72 Hours of Wine Tasting in Franschhoek

If there was ever a single place to get drunk on both love and wine, Mont Rochelle in Franschhoek is it, says Werhsa Bharadwa.

Renowned as the gourmet capital of South Africa and home to only a few thousand people, Franschhoek is an hour’s drive from Cape Town making it the perfect stop for a honeymoon to South Africa covering safari, city escapes and the famous winelands.

The town’s Disney-esque main village is filled with white Cape Dutch art galleries and fine dining restaurants galore. And little seems to have changed over the years.

The Mont Rochelle Experience

Sitting on 39 hectares in Franschhoek’s highest point, the Mont Rochelle Hotel & Vineyard is a gone-to-honeymoon paradise affair. As manager Elizma welcomes us and the car is valet parked, we fully admire the beauty of the intensive sun-filled Drakenstein and Wemmershoek mountain ranges with coffees in the garden.

Suites at Mont Rochelle Hotel & Vineyard

All 26 suites overlook this view and are separated from the vineyards by their own private verandas. They feature hip playful yet sophisticated interiors with open plan layouts and cleverly designed rain showers in the bedroom from which you can continue admiring the vistas.

Ours comes with a king sized bed and flat screen (though we don’t watch TV at all). It’s the ultimate honeymoon hideaway but before we cocoon ourselves away we’ve got thirsty work to complete: wine tasting in some of South Africa’s most famous wine estates.

 Wine Tasting Aboard Franschhoek’s Wine Tram

Our final expedition is one of our most anticipated: climbing aboard the famous Franschhoek double-decker vintage Wine Tram for a hop-on and hop-off day of curated tastings and cellar tours in the country’s best wine estates. My eyes light up as soon as our guide hands us glasses of vino the minute we step inside. We pass sun-soaked vineyard after vineyard while mapping our route on the timetable. Each coloured line around the valley allows us to hop on and off at various wine estates.

Wine Tasting at Rickety Bridge & Leopard’s Leap Wine Estates

Our first first stop on the tram is at the famous Rickety Bridge Winery where we enjoy a wine tasting guided by our tastes and explained how wine profiles work.

After an hour and a half we jump back onto the tram and head over to Leopard’s Leap   – one of the most best loved and well known wineries on the planet. Our tasting is conducted around a stylish circular bar in the modern building where we learn the secrets of both fine wine and crowd-pleaser quaffs while soaking our glasses up with platefuls of cheeses and charcuteries.

We have lunch in the upscale and stunning rotisserie restaurant where we refuel with a delicious lamb roast and salads before popping into the in-house art gallery.

Food at Mont Rochelle

We arrive back at Mont Rochelle to play slightly wine-merry games of croquet, boules and chess on the sunny lawns. There’s also a tennis court and pristine gym. Our games are short-lived because once I’m into my swimsuit I barely move from the pool except for a few cooling laps.

Our last tasting of the day is with the hotel. Tastings are available within the cellar, Restaurant Miko and the laid-back Country Kitchen. We opt for the latter because of the outdoor dining and where we loll around the gardens playing on the oversized chess board, click selfies and peek at adjacent Manor House villa where Branson’s children, Sam and Holly often stay.

As we sip on award-winning wines, our host educates us on how South Africa produces more wine than France and how the grapes are more robust. (I’m delighted when told my favourite, the Mont Rochelle Miko White 2016 can be found back home too.)  For an extra special touch, couples can ask to have a hosted dinner with the head winemaker too.

For dinner, the chef whips us up easy, fuss free platters of buffalo wings and ribs before we head back to the main building to soak up the couch-side fireplace and more complimentary wine.  

We collapse onto the squishy sofas in our suite for more wine sipping and star-gazing before climbing into super king sized bed for a deep – if slightly intoxicated – slumber.

Thankfully, breakfast in the morning is the perfect pick me up with the freshest eggs, artisanal breads, smoothies, baked cheese soufflé and breakfast burritos. You’re undoubtedly spoilt for choice. I don’t bother to ask for a morning paper either; nothing in the world is worth taking attention away from the epic scenes of the mountains in front of me.

Getting to Franschhoek

South African Airways flies daily from Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport to Johannesburg. The airline is a Star Alliance Member. Check in is easy and it’s worth upgrading for access to the beautifully-designed Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2. Onboard, our seats have ample legroom and comfortable seat recline which make for a decent night’s sleep. You can also fly direct from Heathrow to Cape Town, or catch a domestic flight from Johannesburg.

Hire a car in Cape Town Airport via Avis Rent a Car before departing the UK for the cheapest rates and availability. Our shiny new Hyndai Tiguan was a dream drive for the week and provided lots of luggage storage space too.