* This article first appeared here in the Business Day Prime 26th Nov 2020
1. Experience a World of Flavours at the Spice Route
While international travel may be on hold for a little longer, the Spice Route destination is ready to serve up a world of tasting options through a curation of some of the Cape’s finest artisans.
These include tasting establishments (Cape Brewing Company, De Villiers Chocolate, Wilderer Distillery, and Spice Route Wines) and then restaurant and shopping artisans (The Trading Company, Brenda’s Deli, Jewell’s Restaurant, Barley & Biltong Emporium, La Grapperia, and Paarl Adventure Trails).
The bonhomie of tasting spaces are well spaced out, with plenty of fresh air between tastings. Spice Route Passports are also available for purchase on site: these provide four standard tastings which are stamped as you go along. spiceroute.co.za
2. Sip Wine at Kwa-Zulu Natal’s First Wine Estate
With wine culture a firm facet of Western Cape life, it seems almost unimaginable that sipping my way through a lineup of extraordinary wines I’m not in the Cape…but rather in the heart of the Kwa-Zulu Natal Midlands.
Abingdon Estate is the province’s very first estate, having celebrated their first vintage in 2007. It’s every bit a family affair: Ian Smorthwaite – both viticulturist and winemaker, wife Jane – the host with the most, and daughter Laurie Cooper – a celebrated sommelier.
The Viognier is clearly where the farm hangs their hat, but Abingdon also offers a tantalizing Chardonnay, MCC and their Nebbiolo is quickly climbing the ranks (proof that their red wines are just as serious). Come for the wine but be sure to also try out some of the enticing food offerings. abingdonestate.co.za
3. Intimate Art Encounters in the Riebeek Valley
The past decade has seen the Swartland’s reputation bloom, with various wine estates, hotels, and local producers developing a devoted following. One of the best ways to experience Swartland magic is through the annual Solo Studios Intimate Art Encounters, running from the 11-13 December 2020 in the Riebeek Valley.
It’s an exclusive and bespoke event that provides guests with personable encounters with local artists. Organiser Klaus Piprek assures me it’s the best way to experience “quirky small-town community with access to renowned artists.”
Picture the opportunity to interact with the artists in their personal studio spaces and then complementing it with one of the other fringe activities and entertainment options on offer. Do book early (spaces are limited) and view the full lineup online. solostudios.co.za
4. Meet Rare Birds at Kruger’s Outpost Lodge
Pafuri is both the northern-most section of Kruger and the country. The flatter plains of the South begin to give way to hills, and later dramatic ravines. There’s another reason, however, to head northwards: the legendary guide Samuel Japane.
Samuel is in every way a son of this soil and has an astonishing life story – one that has taken him from security guard to safari guide – all after the age of 50. Over my four days at the prestigious Outpost Lodge, Samuel introduced me to a variety of flora and fauna, but more particularly the birdlife.
His exceptional bird knowledge has earned him the nickname ‘The Bird Whisperer’; take my word that it is every bit deserved. rareearth.co.za/the-outpost
5. Golden Dining in South Africa’s Highest Building
One of Johannesburg’s most hotly-anticipated restaurants has opened its doors. What you’ll discover inside is simply breathtaking. The architecture – every bit as exciting as the culinary offering – allows for a generous amount of space. Aurum (Latin for gold) honours the discovery of gold that birthed and sustains the city of Johannesburg.
Although situated in South Africa’s highest building, this elevated eatery restaurant certainly doesn’t have its head in the clouds. A supremely humble and grounded approach to dining and hospitality pervade the service, cuisine, and atmosphere.
Glorious gourmet in the city of Gold. Aim to arrive early and admire the carefully curated selection of art that lines the walls and passages of the first two stories. Through various mediums, they beautifully tell the African story. aurumrestaurant.co.za