Discover olive wine expert Kate Hawkings' guide to Stellenbosch wines and the best bottles to buy, then discover the best chenin blancs to buy and the lowdown on malbec wines.


About Stellenbosch wine

Stellenbosch is South Africa’s most important wine region, dating from the 17th century when Huguenot refugees from France brought vines and know-how, and so kicked off the country’s now hugely successful wine industry.

The vibrant university town of Stellenbosch, 30 miles to the east of Cape Town, is the heart of the region. It is the birthplace of pinotage, a muscly crossing of pinot noir and cinsault that, along with shiraz, and Bordeaux stalwarts cabernet sauvignon and merlot, is perfectly suited to the terroir. This terroir is the unique combination of landscape, soil and climate – hot, dry summers cooled by breezes from the Atlantic Ocean – that makes Stellenbosch so special, and with a range of micro-climates within the region, many other grapes now thrive here as well.

Chenin blanc is the star of the white show, known for its versatility to produce abundant dry wines as well as sweet and sparkling styles; sauvignon blanc and riesling also do well, as does chardonnay, often made rich and opulent in a decidedly new-world style.

A blanket ban on the production and sale of alcohol during the Covid pandemic dealt a blow to South Africa’s wine industry. About 10% of Stellenbosch’s producers went to the wall but out of that crisis has come a reinvigoration of the winemaking heritage, along with an explosion of wine tourism boosting the whole economy of the region.

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Stellenbosch produces plenty of affordable supermarket wines, but it’s increasingly making excellent premium bottles as well. These are often made with grapes from the old vines that are being championed both by traditional wineries and by a forward-thinking generation of young winemakers, reviving forgotten vineyards, embracing new techniques and showing real commitment to environmental protections and meaningful social change.

Stellenbosch wines to buy

Majestic Villiera Cap Classique Brut

Bottle of Majestic Villiera Cap Classique Brut wine from South Africa

Traditional-method fizz that’s understandably one of Majestic’s bestsellers. From a family winery with a solid commitment to sustainability and biodiversity, this chardonnay/pinot noir blend gives a lot of bang for your buck. Creamy bubbles carry plenty of lemon-and-lime zest along with a soft, toasty finish. A luxurious accompaniment to our broccoli tempura.

Love Bite New Theory

Bottle of Lovebite new theory wine from South Africa

From two UK-based brothers working with hotshot South African winemaker Xander Grier. They’re producing quirky, low-intervention wines using top-quality grapes from old vines. This is made with cinsault, fermented in whole bunches using wild yeasts and is bottled unfiltered and unfined – fresh with crunchy red berries and a lovely saline smack.

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Malbec

Bottle of Rustenberg wine from South Africa

The Rustenberg estate has been farming cattle and making wine since 1781. The current family of owners is in its third generation with grandson Murray Barlow now their award-winning winemaker. This makes a nice change from Argentinian malbec – it has bags of brambly, plummy fruit and a bit of spice, but is lifted with an attractive earthy freshness. Try it with our prawn and chorizo jambalaya.

Speedy serve

Espresso and tonic

Graphic drawing of an espresso and tonic drink in a tall glass

This is a great choice when you’re steering clear of alcohol – really quick and easy to make, and with the little kick of caffeine to give a booze-free boost. I use whatever’s left over from my morning stovetop coffee – any fairly strong brew will do. The original (and Instagram-friendly) technique is to pour tonic water into a tumbler over plenty of ice, then slowly pour over 50ml of coffee so it swirls on top. Add a good squeeze of lemon and serve.

Check out more regional wine guides here:


Best Georgian wine
Best Sicilian wine
Best Greek wine
Best German wine
Best Hungarian wine
Best English wine
Best Portuguese red wine
Best Italian red wine
Best Madeira wines
Best Bordeaux wine
Best Stellenbosch wine
Best urban wines


Kate HawkingsWine Columnist

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