Cape of Good Hope, South Africa was first settled when Europeans
of the Dutch East India Company in 1652 set up a victualing
station and repair facility for their merchant ships journeying
the long passage between Europe, India, and the Far East. Jan
Van Riebeck, the first commander of the Cape who had previously
been a ship surgeon persuaded his employers that wine was beneficial
for the treatment of scurvy. The first vineyard was planted
city has a thousand stories to tell. Cape Town, South Africa
tells the story of Dutch and Portuguese explorers and spice
traders who brought in French winemakers to plant grapes when
the turmoil of the Reformation in 16th century Europe was driving
the farmers to migrate out of France. The year 1688 also saw
the arrival of Huguenot refugees from France. These independently
minded growers moved to South Africa with the promise of land
in this rich, new African country. By the early 1700's, South
African wines were held in high esteem.
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Town also tells the story of Sir Cecil John Rhodes who settled
Rhodesia and created De Beers Diamonds. Thousands of immigrants
moved to the Cape for sudden wealth. It also tells the more
modern story of Nelson Mandela in prison, on a small island
off the coast near Cape Town harbor. Modern Cape Town will tell
the story of some excellent wines and winemakers, as well as
stories of the luxurious settings of South Africa's beautiful
hotels and popular restaurants.
Bay is the size of San Francisco Bay with a better, warmer climate.
The wine growing regions on the end of the African continent
have cooling ocean breezes and micro-climates, which are so
excellent for growing great wine grapes. Today, all these stories
lead the South African wine business & winemakers into the
future with a long and interesting wine making tradition. This
is a tradition that is hundreds of years longer than the other
New World wine areas, and it shows in the elegant old hotels
and winery properties that are in some of the nicest locations
in the world.
Town is all these influences rolled into one bustling traditional
looking city. The hotels are a rare wonder with first class
service and haute cuisine derived from a farming tradition going
The sultry and warm California-like weather leads to great produce
and wonderfully fresh foods and the native game provides exotic
meats and fowl as the norm.
had embarked upon what is to become a truly unforgettable and
unique adventure. Jeremy Wilkinson, President/CEO of Great Wines
International (a leading importer of South African wines into
the USA) personally leads two unique Behind the Scenes gourmet
food & wine tours in April and September of each year. This
time we are a group of wine writers, critics, wine distributors
and wine enthusiasts & all virgin travelers to South Africa.
Day One of this incredible whirlwind adventure,
we land in Cape Town. We arrive at the Admiral Nelson Hotel
(Nelly to her friends). The Old World elegance of breakfast
with sandwiches and pastries were there to greet us as we walked
in after a long flight. We were made to feel like long lost
relatives as we sat outside, on the beautiful patio.
relaxed until evening where we enjoyed High Tea on the verandah,
a quintessential experience of the Cape's colonial era. Great
Wines International then chauffeured us on to an adventure at
Table Mountain, which frames the city of Cape
Town. We rode the cable car to the very top of Table Mountain
and saw the most spectacular sunset in recent memory.
can see out across the horizon to the end of the earth. It's
no wonder the Flat Earth Society exists, as we view this great
expanse. The sun goes orange into the sunset and it is spectacular.
Accompanied by an outstanding glass of South African champagne,
being equally enjoyed by my fellow tour guests, I watch for
the last seconds as the sun dips beneath the glassine seas and
flashes a green strobe of light for an instant… then
the sun is gone. The vision leaves me in stunned silence; stunned
… too dull a word. This is a sight I've been told of
but have witnessed for the first time. An instance of awe leaves
us completely satisfied. The whole experience is beyond description
without the gifts of a poet. All too quickly, we are on the
cable car headed downward into the lights of Cape Town.
view of the clouds and cliffs over Cape Town, are a stage for
the performance of heaven. Harrowing, huge clouds rolling around
rugged cliffs, then blowing off, and starting again. Cape Town
has seen it all. At the Admiral Nelson Bar, we are served cocktails
with a smile and wraparound full service comfort. Jeremy Wilkinson
toasted us (many times) with “Jabula" and we are
happy and content to be in South Africa!