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Good wine, good food and good art go together

by Mariette du Toit-Helmbold on 12.09.2013

Bubbly heaven at Simonsig

Our first stop was Simonsig, named after the Simonsberg Mountain and part of the acclaimed Stellenbosch Wine Routes just 45 km east of Cape Town. It is one of the leading private producers of estate wines in South Africa owned by the Malan family, well known for their wine knowledge and for producing South Africa’s first Methodé Cap Classique made in the style of French champagne in 1971 – the iconic Kaapse Vonkel.

Kaapse Vonkel

It is by far my favourite bubbly and if I had to choose between Kaapse Vonkel and French champagne, I will go with the Kaapse Vonkel. Helena Egan, Head of Destination Marketing Sales at Tripadvisor for Europe, Middle East and Africa, agrees and was thrilled to have the opportunity to sample her favourite bubbly at the estate in the heart of the Cape Winelands.

Kaapse Vonkel, perfectly paired with fresh West Coast oysters

When Frans Malan made the first bubbly he decided to name it Kaapse Vonkel (meaning Cape sparkle), which at the time he thought would become the generic name for all locally made Cap Classiques. However, when other wine estates followed suit and gave their own names to their bubblies, Kaapse Vonkel retained its name, and today, more than 300 000 bottles in comparison to some 10 000 in the early days, are crafted annually.

Back in 1971, the first Kaapse Vonkel, which was priced at R3 per bottle (now selling for R95 at the estate), then the most expensive local wine on the market, was made of Chenin blanc grapes as opposed to the classic Champagne varietals – Chardonnay and Pinot noir.

It was only in 1987 that Frans Malan’s son and reigning Simonsig cellarmaster, Johan, introduced Pinot noir and Chardonnay and 10 years later, Kaapse Vonkel became the first Cap Classique to use all three of the traditional grape varieties used in Champagne when Pinot Meunier was introduced in 1997.

After 40 years Kaapse Vonkel remains South Africa’s and my favourite bubbly.

The Simonsig team with their Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence

A special thanks to Dirk Vorster from Cuvée, Simonsig’s signature restaurant and the 2013 Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence Winner, for an unforgettable tasting experience. The Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose is now a firm favourite of our international guests and the delicious West Coast oysters the best they have ever tasted.

Local cheeses and preserves served with ice cold Kaapse Vonkel

For bookings contact Cuvée at Tel: +27 (0) 21 888 4932 or E-mail: They are open Tue – Sat from 12:00 to 15:00, on Fri between 12:00 and 15:00 and for dinner between 18:30 and 22:00. Sunday lunch is served between 12:00 and 14:00.

Good wine, good food and good art go together at TOKARA

Our next stop was Tokara situated on the crest of the Helshoogte Pass near Stellenbosch with sweeping views across False Bay towards Table Mountain.

Tokara Restaurant

In my opinion Tokara Restaurant boasts one of the best sundowner decks in the world, which combined with a glass of bubbly and multi-award winning chef Richard Carsten’s food, will take just about anybody’s breath away. We arrived at the perfect moment just as the sun was setting over False Bay and drank a toast to taste buds and the world’s best wine tourism region.

A toast to tastebuds

The building housing the restaurant is a Cape architectural icon utilising glass, steel and stone – a perfect showcase for the beautifully prepared food and the spectacular views.

Tokara is testimony to the fact that good wine, good food and good art go together, which echoes the mantra of Robert Mondavi “making good wine is a skill, but making great wine is an art.” The fine art exhibited in the entrance area to Tokara Winery is curated by Julia Meintjies, who presents three to four exhibitions here each year.

Art at Tokara

The restaurant is open for lunch Tuesdays to Sundays and for dinner Tuesdays to Saturdays. Call +27 (0) 21 885 2550 or email for reservations.

Chef, Richard Carstens

By the end of the day my international guests agreed that the Cape Winelands stood head and shoulders above any other wine region in the world. It is not just the exceptional wine produced here, the natural beauty or the well designed venues, but more importantly, the people and the passion with which they live, make wine, cook and serve their guests that make for an experience of a lifetime.

Transport was provided by Escape to the Cape courtesy of Cape Town Tourism.

Read more about my favourite getaways and wine tourism experiences on Destinate’s blog.