Cape Winelands "The hedonistic Edward VII revelled in South African wines, especially when he was Prince of Wales, while Napoleon quaffed it to console himself in exile. The flavour and quality of the renowned Cape wines continue to exert a strong international appeal.Excellent ClimateThe winter rainfall and Mediterranean climate of the Cape, together with its rich, fertile top and sub-soils, ensure the growth of strong and healthy vines - ideal conditions found nowhere else in the world. White wines lead the market, with their fresh fruity elegance - popular grapes are Chenin Blanc, Cape Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Reds are full-bodied with a distinct bouquet, and leading red varieties are Cinsaut, Pinotage, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and at the top of the league, Cabernet Sauvignon, which merits being laid down for at least 10 years. "
"A popular way of discovering the joys of South African wines is on a day trip from Cape Town - either self-drive or on an organised excursion by a local travel organiser. Devotees of the grape however can spend several days - weeks if they wish - finding out about the subtle differences between the various types, there are so many estates to visit. In all, there are 13 wine routes to explore - and 2,000 varieties of wine to sample!
Simon van der Stel, who arrived in the Cape in 1679, explored a long verdant valley east of the present-day Cape Town. He decided that its rich soil was perfect for viticulture and established the Stellenbosch vineyards, situated only 35 minutes from Cape Town. Stellenbosch is the second oldest city of South Africa and is regarded as the wine capital of South Africa, with over 60 wine estates. Stellenbosch opened the first Wine Route of the Cape in 1971, inspired by the French Route du Vin and the German Wine Routes.
A further contribution to South Africa's wine industry resulted in the expulsion from France of the Huguenot Protestants, who emigrated to South Africa. Many of these experienced wine producers settled in an area near the Drakenstein Mountains subsequently named Franschhhoek (French Corner). This was the ideal location for the French wine experts, as the valley offered not only tranquil and beautiful scenery, but was perfect for vine cultivation.
In 1984 this area became even more renowned, after the opening of the Franschoek Wine Route (officially called "Vignerons de Franschhoek"). Cultivars planted are Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Franschhoek has about 20 wineries and is only an hour’s drive from Cape Town.
Situated in the picturesque Berg River Valley is the wine-growing area of Paarl, Climatically less influenced by the mountain ranges in the west, this area is dependant on irrigation. Long hot summers and moist winters are almost ideal for vine growing. Its Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling have received international awards along with its reds ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon to Merlot.
A visit to the Language Monument erected at the edge of the town, is as popular as a visit to Paarl's largest wine festival - The Nederburg Auction - which is held at the end of summer and regarded as a must on the international wine calendar. Paarl's wine route is the country's second oldest and includes over 40 cellars, many of which also make cheese, or grow olives.
South Africa's oldest, yet shortest and smallest wine route is the producer of extraordinary quality wines. Favoured by the cool breezes of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean the ripening process of the grape achieves the very best results, an advantage for all wine makers wishing to produce noble wines. During the founding years under Simon van der Stel, Constantia was one large wine farm. After his death the area was divided into three estates: Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting, which are well worth a visit.
Other Wine Routes
* Smaller wine routes include Worcester, which has a good selection of wineries, and the nearby Tulbagh which is one of the lesser known regions with only about ten or so cellars.
* Wellington is tucked away in a small valley and even though there are only a dozen of so cellars, you couldn't see them all in a day.
* Somerset West, which is the centre of the Helderberg region is now producing some excellent wines from its 20-odd vineyards.
(Winelands picture and text source: southafrica.net)