Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

7 Best Wine Travel Experiences of 2020

Kruger National Park,  South Africa

Encounter Ultimate Wine and Safari Experiences in Kruger National Park, South Africa

As South African wine entered a new era, so, too, did the safari experience—especially once legacy and avant-garde wine producers who raised quality began to capture the attention of beverage directors at game lodges. If your ideal safari includes a Kruger game drive followed by sunset sips of the country’s best Chenin Blanc, that dream is now reality.

Personal pool at the Royal Malewane South Africa
The Royal Malewane, South Africa/Photo courtesy of The Royal Portfolio

Kruger National Park is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. Well-known and well-trodden, its popularity has allowed lodges to imagine and execute extraordinary experiences. In other words, you can sleep in a luxurious bed, drink exquisite wine and still watch elephants parade past plunge pools.

If the name Wild Life Wine Safaris doesn’t clarify the company’s mission, its sample itineraries will. The boutique outfit offers customizable tours and programs that cater to drinking preferences, so dream big. You might start in cosmopolitan Cape Town, venture into the winelands and then transfer to Kruger. If your safari lodge doesn’t support a deep cellar but meets other objectives like wildlife access, the company will arrange special touches like sundowner, or sunset, tastings.

Two people eating as an elephant comes out of the bush
Photo courtesy of Singita

Fortunately, when it comes to wine, many safari outfits boast incredible offerings. Within that pool, Singita rises to the top. The conservation-driven company’s Boulders Lodge runs, arguably, the best South African wine cellar on the continent. Sommeliers at Londolozi, a high-end private game reserve, are also incredible, and have organized sundowner wine tastings in the bush as well as private dinners in the cellar.

Four lodges and two villas dot the Lion Sands Game Reserve. Each offers a distinct personality, though Ivory Lodge is considered the shining star in the portfolio. The ambience takes a modern, unpretentious approach to wine, and the beverage team employs a Cape Town consultancy to make selections from sustainable, family-owned wineries.

An outdoor kitchen at Singita
Singita Boulders Lodge Kitchen/Photo courtesy of Singita PH Ross Couper

Highly acclaimed Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve pairs a unique safari experience to a South African-heavy wine program. Its Earth Lodge counters classic safari tents and décor with natural materials and open-plan living suites, which creates a dynamic relationship between guests and the environment. Uncork a bottle of Chenin pulled from the 6,000-label cellar and slip into your plunge pool to watch birds soar above.

Full-board accommodations at Royal Malewane include wine, as well as access to large whiskey and gin collections. From comparative tastings of Pinotage in the Masiya Bar to five-course wine pairing dinners in the bush, the property emphasizes bespoke wine experiences. Sister property and winery La Residence in Franschhoek sends its red blend, rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon to all four hotels of the Royal portfolio. —Lauren Mowery

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