I must confess, when I was told that I would be visiting the Winelands of South Africa as part of my Yellow Zebra familiarisation trip this year, I couldn’t help but feel sceptical. My perception of this part of the Western Cape – the lush, temperate valleys around the towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl – was of a stomping ground for South African wine aficionados, foodies, and the cultural elite. As a person who has always preferred the grain to the grape, and who is much happier in a tent in the bush than in a swanky Cape Dutch manor house, I was concerned that I would be immediately exposed as an imposter. I imagined standing in a bustling bistro – surrounded by refined and sophisticated people cooing and gushing about the ‘bouquet’ and ‘rambunctious notes’ of this and that – and ordering a beer only to induce sharp mass-inhalation, disapproving tuts, and mutters of ‘philistine!’
I was wrong – but not entirely. The connoisseurs of fine wine, dining, art, and culture are all there, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well my tastes were catered for too. By the time I arrived, the craft beer and botanical gin revolution was in full swing and the quaint but bustling village of Franschhoek had already become home to two craft microbreweries, with one more on the way.