It is a long and lovely road, the R62, and it is the road less travelled. Most folk driving from Cape Town up the East coast toward Knysna and Port Elizabeth choose the N2 national highway. They don’t know what they are missing.
The R62 is apparently the longest wine route in the world, starting in the farming town of Worcester and ending at Oudtshoorn, some 310 kilometres distant. There are not that many wineries en route, but each one has a special character and a country charm that is worlds apart from their sophisticated counterparts in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.
The R62 is not flat; it winds its way through rolling hills covered in dusty looking scrub, and always away in the distance you can see the outlines of blue mountains. Every so often a pass brings you to a green valley studded with orchards and vineyards. Winter is the perfect time to travel as the light has a special quality, and hillside after hillside is covered with aloes in bloom, their bright orange candle flowers dramatic against the skyline. You will often have the road to yourself, with only the occasional baboon scratching himself in a patch of sunlight to break the solitude.
We suggest you start with a coffee and a wine tasting at Nuy on the Hill just outside Worcester. It has a panoramic view of the Nuy Valley and the mountains beyond. An hour’s travel will give you the chance to stretch your legs by strolling though the pretty as a picture village of Montagu. By lunchtime you should have reached Joubert-Tradouw, a generations old wine farm tucked into the beautiful Tradouw valley. Here the farmer’s wife runs a deli-style bistro offering delicious Karoo inspired tapas, and the chardonnay and syrah wines are memorable.
Make sure you pop into the little town of Barrydale and check out the Karoo Art Hotel which is art gallery and funky hotel rolled into one. Across the road is the Magpie Collective, famous for glamorous upcycled chandeliers, of which two were bought by Michelle Obama for the White House. In their back garden swarms of birds made from discarded plastic dance on painted sticks.
Back on the R62, beyond Barrydale is Ronnie’s Sex Shop, standing in the middle of nowhere. The sheer incongruity of the name means everyone stops to investigate. It turns out to be a pub, popular with bikers, and judging by the items of donated underwear strung across the bar, some good times go down there.
And then finally, Calitzdorp, where our R62 road trip ended this time around. Make sure you turn off the R62 and drive through this charming little town with its quaint Victorian-style homes and quirky shops. This is the traditional home of port-style wines in South Africa, and we were blown away when we tasted the still wines being made by Boplaas and De Krans from Portuguese port varieties like Touriga Nacional, Touriga Roriz and Tinta Barocca. They are delicious and phenomenal value. We left with a boot packed full of wine to warm us through the coldest winter nights.