We love our wine in South Africa! The first thing Dutch and French settlers did when they arrived in the Cape was plant vineyards, because the climate is ideal. Some early farms vanished beneath Cape Town’s pavements and foundations. The Franschhoek Wine Valley has survived for over 300 years. Before you ask, ‘hoek’ is Dutch for corner, so the neighbourhood in which the French Hugenot settlers live.
The Franschhoek Wine Valley: Most Famous Wines
French farmers really missed the homeland they had left. They set about creating a ‘Petit Francais’ among the rolling hills and valleys of Franschhoek. Some of the earliest estates have evocative names like La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc and La Dauphine. Family names like Du Toit, Marais, Du Plessis, Malan, Malherbe, and Joubert are common among the farmers. Here is the memorial their descendants raised up.
A Lasting Memorial to the Efforts of the Hugenots
Back in 1904, the area was booming following the conclusion of the Anglo Boer War in which the people of the Cape counted among the winners. The troopships were gone from the harbour roadstead. In their place were cargo ships hungry for fresh produce to go to Europe. It was not long before they built a branch railway line connecting Franschhoek vineyards to Cape Town Harbour.
The branch line gradually fell into disuse as faster road networks opened up ideal for tourists in rental cars. Steam loco’s gave way to diesel in the 1970’s. By the 1990’s these were gone forever, too. In 2012, a private operator decided to reinstate the line. Tourists and wine lovers can once again visit historic Franschhoek wine farms in a faithful replica of an 1890’s tram. And why not, as indeed they say.
Franschhoek Wine Tram, Western Cape, South Africa
The Franschhoek Wine Valley Tram service provides hop-on hop-off and guided tours through breath-taking mountains linked by road buses. Travellers can leave the tram to explore wine tastings, cellar tours, and delicious lunches. One of the attractions is getting mildly tipsy, in the delicious knowledge they can wave at traffic officials as they glide past in vintage splendour. Oh what fun!