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The Cape Town Wine Route Wonders

Just drive out to one of these delightful wine estates to find something quite magical about the art of viticulture and we dare you to say you didn't have a great time.

The most trouble you'll have is trying to decide which wine estate to visit on which wine route - there's so many and they're all different.

However, there's an art to this, especially in the busiest tourist times, so let us guide you round our particular favourites and show you how to pick the best ones for you to visit to ensure you make the most of your time and get to experience the best of the wine route wonders around.

Once you get the bug, you'll want to return more and more often, until finally, just like us, a trip to Cape Town wouldn't be complete without a wine route trip.

Nailing down your particular favourites can often lead you to a particular estate that specializes in these wines, but don't let that stop you finding a new grape varietal, or why not discover the skill involved in brandy making?

What draws you up the driveway to discover
what's beyond the rather bland, brown signposts?

Gateways filled with the most glorious flowers - Canna Lilies and Roses. Spectacular beds filled with wonderfully vivid colour, stretching into the distance just urging you to find what's at the top, all with a backdrop of soaring mountains.

The estate houses themselves are usually the traditional Cape Dutch style houses, built in an H shape. Many of them are open and maintained as museums, of an age long past and we've spent many an hour wandering around the cool interiors, whilst the sun blazes outside in a clear blue sky.

One example of these very gracious wine estates is Uitkyk, pronounced "Ate Cake". Tucked away down a short track leading from one of the main roads into Stellenbosch, this wine estate is worth a visit just for the handsome manor house alone, but why not try your hand at boules, sometimes known as petanque. Uitkyk supply the boules and a set of rules, all for free, whilst you enjoy tasting it's award winning wines. Better still, book a picnic hamper the day before your visit, sample wine for your lunch before finding the perfect spot under the trees to enjoy the awe-inspiring views, whilst whiling away the afternoon.

Uitkyk is one of our particular favourites because it's rather off the beaten track of the usual wine route tours. A number of the extremely well-known estates end up with bus-loads of people all vying to taste wine and view other attractions and at certain times of the year, this can be extremely off-putting. Knowing where to go to find the best estates and the best wines, will save you a lot of time and stress, making your wine route experience truly memorable.

Others that are memorable for their manor houses are Vergelegan, Somerset West Boschendal, Franschhoek Groote Constantia, Constantia, Cape Town

However, these are all very big and very well-known, with a large number of cruise ships and tours prefering to take their customers to these wine estates. Choose your time to visit them with care, so that you miss the crowds and enjoy your visit.

Not all the wine estates are old. One or two are ultra modern, like Eikendal, just outside Somerset West or Dornier Wines just of the beaten track on the road to Somerset West.

Others like Spier in Stellenbosch, combine the very old with the very new, in a tremendous combination.

Wine is not the only consideration at the majority of estates. Described by South Africa's wine bible, John Platter as "this manicured, riverside pleasure dome" Spier's latest attractions include "Moyo", an outdoor African eating experience with Arabian Nights-style tents and a treehouse platform, providing the most exotic setting for a bountiful buffet. During the chilly Cape winter nights, you're warmed by large brazier's and woolly blankets. Be warned - this is incredibly popular with tourists, so booking early is a must.

Other attractions include an hotel, conference centre, open-air amphitheatre with a full season of music and the arts, five other restaurants, a deli, golf course, tennis centre, equestrian centre, wildlife close encounters and last but by no means least ... fine wines! If you only had one day to do a wine tour, you would probably not go far wrong in chosing Spier - there is literally something for everyone here!

You would be forgiven for thinking that wine sometimes takes a back seat to everything else going on, but taste the wines made on the Spier Estates and you'll be in no doubt you're tasting an excellent quality wine.

Couple that wine with a picnic from their Deli, the setting sun, swallows winging their way through the early evening sky, candles and the Cape Town Philharmonic orchestra playing Christmas carols and you have the makings of one of the most memorable evenings you could experience.

Not what you had in mind when we said wine?

How about Chocolate?

Helen Palmer is the author of the website http://www.magical-cape-town-vacations.com, whose family's love of Cape Town was spawned some 30 years ago, when her aunt moved there to live. Regular visits and a genuine love of travel persuaded Helen to share her passion. To find out where the chocolate is, go to http://www.magical-cape-town-vacati ons.com/wineroute.html

Get the newsletter, Cape Town Vacation Magic, keeping you up-to-date on the happenings in Cape Town - http://www.magical-cape-town-vacat ions.com/newsletter.html

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