South African Wine Regions
Cape Agulhas & Elim
Most of these maritime vineyards are situated in Elim near Cape Agulhas. The entire picturesque village of Elim, a moravian mission settlement founded in 1824, is a national monument. Strong, cooling winds are prevalent in summer, ensuring a cool ripening season, perfect for Sauvignon Blanc and also promising for Semillon and shiraz.
Cape Point, Constantia, Durbanville & Philadelphia
Cape Town is one of the great wine capitals of the world and the gateway to the cape Winelands. The Constantia valley was the site of Simon van Der Stel’s 17th-century wine farm and the origin of the Constantia dessert wines which became famous throughout Europe during the 18th century. The vineyards climb up the east-facing slopes of the Constantiaberg, where the vines benefit from the cool sea breezes blowing in from the sea. The vineyards of Durbanville lie close to Cape Town. Several estates and wineries continue to make a wide variety of wines. Some of the vineyards grow at altitudes as high as 380 meters above sea level. Deep soils, cooling sea breezes, night-time mists and close proximity to the ocean are beneficial factors when it comes to the quality of the grapes. Philadelphia is north of Durbanville and also benefits from cooling Atlantic breezes the hilly terrain of this area means some of the vineyards are also higher than usual, up to 260m above sea level. This facilitates a significant difference in day-night temperature and results in slower ripening. The cape point vineyards, some of them a mere kilometer from the sea, are situated on the western fringe of the narrow cape peninsula. This cool-climate district recognized for its Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. Now the first red wine vineyards have been planted at red hill bordering the cape point nature reserve.
The predominantly citrus-producing Citrusdal valley lies in the southern reaches of the Olifants river valley. The soils are mainly sandy alluvial soils from the surrounding Table Mountain sandstone mountains in the southern part of the valley up until Clan William. Irrigation comes from the Clan William dam where the water is of an excellent quality.
Darling, Groenekloof & Swartland
Traditionally a grain-producing area, in summer the Swartland district is marked by green pockets of vineyards clambering up the foothills of the mountains and along the banks of the berg river. The Swartland was traditionally a source of robust, full-bodied red wines and high quality, fortified wines. The Swartland literally translated means ‘the black land’ and the area takes its name from the indigenous Renosterbos (rhino bush) which still turns the landscape a dark colour at certain times of the year. Darling and Groenekloof, benefit from being the closest to the cooling Atlantic and is known for the exceptional quality of Sauvignon Blanc.
Franschhoek Valley & Villiersdorp
Franschhoek has retained its French Huguenot character. The Franschhoek valley lies to the southeast of Paarl and is enclosed on three sides by towering mountains. Streams from the higher peaks flow down to the valley floor where they converge to form the berg river, fast-flowing in winter when snow caps the peaks and a mere stream in summer, fed by the Wemmershoek dam. Villiersdorp is surrounded by apple and pear orchards, and borders on the Groenlandberg reserve.
Calitzdorp, Montagu & upper Langkloof
This semi-arid, elongated region stretches from Montagu towards Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and the Langkloof. It’s known for relative extremes when it comes to soils and climate. Muscat varieties flourish here and the area was once known mainly for its sweet wines. Today there is an increasing focus on reds like merlot made in an easy-drinking style. Calitzdorp is famous for its port-style wines and here you’ll find plantings of tinta barocca, touriga nacional and some souzao. More recently, red wines made from the varieties typically used to make port are creating new interest here. The Klein Karoo is renowned for the quality of its brandies which have brought home international accolades.
Elgin’s winegrowing area is cradled in the sandstone Hottentots Holland Mountains, and was traditionally an apple-growing region. Now wines showing exceptional fruit are produced here with Sauvignon Blanc, pinot noir and Shiraz doing particularly well in this late-ripening cooler zone. Over the mountains you’ll find Bot River which is increasing in hectares as its well-established few wineries are joined by several newer producers.
Paarl, Franschhoek Valley, Simonsberg & Wellington
Paarl is situated beneath a large granite outcrop formed by three rounded domes, the prominent one named Paarl (which means pearl) rock. The summers are long and warm, and rainfall enough to make irrigation a rarely used feature. A large variety of grapes are grown in Paarl, although cabernet sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc yield the best results
Stellenbosch, Banghoek, Bottelary, Jonkershoek & Papegaaiberg
The historical town of Stellenbosch, which features some of the finest examples of cape Dutch architecture, boasts a winemaking tradition which stretches back to the end of the 17th-century. The mountainous terrain, good rainfall, deep well-drained soils and diversity of terrains make Stellenbosch a sought-after grape growing area. The rapidly increasing number of wine estates and producers includes some of the most famous names in cape wine. The intensively farmed Stellenbosch district has been divided up into several smaller pockets defined as wards including Jonkershoek valley, Papegaaiberg, Simonsberg – Stellenbosch & Bottelary. Stellenbosch wine route is the oldest in the country and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Western Cape.
Surrounded on three sides by towering mountains, the vineyards of the Tulbagh district grow alongside orchards and fields of wheat. The area is characterized by extreme differences in day and night temperatures. Unique to the valley’s geographical composition is the ‘cold trap’, a phenomenon which occurs as a result of the encapsulating mountains, shaped like a horseshoe, with Tulbagh situated at the north of the ‘bowl’. Within this bowl, once a prehistoric lake, the cold air of the previous night lies undisturbed. With no air movement from the sides, this cold bubble is trapped under the warming air above as the sun makes its way from east to west. The result is relatively cool average daily temperatures. Acclaimed wines from the area include Shiraz and methode cap classique.
The Worcester area is the largest winegrowing area and produces the largest volume of fine South African wine. Around 17 097 hectares of vines are planted, this is almost 20% of south Africa’s vineyards and produces close over 25% of South Africa’s total wine and spirits. Worcester is one of the most important brandy producing areas and home to the famous KWV brandy cellar.