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A Guide to South Africa's Winelands by Kobus van der Merwe

A Guide to South Africa's Winelands by Kobus van der Merwe

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In 1652 the Dutch East India company establishment a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope aiming to provide fresh food to the company's fleet on voyages to India and surrounding areas. As a result of this trading station South Africa now boasts a flourishing wine industry and colourful, multi-cultural nation.
 

The fertile soil and Mediterranean climate of the Western Cape, makes the Cape Winelands one of the most renowned wine producing areas in the world. The Western Cape is also cooler than its position of 34º South of the equator might suggest, making the area ideal for growing a wide range of noble vine varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. The traditional wine growing areas along the coastal regions are seldom more than 50km from the ocean and are exposed to cool breezes blowing in from the sea.

All the wine grape varietals cultivated in South Africa, belong to the Vitis vinifera species, originally brought from Europe. Unfortunately these European vines were susceptible to phylloxera and as a result many South African viticulturists these days often have to graft their vines onto American rootstock in order to resist the insect.

Although Cape Town and the nearby Boland basin is best-known for it's superb Bordeaux-style red wines, the wine-producing regions of the province extends further north- and eastwards and has established itself as producer of world-class red, white, fortified and sparkling wines from a wide range of varietals.

Constantia
The oldest and one of the most famous wine farms in the area is Groot Constantia, which was granted to governor Simon van der Stel in 1685, by the Dutch East India Company. The estate is located on the Southern Slopes of Table Mountain and is still world-renowned for it's superb wines and breathtaking location. It's beautiful Cape Dutch homestead also forms part of the Iziko South African National Museums. The Constantia region also features such formidable estates as Steenberg well know for it's Reserve Sauvignon Blanc and Semmilon while the nearby Buitenverwachting produces outstanding Chardonnay. Both estates feature award-winning restaurants.

Boland
From Cape Town, the Winelands spread north-east and eastwards to the beautiful Boland basin with Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and Wellington being the most prominent producers. Some of the oldest wine farms in South Africa are situated in and around this beautiful Cape Dutch village, which at over 300-years old, is the oldest town in the country. Although the area hosts an endless amount of superior wine estates, well-known farms towards the east include the Shiraz and Port producing Alto; the prolific Blaauwklippen estate which produces one of the only Zinfandel's in the region; the red wine producing Delheim; the famous Lanzerac estate and hotel; the prominent Middelvlei; the international award-winning red wine producing Rust en Vrede estate; Vriesenhof with it's outstanding white wines; the exclusive Engelbrecht Els estate and the beautiful Tokara with it's adjoining restaurant managed by famous local chef and saucier Etienne Bonthuys.

Towards the west of the town there's the well-known Beyerskloof, famous for it's award-winning Pinotage; the superior sparkling wine producing House of JC Le Roux, the scenic Meerlust estate with it's legendary Rubicon blend; the family-run Overgaauw; the "Cap Classique" producing Villiera and Zevenwacht estate.

The nearby Franschhoek, which translates as "French corner" also boasts some of the country's oldest estates: The beautiful Boschendal with it's typical Cape Dutch homestead; Cabriere Estate with it's flagship range of Pierre Jourdan "Methode Cape Classique" sparkling wines; Graham Beck with it's signature Brut Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine and Rhona Muscadel; and the beautiful La Motte estate which produces outstanding Shiraz.

Overberg
On the otherside of the Franschhoek and Hottentots Holland mountain ranges, the Overberg region includes quaint villages such as McGregor, Montagu and Robertson - the latter boasts the De Wetshof estate, owned by the prolific Chardonnay producer Danie de Wet, while the nearby Hemel-and-Aarde valley close to Hermanus is home to such spectacular wineries as Hamilton Russel with it's well-known Pinot Noir and the legendary Bouchard Finlayson.

Swartland
North of Cape Town, the predominantly wheat producing Swartland region includes the fructuous Riebeek valley, well-known for it's Shiraz wines and olive farms. This region hosts such prestigious estates as Kloovenburg, Allesverloren and Twee Jonge Gezellen, as well as the larger co-operative wineries such as Riebeek Cellars, Swartland Cellars and Darling Cellars, extending further east, towards the Hexrivier Valley at De Doorns and north towards the Olifants River valley close to Citrusdal and the fruitful Orange River Valley near Upington in the Northern Cape.


About the Author

To plan a hassle free trip to Cape Town, use CityGuideSA - a comprehensive online travel resource with up-to-date information on where to Eat, Stay and Play in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and the Garden Route.