Franschhoek Valley, in the heart of the Cape Winelands, is nestled between the mountains and surrounded by vineyards. As one of the oldest towns in South Africa, the area is steeped in history and is a premier tourist destination due to its spectacular scenery and extensive selection of wine estates. A tour of the Franschhoek vineyards will give you the chance to sample an endless array of wines (with chocolate and cheese!); dine in restaurants with world-class chefs; and relax amidst the breathtaking beauty of the area.
History Of Franschhoek
Three centuries ago, Franschhoek – translated as the ‘French Corner’ – became the home of a group of Protestant refugees from France; forced to leave out of fear of persecution from the Catholics. The Huguenots travelled to South Africa aboard a cargo ship, and arrived to begin their new lives in what was then the Cape Colony, governed by the Dutch East India Company. With their native knowledge of the winemaking process, they transformed the area into what is now the Franschhoek Valley; known as the Wine and Gourmet Capital of South Africa.
Tour the Franschhoek Vineyards by Tram
The Franschhoek wine tram tour is a fun, comfortable, and convenient way to tour the Franschhoek vineyards. In 1994, the train tracks were built to enable the farmers to cart their produce to the market more efficiently, but gradually became unnecessary as the transport developed. In 2012, the eco-friendly and open-sided tram was launched; modelled after the Victorian trams of the 1890’s and adding an element of adventure to the tour. It is a hop-on, hop-off tram that allows one to explore the Franschhoek wine estates at one’s leisure, and makes stops at some of the oldest and most popular of South Africa’s wine estates. An oral guide on the tram adds to the experience by revealing the interesting history of Franschhoek and its wine cultivation.
The Wine Estates
A tour of the Franschhoek vineyards by tram gives one more than forty wineries to discover in the Valley’s surrounds, and one can choose to explore the more intimate family-run wineries, to the larger wine estates, where complimentary wine tastings and food pairings are offered. Touring the vineyards provides a near-endless choice of wine estates to visit, making a guided tour such as the tram an easy and stress-free option. There is a variation of activities, and certain wine estates offer specialised activities that should be booked in advance. This may include horse-back riding at Mont Rochelle; relaxing in the spa at Holden Manz; wandering through the art gallery and gift shop at Grande Provence; or cooking classes at Leopard’s Leap. Most of the estates offer a picnic option and a selection of food pairings, including chocolate, cheese, olive, and biltong pairings. Although kids cannot sample the wine, jungle gyms can be found at La Bourgogne, Rickety Bridge, Grande Provence, and Chamonix, giving parents a much needed break and opportunity to do some sampling of their own.
Whether one is a lover of wine, or simply wants to stroll through the lush gardens after some fine dining in one of the many impeccable restaurants, a tour of the Franschhoek vineyards is not to be missed.