Plettenberg Bay on the Garden Route of South Africa is one of the most popular summer holiday spots for most South Africans. After a visit to this seaside town it’s not hard to see why!
Plett is picture perfect.
The beaches are wide and sandy, the sea is warm and teeming with dolphins. The views across the bay and the estuary are endless and ever-changing, creating a daily painting in the sky.
In the surrounding area there are forests and mountains that provide endless things to do ensuring a visit to Plett is never a boring one…. yet, until recently, there was something missing. Although it’s only now, since my most recent visit revealed a secret side of Plett, that I realised what I had been missing out on my previous visits!
You see on this most recent Plett exploration I discovered the Plett Wine Route! I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had no idea that there was a wine route on the Garden Route.
And now I know about the wine farms of Plett I can’t keep them to myself – a secret too good NOT to share!
The Plett Wine Route
My very first experience of a wine farm on the Garden Route was years back when, on a family holiday, we stumbled across the Bramon wine tasting room on the N2 and pulled off for a visit… this led to us discovering that they had a small restaurant set back off the main drag so we headed there for have a bite to eat. But that was as far as it went… yet in the past few years the Plett Wine Route has exploded.
I recently paid a visit to the region along with a few of the best wine travel bloggers in the country – Jared from Jared in Cape Town, Leanne from The Wine Girl Cape Town and Welcome from Getaway Magazine.
We embarked on an epic road trip with plans to explore the region slowly – 4 wine farms in 4 days within 4 km’s – and we really did have the very best time. Read on below to find out more about this exciting new wine region and all the fun we got up to!
The History of the Plett Wine Route
South Africa’s newest (and smallest) wine of origin region was created in 2000 when the first vines were planted by Bramon Wine Estate owners, Caroline and Peter Thorpe.
They pioneered vineyards in Plett and the success of their award-winning Méthode Cap Classique wines led to a slew of new vineyards being planted in the area over the following years.
There are now 19 wine farms stretching from Harkerville to The Crags which is the area where we went exploring recently.
The Terroir of the Plett Wine Route
With its’ climate and proximity to the sea (some vineyards are just 3km from the coast), the wines created in the Plett area are typically cool climate wines.
The soil in the area has a high carbon content and both of these conditions make the area perfect for growing Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
The grapes are harvested between February and April each year and the wine farms situated in The Crags tend to harvest earlier due to the higher temperatures they experience.
Additionally the soil alkaline levels (low ph) produce wines that is very low in sulphites, which is the additive that many people are allergic to, which is good news for those who struggle with adverse reactions to wine!
The Wines of the Plett Wine Route
Due to the cool climate, the farms in the area have produced some of the most award-winning Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa. Other grapes that do really well in this region include Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Plett is fast becoming known as the “champagne” capital of South Africa as the area produces approximately seven Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) style wines.
Interestingly Bramon Wine Estate was the first in South Africa to created MCC using Sauvignon Blanc grapes. The Méthode Cap Classique wines from the wine farms in the region are exquisite and certainly some of the best I’ve tasted! Fitting then that Plett Tourism have launched a Bubbly Festival which will be held in Plett during March 2019.
The Plett Bubbly Festival
The next Plett Wine & Bubbly Festival takes place from 23 – 24 March 2019. This will be the fifth festival dedicated to the MCC of the area and it’s always a festive occasion.
Arranged by Plett Tourism, visitors flock to Central Beach in Plettenberg Bay to enjoy more than 30 different wines from local producers in the Plett wine region.
The main event takes place on the Saturday with a showcase of more than 30 local wines on offer alongside artisan cheeses, charcuterie, breads, savouries and oysters. As the sun sets local musicians keep the crowd dancing.
Sunday is a repeat of the main event, but with the introduction of a wine theatre featuring popular industry speakers for those with a different kind of thirst.
Visiting the Plett Winelands
Our visit to the Plett Wine Region found us visiting four of the wineries located in The Crags area of Plett over four days…. a very leisurely itinerary indeed. What I appreciated about the slow pace of our visit was that we were able to absorb the atmosphere of each spot for a few hours, appreciating the wine, taking in the views and revelling in the delicious food.
The Crags, located just past Plett on the N2 if you are traveling from CT to PE, is surely one of the most scenic stretches of the Garden Route and my favourite area. I love this stretch of forests lying beneath the shadow of the Tsitikamma Mountains, winding roads, bright green meadows and crisp, cool air.
On arriving in the area we headed straight for the Redford Road where most of the wineries of the region are located…
The Wine Farms of the Plett Wine Route
There are currently 4 wine estates – farms that process and bottle their own wines, namely Bramon, Lodestone, Packwood and Plettenvale.
All the other wine farms in the region (about 15) produce and bottle their wines at the Bramon Wine Estate under the assistance of the master winemaker Anton Smal who moved from Villiera Wines in the Franschhoek region in 2011.
A few of the wine farms worth visiting in the Plett area include:
Bramon Wine Estate
Bramon planted the pioneer vineyard in Plettenberg Bay and it is home to the main wine cellar in the area which was built in 2010 and has a capacity for 250 tonnes.
At Bramon the restaurant spills out into the vineyards, with tables situated right in between the bubbly block of vines! Find out more about Bramon Wine Estate here!
Lodestone Wine & Olives
Lodestone Winery is one of the newest wine farms in the area having been established by the Jon and Ingrid Tonkin in 2012.
The brand new tasting room area is a beautiful spot to enjoy a relaxed lunch platter, home-grown olives and their locally produced wines. Read more about my visit to Lodestone.
Newstead Lund Family Vineyards
Newstead is a special spot that’s been created by Doug & Sue Lund who moved here with their family in 2006, created a life that they love and set about sharing it with others with their brand of hospitality.
The setting is picturesque, the restaurant is beautifully decorated and the food is incredible!
And that’s not even mentioning the award-winning wines! Their first Rosé MCC won a Michelangelo Gran D’or (double gold) award!! There’s also two incredible self-catering cottages set amidst the Pinot Noir vines so if you’re looking to base yourself in the area for a few days then this is the spot! Click here to read more about Newstead!
Kay and Monty Vineyards
Kay and Monty Vineyards lie tucked beneath the forests of the picturesque Tsitsikamma Mountains and the magnificent tasting room (once an orchid greenhouse) offers incredible views and plenty of space to spread out and enjoy a leisurely afternoon.
With five hectares of land under grape, this is a boutique wine farm that produces crisp Sauvignon Blanc and a delicious Chardonnay MCC called “Champu”.
Read my post about our visit to Kay & Monty to find out more about the origin of the name and what you can expect!
Other wineries located in the Plett Wine Region which we didn’t get to explore on this visit include…
A boutique wine farm on the other side of Plett, Luka Wines have 1.5 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc vineyards that currently produces 6 000 bottles annually. They have won a Silver Michelangelo for the 2012 vintage and a Vitis Vinifera Double Gold for the 2013 vintage! Enjoy a glass overlooking beautiful views across the Knysna Elephant Park to the mountains beyond.
Redford Lane Wines
Redford Lane Wines, established in 2006, is a small, boutique producer with one hectare currently under Sauvignon Blanc vines that were first planted in 2008. They also have a few hectares of Malbec, Cab Franc and Viognier under vine. They produce easy drinking, refreshing white wine which is soft on the palate, light in colour with a light lime undertone and notes of ripe melon and pineapple. Pop in to enjoy a wine tasting in the relaxed, rustic tasting room. There’s plenty of space for kids too.
Packwood Country Estate
Surrounded by indigenous forests, amazing views and nature in abundance, Packwood is a great spot from which to enjoy wines and bubbly along with a homemade cheese platter created using produce from the estate dairy and gardens.
With views across the Indian Ocean, Keurboomstrand and Robberg Peninsula, Anderson Vineyards at the top of the Keurbooms plateau, is one of the newest wine farms in the area. The vineyard, planted in 2007, lies between fynbos and forest and enjoys cool sea breezes of the Indian Ocean. The first bottling was in 2011 and the wine is processed and bottled at Bramon cellar.
Unique ways to visit the Plett Wine Route
There are a multitude of ways to enjoy the Plett Winelands – on horseback, by bus, by bike or by hike.
Hogs Hollow Horse Trails offers the opportunity to explore the area on horseback. Be sure to find out from them about the schedule of the horse drawn carriage that runs between Kay & Monty and Lodestone Winery.
Knysna Hike and Bike offer walking tours and cycling tours that explore a route through The Crags vineyards.
Plett Wine Tours can tailor make a tour to meet the needs of both wine connoisseurs and the occasional wine drinker if you aren’t up for exploring the area yourself… although it really is a very easy wine region to explore!
Our visit to the Plett Wine Region was a truly memorable one, most especially because of the people we met along the way.
This is probably the one wine region in South Africa where you will encounter the owner behind the bar serving wine samples, in the kitchen creating a unique dessert to serve on the days’ menu or up-skilling the local community to take over the running of the vineyard or the floral arrangements for the destination weddings that have become so popular in the region!
The people behind the Plett Wine Route have a unique pioneering passion – for the area, the lifestyle and the unique wines that they have created from scratch in barren tracts of land that had no promise of a return, yet have yielded a most beautiful one!
What an incredible place with an incredible story – one I can guarantee will keep you wanting more!
Accommodation in Plettenberg Bay
Looking for somewhere to stay during your visit to Plett?
We stayed in two incredible places that I can highly recommend (more in depth reviews to come soon!)
The Old Rectory – located just 2 mins walk from the beach in one of the most historical buildings in Plett. This is a 5 star secret getaway that is exclusive and luxurious. Read my The Old Rectory review.
Newstead Cottages – gorgeous self-catering cottages set amidst a vineyard on a working wine farm and with views over the Tsitsikamma Mountains this is surely the most stylish accommodation in The Crags near Plett.
Images: Kathryn Rossiter & Jared Ruttenberg as indicated
Video: Jared Ruttenberg @jaredincpt