There can be few people who visit Cape Town and do not take a tour of the surrounding countryside. And on that trip it is certain that they will call in at Spier. It is a major attraction and a destination for non-wine lovers as much Ė or maybe even more Ė than those looking to taste.
The first thing you notice as you approach the property is that it has its own railway station across the road from the entrance. For many people the main attraction at Spier is the Cheetah Outreach Project. The charity was created to raise awareness of the plight of the cheetah and to campaign for its survival and you can get up close and touch one of these beautiful creatures. Then move to Eagle Encounters, a charity which looks after birds that have been injured, poisoned or illegally removed from their nests and prepares them for a return to the wild. You can hold tame eagles and watch flying demonstrations.
Spierís capacious gardens, edged by the Eerste River running through a gorge that encourages the more adventurous to splash in its rock pools while others laze and picnic on well kept lawns around a lake. And did I mention the African craft market, heritage walk, horse rides, art display, spa, conference centre and luxury hotel?
In the evening crowds flock to Moyo, a 1500 seater African experience restaurant where you can eat under the stars or in a huge Bedouin tent and be entertained while eating African dishes. Then there is Eight, Spierís own restaurant, serving meals made from ingredients grown organically on the farm.
But what you wonít see are grape vines or a winery which led me to think that Spier was a large anonymous corporation buying in wines for their label. But I was wrong: Spier is privately owned and the vineyards are just over the hill where the soil is suitable, next to the winery in a grove of trees.
Frans Smit is the winemaker and using the latest equipment coupled with techniques that would have been recognised a century ago he makes a range of wines from everyday crowd pleasers to very fine wines indeed.
The flagship wine is Frans K Smit which is a super silky red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Pinotage.
If you canít spend time at Spier you can always taste their wine at home as it is exported to 25 countries and is available in the USA in Total Wines stores.
Have you been to Spier or tasted their wines? Please share your thoughts on our forum.
Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africaís Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape, also available for the KIndle.