11 South African Wine Caves For Subterranean Sipping
For those of you who have not yet had the chance to tour a winery cave, here’s a brief introduction: A wine cave is a subterranean chamber built into a hillside (usually) and is used for storage and aging of wine.
An underground tasting experience is not only the best solution to savour wines at its organoleptic splendour, but it also offers visitors an insight into the estate’s history while getting a taste of their best bottles.
A fair amount of wineries in the Cape winelands have wine grottos that are open to visitors, offering sit-down tastings or guided walks. Some even allow guests to sample wines straight from the barrels, while others zhoosh things up with ambrosial food and wine pairings.
Here are eleven wine caves worth visiting the next time you’re out and about in the South African winelands.
Nestled in stone with maturing Pinot Noir below, the Haute Cabrière tasting room in the Franschhoek Wine Valley is the perfect place to indulge in the winery’s supreme Methode Cap Classiques. Visitors can embark on the guided underground cellar tour daily at 11:00 to learn more about the estate’s history and the winemaking process. This is followed by a tasting of 5 wines and a sabrage demonstration – the age-old technique of opening a bottle of sparkling wine with a sabre.
In the early days of winemaking, farmers would create underground cooling vaults for their wine. These vaults were dug into the ground at Weltevrede, cast in cement and then sealed with molten beeswax to prevent the wine from coming into contact with the concrete. Long forgotten, Weltevrede, located in the Robertson Wine Valley, decided to once again make use of these underground vaults and have created the most extraordinary underground wine tasting experience enjoyed by candlelight. Visitors are led through a maze of dark, damp underground passages to the underground wine tasting area where Cellarmaster Phillip Jonker shares stories about the history of the farm, the wines and its people.
Sandwiched between the towns of Robertson and Bonnievale, Esona offers a multi-sensorial underground tasting experience with music and food paired with the estate’s range of wines. Upon arrival guests descents into the quiet, dark, and intimate space of the underground cellar, also known as the “kuip”. Flickering candles are the only source of light downstairs where the vertical tasting is presented in RIEDEL glasses, demonstrating why using the right glass does make a difference. The wines are paired with Lindt chocolate, fruit preserves and music for a sensory overload.
The underground cellar at Zandvlient in Robertson houses lots of interesting things. Following the refurbishment of an old building into a luxurious new tasting room in 2016, six underground cement Muscat tanks and a tunnel were unearthed after being concealed for 60 years. These rustic spaces now house an art exhibition that gives visitors a glimpse into the Langeberg region and its people. Wine aficionados can also have their private collection stored here under optimal conditions.
Founded in 1967, this famous “cellar in the mountain” was the first underground bottle maturation cellar of its kind, not only in South Africa but in the southern hemisphere. Wine tasting takes place amid lit alcoves before visitors are escorted down a 500 000-bottle-flanked passage that reveals the barrel cellar, where carved casks commemorate important Cape wine landmarks and events. The Fleur du Cap wine and artisanal salt pairings are pretty unusual and unique, combining the naturally crafted wines with handmade, salted delicacies.
Not too long ago, Kanu Wines in Stellenbosch entered a new era of winemaking that saw new owners at its helm. After extensive renovations, the property now offers specialised wine tastings paired with Asian inspired delicacies along with a bunch of other activities for young and old. Tastings are conducted in the underground cellar, which pays homage to the past.
On the lower slopes of Mont Rochelle mountain in Franschhoek, an underground wine cellar was constructed in the early 1990s. An underground passage leads through the cellar up into the Blacksmith’s Cottage, built in the late 1700s, which now houses the tasting room. You can book an underground cellar tour or just visit for a wine tasting.
Dubbed the Wine Library, the underground cellar at De Wetshof Estate in Robertson showcases older vintages of the Chardonnay vineyards of the Estate. In this intimate atmosphere, you will have the opportunity to enjoy and taste exclusive wines not commonly available in the market place. In order to preserve an intimate atmosphere, this experience is limited to 8 guests and is reserved exclusively.
Lovane Boutique Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch winelands is the smallest wine-producing estate in South Africa. On 3.7 hectares they grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. To get a taste of their handcrafted wines, visitors can enjoy a personal tasting experience in the underground cellar.
Located on the slopes of Bottelary Hills, the underground wine cellar at Hartenberg is the largest privately-owned cellar in South Africa. The front room of the underground area can be used for functions and the rest of the temperature-controlled space is given over to barrel and bottle storage.
Escape the summer heat or cuddle up by the fireplace in winter at the underground Equus lounge at Cavalli Wine and Stud Farm. A separate room linked to the tasting area is the owner’s whisky room, housing the largest private collection of 450 brands in the Southern hemisphere and signed guitars from Duran Duran, U2, and the Rolling Stones, to name a few. After the wine tasting, guests can admire the current exhibition in the 600 square metre underground gallery for a one of a kind art experience.