My grape es­cape

SOUTH AFRICA: For­get the win­ter and fes­tive leftovers and head for the sun and wine of South Africa, just like Chris­tine Austin.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Wine Column -

FTER many years of en­cour­ag­ing you all to get away to the vine­yards dur­ing the very worst of the win­ter I even­tu­ally de­cided to take my own ad­vice. By the time you read this I will al­ready be back home, with a hint of a tan mak­ing me look just a lit­tle bit health­ier than I did pre-Christ­mas. And it all hap­pened so quickly. Af­ter a fairly tough year (haven’t we all had a tough year?) and with the fam­ily al­ready oc­cu­pied else­where the prospect of a quiet hol­i­day sea­son was be­gin­ning to look dreary in­stead of re­lax­ing, so I set­tled down at the com­puter for some se­ri­ous sun­shine-seek­ing.

At just 48 hours no­tice, I found flights and ho­tel and de­cided to aban­don the Christ­mas left-overs and booked my­self and my other half on the last two seats on a plane to South Africa. Whether the cold turkey, cran­berry sauce and var­i­ous other Christ­mas bits and pieces will ever be seen again is a mat­ter be­tween me and my freezer but frankly I don’t care.

I am en­joy­ing the fresher, lighter tastes of sum­mer, my mid-win­ter blues are, right now, be­ing blasted away by glo­ri­ous sun­shine and a reg­u­lar morn­ing swim is start­ing my spring slim­ming cam­paign at least eight weeks ear­lier than I would back home.

Why South Africa? It is straight down the time-line so you get on a plane in the evening, en­dure the plas­tic tray of plas­tic food and then set­tle down to watch a movie, and maybe man­age some sleep. By the time you wake up you will be over Africa and about to make that spec­tac­u­lar left turn over Cape Point and into Cape Town air­port. Make sure you sit on the A side of the plane rather than the K side so you make the most of the view.

If you haven’t been to South Africa be­fore, then it is a good idea to spend a

CHRIS­TINE AUSTIN

few days in Cape Town, just so you can see that it really does look like all the tourism pic­tures. With Ta­ble Moun­tain act­ing as the per­fect back­drop and the har­bour spread out in front, there is plenty to do while you get used to win­ter sun­shine. Take the ca­ble car up the moun­tain and en­joy cock­tails at sun­set, take the ferry out to Robben Is­land or just ex­plore the shops which of­fer good value at present with al­most 14 Rand to the pound.

There are lots of in­for­mal har­bour­side restau­rants where you can en­joy good food and wine. One great steak place, Belt­hazar’s, has a vast wineby-the-glass list so you can get the taste­buds in tune be­fore set­ting off to the vine­yards but I have found some of the best restau­rants are sit­u­ated away from the waterfront. Try La Colombe at Con­stan­tia Uit­sig Wine Es­tate and Myoga in New­lands for ele­gant fine din­ing, but for great value you should try La Mou­ette in Sea­point, just a short taxi ride away from the har­bour­side. I must de­clare an in­ter­est here since the (Bri­tish) chef is the son of a friend, but he has done his ap­pren­tice­ship at many fa­mous UK restau­rants and has now set up his own place with his South African wife. The six­course tast­ing menu, matched with wine is ter­rific in qual­ity and value. Make sure you sit in the court­yard and don’t miss the glo­ri­ously savoury mush­room and ch­est­nut-filled Fontina Tortellini.

Af­ter a few days in Cape Town, it is time to head for the vine­yards which are just a short dis­tance away. Most ho­tels will ar­range ex­cur­sions, but then you are

My mid-win­ter blues are, right now, be­ing blasted away by

glo­ri­ous sun­shine.

trapped in their sched­ule when, frankly it is much more fun to plan your own.

Hire a car and first head to the lovely univer­sity town of Stel­len­bosch. The route is well sign­posted and the roads are not busy. There are dozens of really good guest houses such as River Manor and Batavia Bou­tique Ho­tel but tourism has ex­panded rapidly in the last few years and you can now go up­mar­ket and stay in lux­ury lodges on wine es­tates (try De­laire), with stylish restau­rants close by. Check www.stel­len­bosch­tourism.co.za for a com­pre­hen­sive list.

My favourite wine vis­its in­clude War­wick for its fab­u­lous pic­nics which can be eaten in the garden or taken up the moun­tain where you can en­joy the view. The wine is ex­cel­lent too. Try Bey­er­skloof for its scrubbed ta­bles, bistro food and fab­u­lous Pino­tage or head to Tokara for sheer breath­tak­ing views and ex­quis­ite, ele­gant food. An ex­cur­sion to Jor­dan es­tate will take you to­wards the moun­tains, stun­ning scenery, great wines and an ex­cel­lent restau­rant, while Kleine Zalze has great wines, ac­com­mo­da­tion, restau­rant and even a golf course.

From Stel­len­bosch it is just a short drive

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