When visiting South Africa, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek were no brainers for places we had to go. Katie and I are big wine fans, so 2 days exploring this famous wine region sounded like a dream! Only one problem, who would drive? Travelling from Cape Town, we did a couple of vineyards in Stellenbosch on route. However, for day 2 we jumped on the extremely handy Franschhoek Wine Tram!
You can choose to do a curated wine experience or a village walking tour, but it’s the hop on hop off experience that we signed up for, and what I would recommend. There are 8 different lines to choose from, but only 4 are completely different. The other 4 are the same route, but in the opposite direction. After extensive research, and from speaking to previous tram riders, we booked our ticket for the purple line at 9.30am. We booked in advance because we had limited time in Franschhoek and knew that we didn’t want to miss this experience during our visit. I would definitely encourage you to spend time looking at the different routes and wineries available on each because they all offer something different in the way of setting and tastings. Once you have decided which route, I would suggest booking the earliest departure time to make the most of your day, this way you will get the chance to experience as many wineries as possible. Also, have a little look at different lunch options along your route because you may want to book something in advance if they are particularly popular, or you may want to see what you fancy as the day goes on.
Ok, so on to the line we embarked on – Purple Line. There are 8 different stops on the line and we visited 5 of them. For me, this worked really well, I wanted to see as many as possible, but I also didn’t want to be constantly rushed. Visiting 5 wineries meant that some of our tastings were 30 minutes, but others were over an hour. The timetable might look quite daunting, but once on the bus our guides kept us well informed with the different pick up times and they were on hand to give advice on where to stop and for how long. The stops we chose were:
- Allee Bleue
- Plaisir de Merle
- Vrede en Lust
When you arrive at each winery it’s completely up to you if you want to do a tasting, order a glass/bottle of wine and/or have something to eat. The costs of any wine or food is not included in the tram ticket, so you can be flexible with what you order. The transport between wineries is a mix of bus and tram.
We started off on the bus and were taken to Allee Bleue where we spent 30 minutes doing the cheese and wine pairing. This was a good starting point because it was a breakfast of champions before moving on to sweet pairings. The wine and cheese were both delicious, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of the wine and food we ate throughout the day. Allee Bleue wasn’t my favourite vineyard in terms of setting, but I’m glad we stopped here.
Boschendal was one of my favourites from the day. It was busy when we showed up, which provided a nice atmosphere and the service was the best of all the vineyards. Our sommelier sat down and chatted through our different options and once we had selected the wine and chocolate pairing, he continued to sit and talk us through the different wines. It was very friendly, relaxed and just made the experience more personal. It’s also an absolutely gorgeous vineyard and one that I could have sat in for hours, drinking delicious wine.
Plaisir de Merle is the perfect example of no matter how much research you do, you should still try something new. I hadn’t read much about this one, but Katie was keen to try the fudge pairing they offer, so we added it in to our stops. This, along with Boschendal, was my favourite of the day. It was another beautiful location, with incredible views and we indulged in plenty of food and wine. Of course, we did the fudge pairing, but we also ordered a meat and cheese platter for something more substantial. Plaisir de Merle was a lot quieter than some of the other wineries, but it gave us our own space in a very tranquil setting. This was one of the vineyards that we were transported to on the tram, and we received a glass of wine for the journey!
I’d been thoroughly looking forward to Vrede en Lust because I had heard great things, but the service here really put a downer on our experience. Again, it’s a nice setting, but it was pretty busy and our wine tasting just seemed really all over the place. When our sommelier was discussing the wines she was looking around the terrace rather than talking directly to us. We ordered a couple of pizza’s that took forever to come, but again there was no communication. Basically, it was fine; not somewhere I would rush back to, but the wines were great!
On arrival at Babylonstoren we would have preferred to have sat outside, but unfortunately that wasn’t an option. However, the wine was possibly my favourite of the day and the cellar master’s platter was a great accompaniment. Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren gets rave reviews and I would want to give it a try the next time I’m in Franschhoek. We stayed here until the last bus of the day came to collect us.
The Wine Tram was one of our favourite days from our South Africa trip and something I would recommend to anyone visiting the famous wine region. It makes getting around the vineyards very easy, but is also a fun experience in itself.