Perhaps it is time to add South African wineries to the list of the world's best. One that comes to mind is Boschendal, located about 100 miles east of Cape Town, in a region known as the "Cape Winelands." Considered one of the oldest wine producers in South Africa, Boschendal has been in operation since the Dutch East India Company established the Cape Colony, and granted land to the French Huguenots who arrived in the Cape escaping religious persecution in their native France. The Huguenots brought with them seedlings of various types of grapes, and their ancient knowledge of wine-making.
Boschendal, founded in 1685, produces some of the finest wines in the Southern Hemisphere, and offers to the public, viewing of the Manor Home, Wine tasting, and a nature conservation area.
Where is Boschendal?
Boschendal is part of one the wine routes surrounding Cape Town, an area rich and fertile, with a climate that rivals the Mediterranean. The region produces an outstanding variety of stunningly beautiful and affordable wines, which I‘m sad to say are not all available in the USA. Luckily, one can find a few Boschendal wines sold Online in California.
The Cape Winelands is a collection of striking valleys that are truly a vision of beauty, complete with verdant fields, Cape Dutch architecture, and the aroma of lavender. To complete this vision of beauty, the jagged mountain peaks of the Groot Drankenstein and Simonsberg Mountains, frame the picture. The Boschendal vineyards cover an area of 254 hectares, or approximately six kilometer.
What is There to Do?
Boschendal, an award-winning wine estate offers wine tasting, award-winning dining at the newly renovated restaurant or their outdoor lawn (the famous "Pique-Nique"), a museum (the Manor Home), and a sprawling conservation area (a nature reserve).
The Manor Home
The Manor Home is a prime example of Cape Dutch architecture, and it is perhaps one of the most imposing and faithfully restored farmhouses in the Cape. The front gable (see page photo), with its wavy outlines ending in urns reflects both the baroque and neo-classical tradition of the Cape. The home is a typical H-shaped house (again, see photo), with a thatched roof, and windows that have external wooden shutters, which were used to keep the house cool during the heat of the day. Today, the house is air-conditioned to preserve the precious antiques.
Inside the home, the visitor will see extensive use of yellowwood and teak. As it was common in these homes, all the living areas and bedrooms are inter-connecting. The kitchen is enormous, and it is located in the back. Photography is not permitted, and visitors are not allowed to go inside each room but can view the rooms from each doorway.
Allow 30 minutes for the self-guided tour
Hours: 09:30 - 17:00 daily
Cost: R10.00 (about $1.30 per person - self guided tour)
Guided tours available on request
Wine Tasting Centre and Exhibition Vineyard
Join a wine tasting group and view their wine-making facility, explore their state-of the art cellar, or take a complete tour to see what it takes to run a vineyard.
At the wine-tasting center, and the oldest building on the property, you can sample their best selling wines and buy those you absolutely loved. Reservations during the high season (Summer) are highly recommended and can be made online, pending confirmation of your chosen dates.
Hours: 09:30 - 16:00 daily
Price pp R45 or abut $5.00
Le Pique-Nique Lunch
You have two dining choices: the elegant Boschendal restaurant, or perhaps the most famous, French-style picnic in South Africa that everyone talks about. We chose the latter.
Picnics at Boschendal are an elegant yet casual family affair. Le "Pique Nique" is served daily from October to May (Summer), on a perfectly manicured lawn. Tables are covered with crisply ironed linen tablecloths, and just about every table has a large umbrella. On the grounds you'll see tall oak and pine trees, a water lily pond, and a bright white Victorian bandstand.
The "Pique-Nique on the Cape" has become a tradition for locals and visitors alike, so popular that reservations are a must for the hugely popular Summer event. To make reservations, go to their website at http://www.boschendal.com/ and book online, or pick-up the phone. We made our reservation online about 3 weeks before our arrival in Cape Town, and in fact, my first chosen date was not available, but it worked out in the end, as we spent one week in Franschhoek.
We arrived in Boschendal one-and a half hour before our lunch reservation to give ourselves time to tour the Manor house, visit the grounds, and peruse the goods in the gift shop. We omitted the wine tasting tour as we planned to indulge in a wonderful bottle of Boschendal wine during our picnic.
A few minutes before our reservation, we made our way to the Picnic lawn and we were greeted by Alistair, a delightful young man who immediately confirmed we had reservations. He indicated that we could select any table that was not "set-up" for lunch, or if we had a blanket, we could sit anywhere on the lawn. On such a hot summer day, we chose a large table without an umbrella, situated under the shady pine trees.
Inside the Picnic Basket
Our waiter was leaning to one side as he carried our wicker basket, hinting it was loaded with delectable goods. Upon inspection, we found two china dinner plates, two salad plates, salt/pepper shakers, butter, metal utensils wrapped in large napkins, one long French baguette and various dishes beautifully wrapped and placed inside small, oval wicker baskets. Beverages, such as mineral water and wines are extra. However, hot coffe and hot tea are available, free of charge, for self-service from the gazebo.
The wine list offers Boschendal's finest wines, expertly chosen to enhance your "Pique-Nique" experience. Our choice was a 1685 Chardonnay Pinot Noir, a lovely sparkling white wine. On that hot day, this wine proved to be an excellent choice! Wine price: R130 or about US$14.50
Le Pique-Nique Menu
~ Tartlet of Smoked Franschhoek Salmon Trout
~ Snoek Pâté and Red Pepper Humus
~ French Baguette
~ Rare Roast Beef with whole grain mustard
~ Smoked "Coronation" Chicken
~ Country Ham
~ Baby Potato Salad
~ Corn Salad
~ Cheese (Brie and Emmenthal), whole wheat crackers (biscuits) and Pineapple Chutney
~ Chocolate Brownies.
2008-2009 price per person is R 135.00 or about US$16.00. A special "Children's Le Pique Nique" is R59.
The baby potato and corn salads had the right amount of seasonings, but I'd recommend not filling up on the salads as there is more in the wicker basket than meets the eye! The bread was not as good as it looked, but was fresh and soft. The roast beef was cooked just right with a hint of blush, and the ham was moist and delicious. The Pâtés were delicious and it's a good thing that only two small portions were provided.
According to my husband, the Pièce de résistance was the chocolate brownie containing oodles of Macadamia nuts, providing the right amount of crunch to a gooey confection.
We went to Boschendal on a friend's recommendation, and loved it. The wine estate is absolutely gorgeous, and faithfully follows the Cape Dutch architectural style found in the region.
On the day of our visit, the place was not swamped with tourists, although through the middle of our lunch, a large antique car and motorcycle club descended upon the wine estate, but instead of it being a nuisance, we were rewarded with the sight of many vintage cars and motorcycles.
While there is no doubt "Le Pique-Nique" is a bit touristy, hands down, it was the best picnic we've ever been to! Sitting under the shade of scented pine trees while a soft breeze caressed our cheeks, enjoying nice food and a wonderful bottle of sparkling wine, seemed like the right thing to do on a hot Summer day!
Bookings are essential:
To see photos of the estate, please visit:
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Best Suited For: Couples
Best Time to Travel Here: Anytime