Google the term ‘culinary tourism’ and you’ll be surprised at how much information gets thrown back at you. Food and travel are not only big business but also fit together like long-time lovers, seamlessly overlapping each other, forming a satisfying and sensual union. One of the major tourism draw cards to South Africa is the Cape Winelands area, not only stunningly beautiful but also renowned for producing some of the best wines and food festivals in the South Africa.
Think mouth-watering delicacies, great, fresh produce and a tantalising melting pot of cultural flavours – you may just never want to leave.
Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are two of the best wine-producing regions in the country and are as pretty as their grapes are tasty. While you won’t be hard-pressed to find a vineyard and a spot for a bite to eat, there are a few oh-so-chic places that stand out, combining delectable wine with world-class food festivals in South Africa.
Wine and Chocolate – Simply Divine
Overlooking a sea of vineyards and olive groves lies one of the world’s leading wine destinations, Delaire Graff Lodge & Spa. Owner and globally renowned visionary Laurence Graff acquired the vineyard in 2003 and since then has set about transforming it into one of South Africa’s most desirable art, hospitality and wine destinations. Today the estate houses two outstanding restaurants, Delaire Graff and Indochine.
While the former offers bistro-chic style cuisine, the latter has a definitive and bespoke Asian influence. The philosophy of both is that the best food starts with the best ingredients and to this end the menus are inspired by seasonal, fresh ingredients and support free-range and pasture reared livestock. The food is exquisite and beautifully presented, elevating dining to an art form. Merge this with a bottle or two of wine from the estate’s cellar and your culinary tour de Winelands will meander deliciously towards a delicately sweet dessert.
While on the topic of all things delicious and sweet, a worthwhile stop when in the Stellenbosch area is the Winelands Chocolate Festival held annually in July on the Lourensford Wine Estate. One of the most divine food festivals in South Africa, it showcases the growing number of master chocolatiers and pastry chefs who are taking chocolate to great heights in the country. Visit the Chocolate Emporium to stock up on everything from fine chocolate and wine to chocolate body art and decorative chocolate and sugar craft. The Lindt Afternoon Tea will give you the exclusive opportunity of meeting South Africa’s best loved chocolatiers and pastry chefs, not to mention sipping on some bubbly while melting into a fine and luscious chocolate afternoon tea created by a master chocolatier. With fashion shows, flavour alchemy courses and chocolate inspired art and photography, this is one of the best festivals in South Africa that is sure to keep you sweet and smiling.
Paris may have the Eiffel Tower but Cape Town has Table Mountain, and a little piece of French history tucked away in the gorgeous and fertile Franschhoek Valley. Franschhoek is known as the food and wine capital of South Africa and is filled with age-old vineyards that cascade over the valley hills. Among them is Mont Rochelle, not only an elegant hotel, but also a working vineyard with two restaurants that are simply to die for and have firmly entrenched Franschhoek’s status as one of the world’s premier culinary destinations.
Miko is the ultra-chic eatery located in the Manor House that serves up a blend of international dishes paired with some superb local vintages. The restaurant has a distinctly Provencal feel with wraparound views of the vineyards. Miko is well known as one of the Cape’s finest dining venues with its great food, beautifully presented menus, well-appointed location and matchless views.
The Country Kitchen is a cool and classy affair and joins up with the estate’s wine cellar. The eatery offers more informal bistro style cuisine such as the mouth-watering garlic butter prawn salad and duo of lamb. Gourmet picnic baskets can also be pre-ordered and enjoyed outdoors.
The Magic of Bubbles
Photo credits: Franschhoek Wine Valley
In staying with all things French it seems only fitting the French pocket of South Africa hosts an annual champagne festival. The Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival is held on the lawns surrounding the iconic Huguenot Monument and presents some of South Africa’s finest Méthode Cap Classiques and France’s best champagne. It is one of the highlights of the local social calendar where great bubbly and scrumptious cuisine can be sampled in a naturally beautiful setting that is rich in history. This year Mont Rochelle will be showcasing its menu at the festival along with other local restaurants. Enjoy the magic of bubbles and silky smooth taste of various culinary delights at one of the top wine and food festivals in South Africa.
Heaven on Earth
Slightly further away from the mother city lies the coastal hamlet of Hermanus, better known for its whale watching than wine, but just as renowned for the fantastic flavours it brings to the table. It is also home to one of the top ten wine and food festivals in South Africa that takes place in the scenic Hemel en Aarde Village every winter. The Hermanus Wine and Food Festival offers an impressive line-up of wines that have garnered awards around the world. Blend this with small-town charm and hospitality and plenty of good food and entertainment, and your gastronomic dreams are fulfilled.
Over 50 wine producers partake and sell their wines at cellar prices, and even better, your festival purchase can be shipped to anywhere in the world! The large gourmet food marquee offers everything from organic cheeses to handmade chocolates and delivers premium quality for the discerning palate.
If you are thinking of spending some time in Hermanus, then Birkenhead House is the perfect place to continue your sensory seduction and enjoy one the finest food festivals in South Africa. The cliff-top villa affords sweeping ocean views, an elegant, inviting environment and the freshest seafood. The ocean-side dining area puts together first-class fusion food that mixes traditional African and Cape seafood with strong Italian and Asian influences. The gourmet dining and extensive choice of wines at this impeccably chic establishment just can’t be beaten.
Gourmet food festivals in South Africa are easy to find, the difficult part will be trying not to overindulge and deciding which chic eateries most tempt your taste buds. So there isn’t a need to pack the picnic basket but please, for goodness sake, don’t forget your credit card!