Superb cool-climate wines in the country’s smallest “wine of origin” region.
From Plettenberg Bay, a short drive in any direction and you can find yourself deep in purest countryside: lush forests, haunting Tsitsikamma mountain vistas, rolling farmland, fynbos, and – for the last two decades – vineyards producing limited quantities of cool-climate wines in the country’s smallest “wine of origin” region.
It’s all thanks to a farmer named Peter Thorpe, who planted his first sauvignon blanc vines on Bramon Wine Estate 22 years ago, having identified climatic similarities between the Garden Route and winegrowing regions in New Zealand. Until then, no-one had ever considered growing wine this far east of the Cape’s traditional winegrowing regions.
By 2006, Plett was declared a wine region, with grapes grown on farms stretching between the picturesque rural hamlets of Harkerville and The Crags, known for cooling sea breezes and indigenous forests. Over the years various small-scale vineyards have come and gone, mostly focused on white varietals, and several offering intimate tastings and farm-style lunches out of their boutique cellars. Many vintages are so rare, they can only be bought in the area, which means that exploring the wine route firsthand is not only a chance to discover the region, but has practical advantages as well.
Worth highlighting is the region’s focus on Méthode Cap Classique. Plett’s wine farmers have long been intent on making this South Africa’s sparkling wine hub (the town traditionally hosts an annual Wine & Bubbly Festival in March). Aside from the wine farms below, there is also closed-to-the-public De Villo Boutique Wine, where Plett’s first Merlot (first harvested in 2015) is produced by Olof and Marlita de Villiers on a farm atop a hill above the Keurbooms River.
Here are the 9 must-visit wine farms in Plettenberg Bay:
What began as just a few hectares (experimentally) under vine kickstarted a farming revolution for the Garden Route. Today, over 20 hectares produce grapes for a range of award-winning wines and bubblies, including the first South African Méthode Cap Classique made from 100% sauvignon blanc grapes. Situated in The Crags, where tall mountains loom overhead and several world-class animal sanctuaries serve as useful family entertainment, Bramon is a warm, welcoming and thoroughly laidback spot to unwind and enjoy a sybaritic afternoon, without a hint of pretence. There’s place for children (and dogs) to play as you feast on mezze platters or order picnic crates from the indoor-outdoor restaurant (very easy-going: you tick off your desired tapas and tuck in as they arrive) – if you’re lucky (or reserve), you’ll get a table between the vines.
Hot tip Bramon is massively popular and during peak season (10 December – 10 January), there’s a time limit (2.5 hours) on all table bookings in the restaurant.
Opening times Tasting Room: Tuesday – Sunday 11.30am – 5pm
Restaurant: Monday – Sunday, 11am – 5pm
Contact 073 833 8183, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Bramon Wine Estate, N2, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
Kay and Monty Vineyards
With sumptuous mountain views and a setting deep in the rural wonder that is The Crags, this boutique-size farm has just 7.5 hectares under vine – great things have been achieved with what’s grown here, however. Its first wines were produced in 2012, immediately garnering gold medals and a string of stars – its distinctive sauvignon blanc and popular Champu MCC are more than worthy of a visit (and they recently released their first rosé and red blend). Along with wonderful wines, there are the beautifully prepared artisanal platters served in The Tasting Room. This chic, open-plan space in the converted old orchid greenhouse sits alongside the farm’s dam: warming fires are lit in winter or you can stretch out on the deck in summer savouring the sumptuous views as you linger over a long, languid lunch.
Hot tip While it’s a great spot for an afternoon, it also transforms into a rather spectacular wedding venue, in case you’re on the hunt for somewhere especially serene to tie the knot.
Opening times Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm
Contact 079 965 9779, email@example.com
Where to find it Redford Road, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
With a focus on organic farming techniques and preference for producing small quantities of high-quality grapes, Newstead’s Lund Family Vineyards is authentic and unpretentious. The first MCC produced here was a 2012 blanc de blanc that won a double-gold at the Michaelangelo Awards, a direct reflection of the specialness of the terroir, the quality of the grapes and the focus of the wine-making. Today, when you visit, there’s every chance the MCC will be sold out – good thing, then, that the Bubbly Bar is well-stocked and also serves craft beers and gin-infused cocktails. It’s worth lingering for the food, too – the restaurant does pizzas as well as dishes put together from what’s in season and whatever’s fresh from the garden. They also provide picnics that can be enjoyed between the vines. And, thanks to the family’s love of the sport, Newstead remains something of a polo hangout. Apart from regular chukkas played on the estate, in April there’s a popular polo evening, accompanied by a sunset picnic that gets very festive.
Hot tip If you want to stay awhile, there’s a pair of chic two-person self-catering cottages renovated from the old farmhouse available to rent. They’re next to the horse paddocks and the pinot noir vineyard.
Opening times Wednesday – Sunday, 11am – 4pm (wine sales on Monday + Tuesday by arrangement)
Contact 076 300 9740, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Newstead Wine Estate, Redford Road, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
Packwood Wine and Country Estate
Between Plett and Knysna, the rural hamlet of Harkerville is almost imperceptible (save for a few farm stalls and side roads veering off into the forest). One such road (Fisanthoek Road) leads to this hilltop estate with commanding views of the surrounding landscape: on one side are massive gorges, mountain views and the distant ocean, embraced from the north by indigenous forests. Owners Pete and Vicky Gent emigrated from England in 1997, starting a Jersey dairy herd from scratch (their core business). Today, they also manage a cracking trade in garagiste wines made from hand-selected grapes, sustainably grown and nourished by the rich soils. “The climate was similar to many parts of the world, we couldn’t understand why there weren’t vineyards everywhere,” recalls Vicky. “So working alongside experts Vinpro, the perfect site was found and planting began. From our small vineyard we produce many wines: cap classique, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. If you’re planning a visit, stay a while and enjoy the fresh air and views across the farm, while diving into a farm-fresh lunch of soft delicately flavoured cheese, crusty bread, chutneys and dips.
Good to know The lunch area accommodates up to 26 people for private functions, an ideal spot for a micro-wedding. There’s also a farm cottage to rent.
Opening times Tuesday – Friday, 9am – 5pm
Saturday + public holidays, 10am – 3pm
Contact 078 244 9400, 083 999 9521, email@example.com
Where to find it Packwood Wine and Country Estate, Fisanthoek, Harkerville, off the N2 between Plett (20km) and Knysna (25km), Garden Route, Western Cape
Plettenvale Wine Estate
The first vines at this family-owned farm were planted in 2008 and the initial 2011 harvest produced only 630 bottles. But it has grown in output and confidence and now has its own winery and cellar (built in 2012), although the handcrafted approach ensures that quantities of each vintage remain limited, meaning that each bottle is something special. Aside from an award-winning brut rosé MCC, they produce a crisp, well-balanced dry rosé, an excellent unwooded chardonnay, and, from syrah grapes planted on the highest part of the estate, an easy-drinking red with subtle ripe-berry flavours and a smooth, peppery finish. Lovely wines aside, part of the charm is the graciously hands-on touch: visitors get a personalised winery tour before one of the paired tastings.
Hot tip Call ahead to book a cheese-and-wine or chocolate-and-wine pairing.
Opening times Wine tasting and sales every Saturday 10am–2pm; other times by appointment (082 322 0765)
Contact 082 322 0765 or 082 320 8765, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Plot 88, Roodefontein, Airport Road, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
With vineyards on former polo fields and a new cellar in the old stable block under the stewardship of Plett’s pioneering winemaker Anton Smal, this estate on the banks of the Bitou River has recently evolved into a robust wine-country destination. Not only are there wonderful sauvignon blancs and a marvellous malbec (that went into oak barrels in 2020) to taste, there’s a restaurant doing delicious food in a handsome setting. It opens onto a deck overlooking vineyards and near-distant mountains. There’s also a line-up of entertainment events if you’re looking for more reasons to settle in for a while.
Opening times Daily, 11am – 9pm
Contact 044 004 0369, email@example.com
Where to find it Bitou Vineyards, Off N2, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
Lodestone Wine and Olive Estate was first established in 2012 on a beautiful, fynbos-covered property in the Redford area of the Crags just outside of Plettenberg Bay. The estate straddles two adjoining farms in the foothills of the Tsitsikama Mountains, at an elevation of 250 metres. In 2022, Lodestone Wine and Olive Estate was acquired by an international investment company whose vision was to create one of the most pristine private wine estates in the Crags Valley.
Worth knowing The restaurant and tasting room will reopen once work on the Redford Road is completed. Lodestone wines, olives and olive oils can be ordered online.
Opening times Not currently open to the public due to roadworks.
Contact 044 534 8015, 084 404 0099, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it 9 Rondebosch Road, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
In Harkerville, near the Elephant Park, this small, sustainability-focused estate has not looked back since garnering a Double Gold award for its third sauvignon blanc harvest. Now, with new owners and a fully-fledged café-style restaurant in the pretty gardens overlooking the vineyards and dam, its fabulous countryside location has truly come into its own. Along with breakfasts and lunches they do delectable packed picnics comprising baked treats and items thoughtfully selected from a seasonal menu. There’s a little farm shop selling wines and produce from the area, and if you’re not a wine drinker, they serve beer and gin – plus bubbly, of course. It’s child-friendly, too, with a dedicated play area for youngsters – and dogs are welcome if they’re on a leash and you’re seated outside.
Hot tip On Fridays, happy hour is from 4.30pm to 6.30pm, with cocktails, shots, beers and wine by the glass, plus pizzas served from 4 till 8pm.
Opening times Tuesday – Friday, 9am – 4pm; Saturday, 9.30am – 4pm;
Sunday, 9.30am – 3pm; wine tasting by appointment on Monday
Contact 076 575 4768, email@example.com
Where to find it HKV80 Harkerville, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
That Wine Demesne
Situated in The Crags at the end of one of those easy-to-miss turnoffs that head into this gorgeous pocket of hidden-away Garden Route countryside, this is among the smallest vineyards in the country, with just one hectare under the vines. It’s where the Butlers live with their menagerie of dogs, and a whole lot of tricky pinot noir grapes. While there isn’t a tasting room on the farm, there are two self-catering, pet-friendly houses on the estate: That Place is a three-bedroom bohemian charmer with its own outdoor pool enfolded by indigenous forest and a sauna to sweat it out in. Its sister house, Ons Hoek, is filled with books, treasures and knickknacks. Both are comfortable nests where you can spend a good, relaxing holiday. Besides being next door to Bramon (where you can buy That Wine), there are loads of family-friendly activities within easy reach: Birds of Eden, Monkeyland, and several other animal sanctuaries (including one full of reptiles) are found here. Plus two of the Garden Route’s best beaches – Keurboomstrand and Nature’s Valley – are close by.
Hot tip Only a handful of places sell That Wine: Beau de Jour Café at Bramon Tasting Centre and the restaurant at Bramon (it’s the farm next door); Fynboshoek Restaurant in the Tsitsikamma; the café at Luka Vineyards in Harkerville; at Barrington’s, The Fat Fish and at The Table Restaurant, all in Plett; and Ice Dream Land (ask as it may not be listed on the menu), the pizzeria and gelateria on the Airport Road near Plett.
Opening times The farm is only open to overnight guests.
Contact 082 578 1939, firstname.lastname@example.org
Where to find it Off N2, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape