Walking the wine bars of Stellenbosch
I would like to give it as my opinion (before I run away and hide from the barrage of insults I am sure will be coming my way), that students are fundamentally lazy.
For many of them, it’s their first time living away from home, where they have all the comforts of Mom picking up after them, delivering fresh underwear and hot meals, a pool that miraculously cleans itself and a fridge that appears to be permanently hot-wired into Pick n Pay's home delivery service.
It’s a big shock to suddenly lose all this, and my experience is that most students never really get over that shock, simply doing the bare minimum needed in order to survive and not smell too bad.
Of course, most universities understand this and try and make the transition a bit easier, with lots of student facilities such as laundromats and 7/11s readily at hand. And it is good to see that several wineries have now caught on to this idea and are making it easy and convenient to not only try their wines, but also enjoy a glass afterwards.
Anyone who has ever driven around the centre of Stellenbosch will agree that it is a great town NOT to have a car! The narrow streets are jam-packed with little shops, cute cafes, arty-farty bits and pieces – and in recent years, tasting rooms-cum-wine bars.
Since so many students don’t have a car anyway, letting them walk to your tasting venue is a fabulous idea. And of course, students nowadays are more responsible than before and frown heavily on drink-driving, so having a handy drinking/tasting venue within walking distance is a double whammy of wonderfulness.
At present, there are three wineries offering a tasting room experience as well as the opportunity to drink and enjoy a glass afterwards. On Dorp Street, you’ll find The Big Easy restaurant serving full-on meals and with lots of elegance and space. Alongside it is the retail area where you can buy EVERYTHING golf-y, plus all the Ernie Els wines at normal cellar door prices. If you’re going to sit and indulge in a glass, I’d recommend sitting in the courtyard out the back rather than on the busy main road.
One road over, on Church Street, is Brampton Wine Studio. This tiny space has recently expanded, which in itself is proof of its popularity among students, tourists and other Stellenbosch residents. Brampton is a determinedly good-value offering (something which obviously appeals to students) but the Studio is no tacky dive, rather a bright, lively, easy-going place to grab a glass of wine at the end of the day.
They have a small food menu, but it’s not meant to be a restaurant and the hours reflect this (they close at 7pm) so rather just pop in, have a quick tasting led by the knowledgeable staff, then drink a glass of your favourite before heading home to study.
The new kid on the block of tasting room/wine bars is Bartinney. Personally speaking, I would always go out to this farm to taste their wine if I could, because the view from their Banghoek tasting room is incomparable. But convenience rules these days and for many, the best way to try the wines is in town. It’s a shabby-chic affair with lots of dark wood and leather inside, which is the perfect foil to set off the dazzling array of mainly white wines.
If you’re on a budget, the second label of Noble Savage will be your tipple of choice, but the combination of good glassware and a sophisticated, yet friendly atmosphere will make you feel like you’re drinking a million dollars. Why drive to your drink when your drink can come to you?