Breaking Travel News investigates: Boschendal Wine Estate, South Africa
The Manor House at Boschendal greets guests on arrival

Breaking Travel News investigates: Boschendal Wine Estate, South Africa

As though there weren’t already enough to see in Cape Town - with Table Mountain, Cape Point, and the fabulous V&A Waterfront all on offer - there is a whole different world to explore in the neighbouring winelands.

Just an hour in the car from downtown Cape Town, the shady vineyards stretch for as far as the eye can see, letting guests explore the centuries-old traditions of South African winemaking in some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere on earth.

Passing through the area earlier this year I was invited to visit Boschendal - one of the oldest and largest estates in the region.

Located between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch - the twin wine making capitals of South Africa - the utterly charming destination could not offer more from a tourism perspective.

Elevated on a ‘stoep’, with the Drakenstein Mountains behind it, guests are greeted on arrival by the Manor House, one of the most striking on the Cape.

From here the estate sprawls out in all directions, presenting a wealth of opportunity for visitors. 

Although a working farm, with hospitality accounting for only a third of its revenue, guests can try their hand at everything from horseback riding, cycling, and trekking through the expansive scenery, to the more sedate orchard walks, picnics, fine dining and, of course, wine tasting.

With only a short time available during our visit we toured the estate on four wheels, taking in the fantastic views over the surrounding countryside and taking pictures of the wildlife.

There are more than 700 head of Black Angus cattle on the farm as well as nearly half a million newly planted trees – so there is plenty to see.

But it is down by the Manor House that the farm really comes alive.

Werf Restaurant

Situated in the resorted cellar of the Manor is the Werf Restaurant.

Built around the ‘farm-to-table’ premise, the eatery draws its ingredients from the manicured gardens visible from its tables and the wider farm.

Approximately 80 per cent of what is served at Werf is grown at Boschendal, with that number increasing all the time.

That is not to say what is on offer is limited.

Expect fragrant fermented breads, slow-roasted ribs and brisket sourced from those Angus cattle, house-smoked meat and fish, and accomplished desserts.

Chef Christiaan Campbell and his team expertly create sumptuous dishes for all tastes, served alongside the fine Boschendal wines.

Freshness, authenticity and artistry characterise each plate here, with dishes constantly evolving in rhythm with the seasons.

Werf is easily the equal of any restaurant in Cape Town, serving innovative, cultured cuisine to a sophisticated, well-heeled crowd.

Accommodation

For those looking to extend their stay, there is accommodation for nearly 100 guests dotted around Boschendal.

On offer are both catered and self-catering options, with visitors bedding down in the tastefully restored cottages formerly home to farm workers.

Think stylish simplicity, with the cottages authentic and rural, yet contemporary, in character.

All have recently been certified five-star, illustrating the luxurious nature of the place.

Overnight guests have privileged admission to the entire farm, granting access to tours, trails, and even caves around the estate, with plenty of opportunity to sit, read, and relax also on offer.

For those feeling extravagant, former Boschendal owner Cecil Rhodes is remembered in a ten-bed cottage that bears his name.

Designed by South African-born architect Herbert Baker, prices here begin at around R20,000 a night.

Sadly we had to leave before we could settled down to an evening around the fire, but with nearly half a million guests a year – largely drawn from Europe and the surrounding Cape - Boschendal is growing more popular all the time.

Fine Wines

Of course the highlight of any visit to Boschendal – at least for visitors from the UK – is likely to be a wine tasting experience.

The farm excels here, drawing from its extensive cellars to showcase some of the best wines in South Africa.

Served from the oldest building on the estate, we were seated under the shade of one of the oldest oak trees during our visit, caressed by a beautiful summer breeze.

The setting was simply idyllic.

Our friendly host walked us through the estate, its successes and plans, with his wealth of wine knowledge, telling the stories of the people that shaped Boschendal over the decades.

Impossible to take in during a single stay, it is an experience that warrants repeat visits.

Giving Back

But it is not all fine dining, wine tasting, and luxury accommodation at Boschendal – there is also a serious side to the project.

Under the guidance of chief executive Rob Lundie - who acquired the property four years ago and has largely driven its renovation - Boschendal is acutely aware of its social responsibility.

With the heritage of apartheid still in evidence across South Africa, the farm seeks to give as much as possible back to the communities surrounding the estate.

Lundie explains: “When we purchased Boschendal I think it surprised many that our plans were not centred on development and quick profit.

“Our vision for this incredible piece of property has, from the outset, been to positively impact the environment, to invest in and uplift the local community, and to build a sustainable agricultural farm which can flourish for generations to come.

“Of course it is a business and there are some plans for low-key development on existing built-up land, but development and short term profits are not our main drivers.”

For example, employees at Boschendal are encouraged to start their own businesses associated with the farm.

Security is now handled by Silvermine Protection Services, a company which grew out of the estate, providing tens of jobs for locals, while other small companies are following a similar path.

Sustainability is not a fashionable aspiration air-fixed onto the project, but a central tenet of its existence.

Ecology, too, is a significant factor in deciding how the farm operates.

By the end of 2017 Boschendal will be completely solar powered during the day, with plans to develop hydroelectric power over the next 18 months to the extent that it will be completely self-sustainable.

With plans to move the wine tasting experience to the Manor House-proper and a larger spa under development, there is also plenty to look forward to at Boschendal as Lundie and his team bring their plans for the property to fruition.

Watch this space.

More Information

With privileged access to the Boschendal Estate, visitors are able to enjoy farm life, walk in the vineyards, speed along the mountain biking trails, fish in the dams, read, relax and savour life.

Find out more on the official Boschendal.

Chris O’Toole