Franschhoek is known as the food and wine capital of South Africa but it isn’t always easy to navigate. Using a car can be tricky in this little town, especially if you’d like to visit more than one farm. There is an easier way to do this and its called the Wine Tram! I recently visited this lush wine valley with some friends of mine who had never experienced it before. Join us on our expedition through the vineyards from start to finish below.
How to Get Tickets
We booked our tickets online through the Franschhoek Wine Tram website but if you’re in Franschhoek you can simply book at the Wine Tram office itself. It’s advised that you book ahead of time but it is also possible to do it on the fly before the next route departs.
There are many lines and the details of each appear on the Wine Tram website. We decided to go on the Purple Line but due to time constraints, it wasn’t possible to visit all of the estates listed. Our departure time allowed us enough time for four stops but we ended up only doing three so as to have time for lunch. The three departure times are 09:00, 10:00 and 11:00, with fewer stops possible the later you leave. Leaving at 10:00 we only got back to Franschhoek by 17:00! So make sure to plan your time carefully.
Once we had our tickets, we met up with the other guests just before the allocated departure time at the Wine Tram office. A friendly staff member gave us stickers in the same colour of the line we chose along with a card with the daily estate specials on it. We were then told to follow the flag colour for our selected line until our guide arrived to pick us up.
Solms Delta is a rustic-style wine farm that is housed by a massive piece of land. Here you’ll find a music academy that connects with the local community (and many of the wines are themed accordingly) as well a small island where pre-packed picnics are served with fresh ingredients from the deli.
The warm tasting room is heated by a wood-burning fireplace and our expert gave us a list detailing the Wine Tram Express Range. She explained to us that the farm is very special due to a process of desiccation on the vine that is an ancient method not used by other wine farms in the region.
I selected the Lifestyle Collection which consists of a Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Rosé, Cape Jazz Shiraz and the Astor Premium Perry. The last of these is a fizzy pear cider which is rather delicious and we were told it fairs well when paired with one of their picnics.
Plaisir de Merle
We arrived at the historic Plaisir de Merle, the main building decorated in the style of an old gentleman’s club. The wine tasting takes place either inside or outside – which is where we chose to enjoy some fresh air. Our hostess brought us our tasting glasses – the only estate we tried where there was a glass for each wine! We were given the estate range which consists of Petite Plaisir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and the Grand Brut.
Our favourite was the Petite Plaisir, a wonderful red blend. While none of us are wine connoisseurs, I would definitely recommend taking home a bottle of this even if you are doing a different tasting or enjoying a meal at the restaurant.
Vrede en Lust
Vrede en Lust’s history dates all the way back to 1688 when it was Dutch-owned and it is now operated by the Buys family. The tasting room has the most exquisite views of the snow-capped mountains and surrounding vineyards. The estates wines are lovely all-round (which speaks to the quality here) and have names like “White Mischief” and “The Red Lady” which makes these wines not only a special addition to gatherings but gives you an insight into the creativity behind the wine-making.
We stopped for lunch at Lust Bistro where I had the beetroot risotto, a sensational blend of flavours including walnuts and figs. My companions opted to order pizzas off of the “design your own pizza” menu which worked out to be half the price of my more sophisticated meal. This is the beauty of the bistro; you can order sandwiches, pizzas and pastries that are extremely affordable but still made with the same organic ingredients and paired with impressive award-winning wines.
Why Choose the Tram?
While the price may seem steep to some, the wine specials along with not having to worry about an alternative means of transport are extremely convenient. Wine is also offered on the tram while a knowledgeable guide tells you more about the vineyards you are visiting. A disclaimer is that the tram itself does not service every estate but there is a bus that takes you in between these other stops – this does not include information from the guide, however.
The hourly timed service is very well-orchestrated and on-time and there is also little pressure to catch the tram again on the hour. You can choose to stay at a single wine farm for the entire day if you’d like to or even to get picked up by your hotel instead, making it very convenient either way.
Read our blog about unconventional wine pairings to try along the Cape Wine Route.
Featured Image: Simon Watson