The original Stellenbosch Wine Route, arguably one of the Western Cape province’s most popular tourist attractions, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. The City of Oaks, as Stellenbosch is also fondly referred to, is seen as the pioneer of wine tourism in South Africa. The city is not only home to the country’s oldest wine routes but is the educational and research centre of the traditional Cape winelands. Stellenbosch is South Africa’s second oldest town, and is also known for its university. Visitors to this historic area have a choice of more than 200 wine and grape producers to choose from within the boundaries of the Stellenbosch Wine of Origin classification.
It all started in 1971 when three intrepid winemakers – Spatz Sperling of Delheim, Neil Joubert of Spier and Frans Malan of Simonsig – realised the potential and necessity of such an endeavour. The original wine route was a network of just a few wineries at which tourists could taste the various products in a relaxing and almost homely atmosphere. Much has changed since then. With visitor numbers to the winelands increasing every year and numerous cellars joining the fold, the need for a comprehensive and joint approach to marketing the different routes became necessary.
In 2002 the Stellenbosch American Express Wine Routes came into being to make the experience of wine tasting more user-friendly and accessible to tourists. Today, the Stellenbosch Wine Route is divided into five sub-routes consisting of a network of more than 148 wineries, each offering a unique experience for the wine-lover and tourist, according to the official website. Each sub-route has its own character and feel, with different types of wines, climate and geographic locations to choose from.