South Africa, a Wild and Exotic Destination

Published
09/04/2009

Located on the southern tip of the African continent, South Africa is an ideal destination offering a host of unique experiences: lush scenery, the best in international cuisine and hospitality, and splendid wines that have had a resounding success in international markets.

This country owes its vineyards, planted with European vines, to the Dutch East India Company and the Governor of the Colony, Johan Van Riebeek. For their part, the French Hugonotes, who immigrated to Cape Town at the end of the 17th century, contributed their expertise and secrets in winemaking, the end result being wines that have been showcased in prestigious competitions and included on the wine lists of leading restaurants and vintners the world over.

The country’s wines owe their fame to the Pinotage. A mixture of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, this grape variety endows South African red wines with personality and distinction, as well as the robustness and aromas reminiscent of Beaujolais. Although the white wines produced with Steem, Riestling and Sauvignon Blanc, are perhaps South Africa’s main claim to fame.

After a number of political upheavals, South Africa’s tourist industry is experiencing a glittering renaissance, attracting travellers from all over the world interested in discovering its extraordinary natural beauty, more than three thousand kilometres of coastline, sophisticated metropolises incorporating the latest trends and technologies, and elegant Victorian-style cities.

Perhaps one of the country’s most unknown aspects, however, is its deep-rooted wine culture with a strong presence and tradition. Exploring the South African wine routes and numerous wineries, with their impeccable facilities and service, is a unique experience, above all in Stellenbosch.

This city – the second oldest in the country – is the capital of the South African wines and home to around half of its wineries. Nevertheless, there are other important wine regions, such as the Swartland and Olifants River Valleys, as well as Constantia, the paradise of sweet wines. Beyerskloof and Kanonkoop, both of which produce excellent wines from the Pinot Noir, Muratie and L’Avenir grape varieties, and are exceptional exponents of Bordeaux and Cape Blend, or exemplary artisans of the Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, like Vergelegen or Delaire, are just some of the outstanding wineries located in this area. Although the bedside book of wine tourists visiting the country should undoubtedly be the John Platter Wine Guide. That in the opinion of Decanter, Amani Vineyards Cabernet Franc-Merlot is the best Bordeaux in 2008, and Cederberg Shiraz, the best Rhone, just about says it all.

When it comes to the choice of accommodation, South Africa offers a vast range of possibilities for the most discerning of travellers. The country’s select list of deluxe establishments are best symbolized by its private resorts located in natural parks and reserves – including the Palace of the Lost City, in the Pilanesberg National Park, Sabi Sabi, in the Kruger National Park, Sun City Resort, which also has two casinos, and Simbithi Eco Estate in the city of Durban – which organize sumptuous safaris.

Besides wines, South Africa offer travellers a broad variety of exciting adventures such as game viewing, whale and dolphin watching, scuba diving amidst sunken shipwrecks, in addition to activities designed for those wanting to relax at the country’s incredible spa centres and fabulous golf courses, like the Gary Placer Country Club, the Francourt Golf Estate and the Clovelly Country Club, to name but a few.

At the southern tip of the continent, South Africa, beautiful and unexpectedly cosmopolitan, never fails to surprise first-time visitors.