When you go wine tasting, there’s always the drinking and driving issue. No one really wants to be the designated driver, and private wine tasting tours can be pretty expensive. In Franschhoek, a wine region near Cape Town, South Africa, they offer a fun and affordable alternative: the Franschhoek Wine Tram.
Note that we visited Franschhoek in March 2018.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram
The Wine Tram is a great way to discover some of the many vineyards in the Franschhoek Valley. Their Hop-on Hop-off experience allows you to visit up to 6 wineries in a day without having to appoint a designated driver.
The Wine Tram drives a loop of 8 stops, allowing you to hop off at the wineries of your choice. Note that you only have one opportunity to get off at every winery, as the tram drives in one direction only. It passes each stop once an hour, giving you plenty of time to explore the winery, enjoy a wine tasting, or stroll through the vineyard.
Technically it’s more of a Wine Bus than a Wine Tram, as only 2 of the 8 stops are serviced by a real tram. (Doing some expectation management here.) Nevertheless, it’s a unique way to experience the charming vineyards and breathtaking scenery of the Franschhoek Valley. And the bus does look a bit like a tram.
Tickets for the Wine Tram cost R220 (~ $18 ~ €15) per person. This only includes transportation, not the wine tasting fees. Some wineries do have Wine Tram Specials. You’ll receive a list of those when registering at the Franschhoek Wine Tram Ticket Booth, 15 minutes before the scheduled departure. They give you a sticker and a brochure with a timetable as well.
To avoid waiting times at the ticket booth, it’s advisable to buy your tickets online. You can do so on the Wine Tram website, where you can find up-to-date pricing information and timetables as well.
Should you buy any wine during the tour, just hand it to the conductor. He will make sure you can pick it up at the end of the tour without having to drag it around the entire day.
Franschhoek is only 80 km east of Cape Town, so you can easily make the Wine Tram tour into a day trip. When booking through the Wine Tram website, you can add in an optional transfer from Cape Town. Prices start at R550 (~ $46 ~ €37) per person for a return transfer, based on 2 people booking. They can even accommodate an extended stay if you like to spend the night in Franschhoek.
Check out the Wine Tram website for more information and up-to-date pricing information.
In case you decide to spend the night in Franschhoek: there are plenty of lovely hotels and B&B’s, and you can stay at several wineries as well. We stayed at 3 on Roux, a lovely bed and breakfast run by a very friendly lady. It’s just a 15 minute walk from the town centre, where the Wine Tram departs.
Getting the most out of your Wine Tram tour
We visited Franschhoek outside of the high season, in March. The Wine Tram wasn’t fully booked, but it still was pretty busy. Nevertheless, we did our research on which line to choose beforehand (scroll down for more on that), and booked our tickets online through the Wine Tram website.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram stops at 8 wine estates, but there’s only enough time to visit 6 of them in one day. You have one hour at each of those 6 stops. At the ticket booth they’ll advise you to choose 5 wineries, and allow 2 hours for lunch at one of those. We, however, recommend to visit 6 wine estates and order some pairings or a cheese platter at one or more of these vineyards.
Do note that you have to take the first bus, in order to be able to do 6 stops. If you decide to sleep in and start an hour later, you can only do 5 stops.
Keep in mind that it’s likely you’ll be starting the wine tour with a full bus (about 26 people). Consider skipping the first stop, as most (in our case over half) of the other passengers will hop off there. At least your first wine tasting will be a quiet experience, without too many other guests.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram is very punctual, so do keep an eye on your watch while wine tasting, so you don’t miss your ride to the next winery!
Which line to choose?
The Franschhoek Wine Tram has 6 lines to choose from, each passing a slightly different set of vineyards.
According to the Wine Tram website the Blue Line and Green Line showcase the stunning mountain views of Franschhoek, stopping at 8 boutique wine estates. All stops are the same, but the order in which the Wine Tram passes them is different. The Blue Line ends with the 2 stops on the tram, the Green Line starts with those. If you like to visit a winery specialising in bottle fermented sparkling wines, you have to choose one of these lines.
The Red Line and Yellow Line, on the other hand, take you to more internationally known wine estates. The only difference is again the order of the stops. The tram part is at the end of the Red Line and the start of the Yellow Line. Note that 2 of the wineries on this tour are closed on Mondays.
The Orange Line and Purple Line focus on the western region of the Franschhoek Valley, stopping at 8 exquisite wine estates. Again the order of the stops differs, with the Purple Line starting on the tram and the Orange Line ending there. Both lines pass the same wineries though.
It seems that this loop has the most vineyards with a children’s play area. These lines also stop at Babylonstoren, one of the favourite wineries of locals and tourists alike. Do note that this loop takes you up to 30 minutes out of Franschhoek, meaning you are slightly longer on the road when choosing one of these lines.
We chose (rather arbitrarily) to book the Blue Line. Keep reading to find out which winery in this loop was our favourite!
Find more information on the different lines, the wineries they pass, and accompanying timetables on the Franschhoek Wine Tram website.
The wineries on the Blue Line
The Blue Line of the Franschhoek Wine Tram stops at 8 wine estates, but you can visit only 6 of these in one day. Read about our experience with the ones we visited below. Unfortunately we were there on the only cloudy day in March, so our photos aren’t as sunny as we would have liked.
Note that tipping waiters (about 10%) is custom in South Africa.
We decided to skip Mont Rochelle, because most of the other passengers on our bus hopped off here, including a large group.
Interested in spending the night at Mont Rochelle? Click here for rates and availability for the onsite hotel.
We started our day with some bubbles at Le Lude. This boutique family owned winery specialises in bottle fermented sparkling wines. In South Africa they call their “champagne” MCC, an abbreviation of Methode Cap Classique.
We were welcomed outside and led to a table of our choice in this fancy wine estate. We ordered a tasting that included the Le Lude Brut, the Le Lude Brut Rosé and a French champagne from Le Mesnil to compare. This cost us R290 (~ $24 ~ €20) for a tasting for the both of us, tip included.
The waiter explained everything very clearly, like what tastes we might pick up, and the production process of their MCC’s. Honestly, we preferred the MCC over the champagne.
An hour is plenty of time for a tasting when there is hardly anyone else at the winery, so we still had time to take a stroll through the vegetable and rose garden.
Interested in staying at the Lily Pond House at Le Lude? Click here for rates and availability.
At La Bri the atmosphere was a little more relaxed, it wasn’t as fancy as Le Lude. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the view, but that didn’t affect the wine tasting.
Brecht loved the Biltong and Wine Experience, and the Chocolate and Wine Pairing was very interesting as well. These pairings cost R65 (~ $5 ~ €4) each. We even got a complementary rosé wine to start, and a Merlot driven blend to compare with the Cabernet driven blend included in the tasting. We could appreciate the complementary bottle of water as well.
La Bourgogne Farm
The charming little farm house at La Bourgogne Farm was our favourite stop on the Blue Line of the Franschhoek Wine Tram, and not because of the complementary wine tasting.
When walking in I immediately spotted their cheesecake. Can’t say no to that! A slice only cost R35 (~ $3 ~ €2.50) and it was really good. We ordered a Mini Cheese Platter (R100 ~ $8 ~ €7) as well to go with the wine tasting. It wasn’t mini in our opinion, and the cheeses were truly divine! Especially the feta cheese and relish.
Back to the wine. We were served the complementary La Bourgogne Tram Tasting, including a glass of the Tram White and the Tram Red, which normally costs R30 (~ $2.50 ~ €2). We also tried their honey white dessert wine and port styled wine, which were both very good as well. The waitress briefly explained what she was pouring, but we could read the winemaker’s comments in the menu as well.
Apart from all these wines they also sell olive oil, Brandy, Plum Vodka (Plodka), and a range of soaps and relishes. All of which you can taste too (not the soap). They have some interesting pairings on the menu as well, but we only had an hour.
La Bourgogne is definitely a winery we would look into for a stay next time we visit Franschhoek. Check out their rates and availability here. And let us know how it was!
Although Holden Manz is supposedly situated in the most beautiful corner of the Franschhoek Valley, we decided to skip it. No particular reason, there just wasn’t enough time to visit all wineries.
Interested in staying at the Holden Manz Country House? Click here for rates and availability.
We had some more pairings at La Couronne. While waiting for Brecht’s Braai and Wine Pairing (R120 ~ $10 ~ €8) and my Pizza and Wine Pairing (R80 ~ $6.50 ~ €5.50) we were served a complementary glass of Sauvignon. The waiter gave us a detailed explanation while pouring each wine. The pairings were delicious and the sofas were very comfortable. Definitely worth a stop!
Rickety Bridge is the first stop on the actual Wine Tram (not the bus). We were picked up from the tram platform by a tractor pulled “carriage”, taking us to the tasting room.
It seemed slightly busier here than in the previous wineries, with more non-Wine Tram visitors. Maybe that’s why the tasting felt a bit rushed. We were just served the Tram Deal (4 wines for R25 ~ $2.10 ~ €1.70) without being presented with other options. There was a chalkboard however, mentioning a cheese and a cheese and meat platter. We did appreciate the complementary water.
Interested in staying at the Rickety Bridge Manor House? Click here for rates and availability.
At Grande Provence we were again picked up with a tractor carriage ride from the tram platform. The sun had finally come out, so we found ourselves a table in the sun. Apparently we weren’t allowed to sit there though, it was reserved for the restaurant. It was pretty busy on the terrace here (lots of non-Wine Tram guests as well), so we had to temporarily move to a table in the shade until some other people left.
After a short wait we were served the Tram Deal (4 wines for R40 ~ $3.30 ~ €2.70), without seeing other options. Again the tasting felt less relaxed and the service wasn’t as nice as at the 4 boutique wineries we visited with the Wine Bus. The wine estate is very nice and fancy though.
Interested in spending the night at the Grande Provence Wine Estate? Click here for rates and availability.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram in short
What? Wine Tasting Tour on hop-on hop-off Wine Tram
How much? We spent R1,470 (~ $123 ~ €100), including Wine Tram, 6 tastings or pairings for 2 people, and tips
How long? Allow for an entire day, from about 9:30 to 18:00
Bring? Money, your camera, sun hat and sunscreen when it’s hot
Tickets and Timetables? Franschhoek Wine Tram website
Our favourite winery? La Bourgogne, on the Blue and Green Line
We really enjoyed our day touring the Franschhoek wineries with the Wine Tram, sampling some lovely wines. Have you been to Franschhoek yet and took the Wine Tram? Or did we convince you to put it on your bucket list? We would love to read it in the comments!
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