Only real wine connoisseurs would know that the South Africa wine route is a real dandy. While the valleys and rolling hills of Cape Town’s inner cities provide the ultimate terroir for grape growing and have produced some of the best wines in the world, there are newer wineries and vineyards that are being grown in areas never thought possible. These are the coastal areas of South Africa. With sometimes gale force winds and mild temperatures, it was once thought that these areas were not suitable for growing perfect grapes for making top quality wines.
The hard working South African vintners have proved everyone wrong as the wines emerging from Cape Point (Two Oceans), Elim Valley in Cape Agulhas, and Walker Bay have been winning all kinds of awards both local and international and are taking the viticulture world by storm. These grapes are grown in very harsh conditions and in seemingly unfertile sea sand like soil. However, the white wines that have been produced are of exceptional quality. They have been described as being light and fruity with good texture and a unique flavor that lasts.
The coastal regions start from Elim Valley at Cape Agulhas which is the tip of Africa. Here the vines are fairly old despite only having entered the market recently. Vineyards were originally grown to supply the missionaries here with wines for religious blessing and so forth. It was determined that these could in fact produce distributable wines and soon bottling and labeling began.
Moving further west you will reach the Hemel en Aarde Valley (Heaven and Earth Valley) where the majority of the Walker Bay vineyards are located. Many of these wines are crisp and flavorful with unique textures. There are very few fruity flavors, with stronger spicy, vanilla and earthy tones to them. This area is not only producing great white wines, but also has a good selection of red wines which are interesting and mild. The vineyards are fairly well protected in the valley and receive mild weather with the cold Atlantic Ocean breezes.
Moving westwards again you will come to the False Bay area where the waters are warmer and the beaches full of holidaymakers. The Two Oceans wines come from this area near to Cape Point and are affected by both the Atlantic Ocean breezes as well as the Indian Ocean breezes making for a uniquely flavored wine which is excellent with most meals. They are light and have a great flavor. The Cape Point Vintners are also starting to produce a red wine and have recently seen the first harvest of red grapes which they say looks to be very promising.
When you visit the coastal region of South Africa, be sure to not miss out on these wine routes. You can also include the area of Constantia which produces award winning wines from their 5 estates. The oldest wine farm in South Africa is located here called Groot Constantia and you can enjoy exquisite accommodation, meals and fun wine tasting. Some may not consider this a coastal wine area, but it is in fact located just over the mountain from Noordhoek being 15-20 minutes from the Eastern side and only 10-15 minutes from the western side at Muizenberg.
You should also not miss out on the other wine routes while you are in Cape Town, South Africa, especially Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl making up the Winelands, Robertson, Tulbagh, Swartland, Wellington, Worcester and Breede River Valley, making up the Boland and more interior regions. There are also wine farms and lovely vineyards on the banks of the Orange River in Mpumalanga Province, in the Karoo where the semi arid conditions produce awesome Muscadels and recently in the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal.
The coastal wine regions should most definitely be included in your tours and will offer you a totally unique outlook and experience of wines and the wine industry. With the subtle flavors and cooler climate you are bound to enjoy these wines with any meal you have. The beauty of the area is also one of the reasons to not miss out on these regions, because you can get so much more out of your tour and take part in so many other activities like hiking, cycling, paint balling, surfing, boating, shark diving, whale watching, swimming, abseiling, mountain biking and climbing, paragliding, hang gliding, scuba diving, snorkeling, and visiting the hundred of attractions along the South African coast. Some of these include the penguins at Boulders Beach, Cape Point and all its glorious features, the town of Hermanus, Cape Agulhas lighthouse and its museums, the beauty of Clarens Drive, and Hangklip.
Whatever areas you decide to visit on your wine tour of South Africa, you will find a large diversity in the wines that you taste, so if you can, get to all of the regions and experience all the varietals.
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by Jim Hunter