with hints of honey and vanilla.

The wine is expected to continue to develop for at least 12 more years on the shelf, though already it leaves a lingering desire to keep refilling the glass.

3. Canto Wines 

Just down the hill and around the corner from Meerendel is Durbanville’s newest wine estate, Canto Wines.

Canto focuses on small-scale, high-quality production.

Their grapes are largely sourced from old vines, though the tasting room is modern and sleek, echoing an industrial-barn feel that stands out against the colonial architecture of many of Cape Town’s wineries.

An outdoor patio is also available for tastings, opening up over the vineyards.

On Saturdays, you can build your own picnic to accompany a bottle and relax on the spacious greens.

Canto Wines durbanville south africa
The view on the drive up to Canto Wines of the vineyards and tasting room. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.

While they have additional wines on offer, their specialty lies in their MCCs, South Africa’s sparkling wine.

Four MCCs are on offer:

  • a chardonnay
  • a pinot noir
  • a shiraz
  • and a chardonnay/pinot noir blend.

Each provides a unique tasting palette, evidence that Canto has mastered the art of bubbles.

MCC and macron tasting at Canto Wines
MCC and macron tasting at Canto Wines. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.

On a hot afternoon like the day I visit, I find nothing more refreshing than a sparkling wine.

I revel in their MCC and macron tasting.

Canto has masterfully paired four flavors of macrons with the four different sparkling wines.

Talk about unique wine pairings! 

From the hazelnut macron with the brut chardonnay to the pinot noir brut with the Turkish Delight… what is not to love?

Picking a favorite combination is truly challenging. The rich red velvet macron beautifully enhances the spiced, raspberry notes of the sparkling shiraz, leaving a lingering fizz on the palette.

A tasting fully concentrated on delicate bubbles is a sure way to keep me coming back.

Yum! This #SouthAfrica winery offers a #wine and macaron pairing. Learn more about the tasty experience here. Click to Tweet

4. Diemersdal Estate

A ten-minute drive from the residential area of Durbanville is Dimersdal.

Two white Dutch colonial buildings rise up amidst rows of vines as I drive up to the property.

The tasting room and restaurant spill out onto the lawn, which overlook vineyards dipping into the valley.

A walk through the vines on the Dorstberg reveal distant views of Table Mountain.

Diemersdal durbanville winery south africa
The charming tasting room at Diemersdal, reminiscent of Cape Dutch architecture. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.

Records show that wine production has been taking place on the land of Diemersdal since the turn of the 18 century.

The farm has been run by six generations of Louws who took over in 1885.

Ever since, they have been pouring innovation and passion into their wine production.

Tastings are organized by levels of the wine’s prestige.

Honestly, even the entry-level vintages are innovative and delicious. The premium wines, however, reveal unrivaled quality and innovation.

Perhaps this is best evidenced by Diemersdal’s “Winter Ferment,” a sauvignon blanc featuring grapes that have been frozen during the winter months.

This freezing process has greatly increased the sugar content, yet it is not overly sweet.

The impact on the flavor palette is quite remarkable, creating complexity and depth to a typically light, single-note wine.

Their “Wildhorse” is another example of their wine maker’s experimentation. This wine has been aged in oak barrels, providing refined, woody characteristics not typical of a sauvignon blanc.

As for Diemersdal’s reds?

For me, the true joy of wine lies in the complex elegance of a red.

I taste the malbec, then the Bordeaux-style blend, insisting that each is my favorite.

I finally land on the estate’s ultimate red:

The “MM Louw Cabernet Sauvignon 2017”, made from the most premium block of grapes and aged for 22 months in oak barrels.

The impact of time and quality of grapes is apparent as I sip on the wine, picking up on bright blackberries and cigars with the delicate finish of what I anticipate from a perfectly executed cabernet sauvignon.

Diemersdal tasting and cheese board durbanville
Diemersdal tasting and cheese board. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.
Durbanville vineyards overlooking the Tygerberg
Durbanville vineyards overlooking the Tygerberg. Photo taken by Alicia Erickson.

The depths of Diermersdel’s wines are captivating, the ambiance relaxed and inviting, and the lure of the rotating tapas menu that I missed every time, intriguing.

Enough to keep me returning time and again.

Add these four stunning wineries with unique pairing opportunities to your #SouthAfrica #wine tasting bucket list! Click to Tweet

Have you visited Durbanville Wine Valley, a lesser-known South Africa wine region? Add your favorite local wineries in the comments below! 

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Durbanville Wine Valley: South Africa's Under the Radar Wine Region

Alicia Erickson

Alicia grew up as a third culture kid, a lifestyle that influenced her immensely. She is currently a digital nomad based between Seattle, East and Southern Africa, and India, where she follows her curiosity everywhere from the deep depths of the ocean, to local wine farms, to remote Maasai villages.

Through her love of indigenous design, she seeks to build relationships between ethical online businesses and artisans in vulnerable communities. She also plays the roles of political analyst, yoga teacher, and writer.

Her insatiable thirst for travel inspires her writing and drives her to seek out off-the beaten path destinations, sustainable travel, food culture, and stories of places that have yet to be told. She’s as addicted to the stirrings of the mountains as she is to the expanse of the savannah and can almost always be found with a glass of wine in hand.

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1 Comment

  1. If you get the chance to visit the valley again make the drive out to Groot Phisantekraal.. its a little off the track but its so worth it, a little hidden gem with delicious Chenin Blancs and rich delicious reds. Added bonus is that if you go on a Saturday you can enjoy a freshly baked pizza.

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