By now it’s clear, South Africa’s Western Cape has some spectacular wine regions; the Stellenbosch Wine Route, Constantia Valley, Paarl and, of course, Franschhoek.
There are even more, but before you explore those, climb aboard the Franschhoek Wine Tram for a unique and fun way to visit the estates nestled in the Franschhoek Valley.
Hop on, let’s go for a ride.
The Huguenots, seeking a more convenient way to transport goods to market than ox-drawn carts, laid rail tracks at the turn of the 20th century. First steam, followed by diesel locomotives followed the tracks until the 1990s when the need wained.
In 2012, the Franschhoek Wine Tram was conceived using two of the original platforms within its journey.
With a 300-year history, 21 wine estates, delectable cuisine and intoxicating scenery (or is that the wine?), Franschhoek Wine Tram offers a carefree way to experience this glorious valley.
A fellow foodie, wine-lover and influencer, Nadine Carroll of Living It Up CT fame enthusiastically shares the virtues of many Franschhoek Wine Estates on her blog.
On our list, Le Lude was not to be missed for their collection of MCC – Champagne, if we were in Champagne, Holden Manz for their award-winning wines and delectable dining, Grand Provence for their stunning grounds and considerable history, and Mont Rochelle, well, it’s Richard Branson’s so who wouldn’t want to sticky beak?
The Franschhoek Wine Tram covers 5 routes throughout the valley. Departing at 15-minute intervals, each has a different mix of estates.
In our case, the green line included all the estates we had listed, so with tickets in hand, we climbed aboard ready for our 10:15 departure.
Each tram route loop is completed in one hour, so that leaves you an hour, or more if preferred, at each estate before your tram is back to collect you for the next. This hop-on-hop-off experience is hilarious.
The journey to the first stop is a sedate affair. A few selfies with the tram as a prop, but in general a pretty quiet crowd.
By the second stop, there’s chatter about the previous estate and what to expect at the next.
By the 3rd and 4th, best friends are made with numbers exchanged.
At the end of the day and the final drop off, bottles are collected, hugs are exchanged and promises made to catch up on the following day.
The Franschhoek Tram is an extremely social experience regardless of not knowing anyone on arrival.
The Green Line.
Rickety Bridge Estate and Grand Provence are reached on the original tram. These estates are on 4 out 5 of the routes. The rest of the estates are reached by road via an open-air tram bus.
There are 9 stops on the green line and only a champion could do them all.
Surrounded by mountains, this 50-hectare estate provides 4-star accommodation at Basse Provence Guest House and Rickety Bridge Manor House.
Cheese platters are offered for a quick bite, or make a reservation at Paulina’s and dine under the thatched roof or out on the deck among the vineyards.
The Rickety Bridge range of wines can be sampled either in the tasting room or remain in the comfortable setting of Paulina’s.
The 300-year-old Heritage Wine Estate, Grand Provence offers a 5-star experience. This is evident as the Franschhoek Wine Tram pulls into the platform and a high-class tractor-pulled trailer transports you to the tasting room.
Observing the estate from this vantage point, the vines roll through the valley over slightly under 50 hectares. Mountains surround and the estate’s buildings and grounds are pristine.
Enter the tasting room and in winter the open fire is warm and inviting, the Express Tasting exclusive for Franschhoek Wine Tram guests is prepared and the restaurant is open for lunch. Grand Provence is highly recommended for dining.
On the Express Tasting expect 5 wines. A limited release Chardonnay and Shiraz, a Premium Chenin Blanc/ Viognier and Zinfandel, and the lovely quaffer, Angel’s Tears Rosé.
As one of Sir Richard Branson’s unique retreats and luxury hotels, there are high expectations for Mont Rochelle. Suffice to say, you won’t be disappointed.
Nestled against the mountains on just under 40 hectares, arriving at Mont Rochelle’s country kitchen and tasting room is a picturesque sight.
The room is sunlit with expansive views of the valley and mountains and the open-air terrace allows relaxed enjoyment of Mont Rochelle wines under umbrellas.
Select from 3 (ZAR 350), 6 (ZAR 500) and premium (ZAR 750) tastings with complimentary winery tours on offer.
If it’s time for nibbles, a charcuterie and cheese platter isn’t particularly substantial but Mont Rochelle also has a restaurant.
Winemaker, Dustin Osborne, arrived at Mont Rochelle via a number of European and Cape Wine Estates.
Producing around 20,000 cases of wine from Mont Rochelle’s 14.5 hectares of grapes per year, the standouts (IMHO) are the Chardonnay and Syrah (Shiraz).
(Grab a couple of bottles, your name is clearly marked on the box and your Franschhoek Wine Tram driver will take them to the ticket office for collection at the end of the day. Saves carrying them, losing them or, heaven forbid, breaking them.)
Like all Virgin Limited Edition properties, Mont Rochelle has a commitment to sustainable practices; responsible supply chain management, fair trade policies, ethical dealings with employees and the local community, and the environment.
Le Lude specialises in the traditional Cap Classique method of the Champagne region, producing an internationally renowned wine with finesse, elegance and refinement.
Seated on leather banquettes under glowing chandeliers, the room is perfect for this high-end experience.
There are canapé and MCC tastings or straight MCC tasting options. At ZAR 140, two non-vintage and one vintage MCC are on the list. In retrospect, a combined canapé tasting is recommended.
La Bri is a boutique winery producing hand-crafted signature wines since 1694. Try an unexpected Turkish Delight pairing or the more familiar chocolate pairing.
Cheese platters and pre-booked picnics keep the wolf from the door and there’s a distinctly South African “biltong experience”.
The charming setting at La Bourgogne would challenge any city-dweller’s resolve for high-rises. The quality plums and pears grown on the property are sought-after by EU countries, young olive trees are already producing top-grade olive oil and then, of course, there’s the wine.
If this hasn’t already relaxed you into the surrounds the lovable dogs will. The fire is lit, the charcuterie platter ordered and now to decide on the tasting.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram exclusive tasting is a mere ZAR 30 for 3 of the selected wines.
A Wine and Caramel tasting, there’s a white honey and ruby port tasting, Cape Brandy and Truffle tasting and a distilled spirit made from the farm’s plums, Plodka paired with an espresso. (The espresso may be needed right about now.)
At each of the wine estates on the Franschhoek Wine Tram green line, you imagine there can’t be a prettier location, then you reach Holden Manz.
Surrounded by mountains, trees and vines, Holden Manz estate offers a 5-star experience from the outset.
The grounds, surrounded by the stunningly rugged mountains, is a pristine oasis. The river running through the property provides an important water source while doubling as a picturesque picnic spot.
Franschhoek Kitchen has the reputation it deserves as a culinary must. Combining farm-grown and locally sourced ingredients, the menu is constantly tweaked allowing for seasonal availability.
Exclusively a red growing farm – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah – they also produce a fine rosé and chardonnay.
La Couronne offers Chocolate pairing, Pizza Pairing, pre-booked picnics, cheese platters and a light pizza lunch.
With magnificent views of the mountains and surrounds, La Couronne is your last wine stop on the Franschhoek Wine Tram Green Line.
Purchase tickets online or from Franschhoek Wine Tram ticket office at Franschhoek Square on Huguenot Street.
Adults: ZAR 220 Children: (3-17) ZAR 90
* Children are welcome on the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Some estates offer kids activities, boules, jungle gyms and play areas. By the end of the day, however, children are likely to be excruciatingly bored by what the adults deem as scintillating conversation. Our recommendation – find something else for the kids to do.
To peruse Franschhoek Wine Tram’s other tours please follow this convenient link.
GPS coordinates: -33.910985, 19.119738
If you’re driving from Cape Town, follow the N1 for about 30 minutes and take Exit 47 to R44 at Butterfly World.
Follow R44 a short distance (about 1 km) before taking a left onto the R45. Follow R45 to Franschhoek.
Alternatively, private door-to-door transfers from Cape Town, the airport and surrounding areas can be arranged. Contact Franschhoek Wine Tram for further details.
The service may be cancelled due to weather or mechanical issues without notice whereby a full refund will be issued.
Smoking is prohibited except at clearly designated outdoor areas.
No food or open alcoholic beverages are allowed onboard the tram or tram-bus.
Tickets are non-transferrable and only valid for the date and time printed.
For a hassle-free day of wine tasting in the beautiful Franschhoek Valley, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable mode of transport than the Franschhoek Wine Tram: it’s a thing we love….
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