CITRUSDAL MOUNTAINS AND VALLEY, TULBAGH, SWARTLAND, PAARL, WELLINGTON, STELLENBOSCH, BREEDEKLOOF AND WORCESTER, FRANSCHHOEK, ROBERTSON, KLEIN KAROO AND CALITZDORP
Citrusdal Mountains and Valley
Citrusdal Valley, located 170 kilometres north of Cape Town, is a district within the larger Olifants River Valley wine region in the Western Cape area of South Africa. The area is associated with commercial wine production, but its hills and mountains have provided unique locations for vineyards where premium Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are grown. Chenin Blanc and Colombard are the most widely planted vines in the area, although these are mostly used in the production of brandy and local table wine and are not often seen outside of South Africa. The Citrusdal Valley stretches roughly 65km from Clanwilliam in the north to the more low-lying Citrusdal in the south. It is flanked by the Cederberg Mountains to the east and the Olifants River Mountains in the west.
These two mountain ranges contribute alluvial Table Mountain sandstone to the valley. The nearby Clanwilliam Dam, on the Olifants River, provides water for irrigation.
The secluded Tulbagh valley is surrounded on three sides by the Groot Winterhoek, Witzenberg and Obiqua mountains. The town of Tulbagh boasts 32 provincial monuments on one street and the surrounding vineyards grow alongside orchards and fields of wheat. The Tulbagh area is characterised by various combinations of height above sea level, aspect, slopes and soil types.
Soils in the valley are extremely variable, from sandy soils on the valley floor to stony soils on the old, higher terraces and mountain slopes. The most planted white-wine variety is Chenin Blanc, followed by Colombard and Chardonnay. Red wine varieties planted include predominantly Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Merlot.
The Swartland literally translated means 'the black land'. The area takes its name from the now endangered indigenous renosterbos (rhino bush) which once turned the landscape a dark colour at certain times of the year. This country wine and olive route is renowned for its warm Swartland hospitality. Traditionally a grain-producing area, in summer the Swartland is marked by green pockets of vineyards. The soils are mainly developed from Malmesbury group shales.
Increasing percentages of red-wine varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Shiraz, are being grown here, as well as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. The Swartland was traditionally a source of robust, full-bodied red wines and high quality fortified wines. The district has more recently also become associated with award-winning
Known as the ‘Pearl of the Boland’, Paarl takes its name from the huge granite outcrop that stands proudly on the crest of Paarl Mountain. The town was founded in 1687, making it the third oldest settlement in South Africa and the largest town in the Cape Winelands. The Huguenots settlers were the ones to introduce viticulture, for which this area is still known for today. Paarl enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate. Local soils fall into three main types: Table Mountain sandstone-derived soils along the Berg River, granite soils in the vicinity of Paarl itself: and weathered shales to the north. A large variety of grapes are grown in Paarl, which has the second most vineyard plantings in the Winelands. These include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Shiraz, which have the best potential, particularly the latter. More recently, typically Mediterranean varieties such as Viognier and Mourvèdre have been planted on warmer slopes.
Wellington, which is a mere 45-minute drive from Cape Town, is a burgeoning wine district producing some promising wines. The valley was initially called Val du Charron (Valley of the Wagonmakers) and was the last outpost before adventurers, pioneers and travellers attempted the arduous journey into the hinterland with their ox-drawn wagons. Soils here are predominantly derived from granite and Table Mountain sandstone, with Clovelly and Hutton types prevalent. The most widely planted white-wine variety is Chenin Blanc. When it comes to red-wine varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon leads the way, followed by Shiraz and Pinotage. The Wellington district is increasingly being reputed for the quality of its reds, Shiraz in particular, and red blends.
For more than 300 years, Stellenbosch has been celebrated for its rich heritage and world-class viticulture. As the second oldest town in South Africa, Stellenbosch is situated about 50 kilometres east of Cape Town, along the banks of the Eerste River at the foot of the Stellenbosch Mountain. It was founded in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, who named it after himself.
The mountainous terrain, good rainfall, deep well-drained soils and diversity of terroirs are key contributors to making this a premier viticultural area. Stellen bosch has the most vineyard plantings in the Winelands. Conditions in this district are particularly well suited to many of the noble grapevine varieties. The sands and alluvial soils of the valley floors give way to predominantly granitic and shale yellow and reddish Oakleaf and Tukulu soils on the slopes. The district, with its mix of historic estates and contemporary wineries, produces excellent examples of almost all the noble wine grape varieties and is known for its blended reds.
The valley of Franschhoek has retained its French Huguenot character, which is reflected in the names of many of the wine farms, guesthouses and restaurants. The valley offers visitors numerous walks and biking trails in the surrounding mountains, and many farms offer trout fishing in streams and dams, as well as horse riding. The climate and soil conditions vary considerably. Vines are planted on the banks of rivers and up mountain slopes, resulting in a wide range of wines. The most widely planted white-wine varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot are the most widely planted red-wine varieties. The valley is mainly recognised for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Semillon — there are Semillon vines in the valley which are over 100 years old. Franschhoek is also regarded as one of South Africa's leading Cap Classique (MCC) producing areas and has its own MCC route.
Breedekloof and Worcester
At the Breedekloof district's hub is the village of Rawsonville, which is surrounded by vineyards with 24 wineries in a 30 km radius. Many of the farms are family-owned and the area is known for its warm, hospitable people. The Breededkloof is characterised mainly by vineyards which flourish on a flat landscape of alluvial valley soils with adequate drainage as they rest on a bed of river stones. The most widely planted white-wine varieties are Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Chardonnay, and the main red-wine varieties are Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Breedekloof valley continues to invest in new plantings. Diversity of soils, matched by the diversity of climate and topography, allows the Breedekloof to deliver wines across a wide spectrum of styles.
Located 160km from Cape Town, Robertson is a broad valley surrounding the Breede River in the Boland of South Africa. Best known as the valley of wine and roses, it is also the heart of the popular Route 62, which invites travellers to discover a string of charming villages and towns along the way. Robertson itself was founded in 1853 and named after the Scottish Dutch Reformed Church Minister, Dr William Robertson. The valley is characterised by extreme differences in day and night temperatures. The district of Robertson incorporates several wards. These reflect the variety of unique environments, a result of the soil diversity in the valley. This wine-growing area features three main soil types. Robertson has the third most vineyard plantings in South Africa. Plantings of Colombard account for the most hectarage of white-wine varieties, followed by Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. The most widely planted red wine varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinotage.
Klein Karoo and Calitzdorp
The semi-arid, elongated Klein Karoo region stretches from Montagu, via higher-lying, cooler Barrydale towards Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and the Langkloof. This area is known for relative extremes when it comes to soil and climate. The area is marked by a general shortage of water due to the low and unreliablerainfall which averages only 200 mm per year. The drier climate results in healthy vineyards which are grown organically to a large extent. Traditionally plantings took place in valleys on alluvial soils derived from sandstone and/or shale, whereas newer plantings take place on higher-lying, cooler positions on skeletal, stony soils, mainly derived from shale. More recent plantings of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir reflect the diversity of the region. Calitzdorp is famous for its port-style wines and here you'll find plantings of Tinta Barocca, Touriga Nacional and, on a small scale, Souzao.