The Region – [The Ward]
Constantia is located on the eastern soils of Table Mountain and is considered to be part of Cape Town suburbs, the ward is one of the oldest viticultural districts of South Africa and consists of 7 vineyard wine farm estates. The vineyards range from 20 acres to 163 ha in size and many have existed since slavery was enforced, these brands are family business’s and very wealthy. The wealth here is multi-generational and predominantly a white owned industry, many have a rich Dutch heritage and are designed to focus on European tourism. Constantia is famous for whites that retain a strong backbone and juicy reds that are smooth and approachable, the soils are sandy clay loams with a granite base and are nutrient rich. The ward is cooled by the south easterly sea breezes and is shadowed late in the day by Table Mountain, this shading limits the varieties that can achieve optimal ripeness. Mean February temperature is only 20.6 and rain fall throughout the growing season ranges between 335mm to 1056mm. the varieties grown are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Shiraz.
The Region – [The Ward]
Franschhoek is a town within a valley of the same name and means `French corner’, the valley has around 965ha under vine and is home to many brands that are around 20 to 36ha in size. The valley is stunningly beautiful and very expensive to the tourist, the floor of the valley is made up of deep sand which is a result of the granite eroding over thousands of years. The sand naturally settles in the `floor’ as it is easily captured by moving water, this leaves the walls of the valley exposed to premium viticulture, very similar to many viticultural areas in France. I was able to see a trench being dug for town water that showed the sand at the `floor’ being atleast 4 to 6 metres deep, this has not stopped viticulture on the `floor’ and the vines are all trained to a mere 0.5 of a metre high to compensate. The fruit quality here is poor and the general vine health is not good, growth is uneven and sparse especially on older growth. I would expect that due to their sheltered location and the low cordon height disease pressure would be great and due to the low fruit value the maintenance of these vines may not occur as one would on the walls of the valley.
The area that suits viticulture on the walls of the valley is a relatively thin band of iron rich soil, which consists of shale sandy loams and deep clay. If you travel too high up the wall the soil becomes dominated by granite and sand, too low and we again encounter sand. Vines on the walls can cope with good yields and produce very rich styles of wine that are more structured than the more southerly Constantia. The issue here is that space is at a premium and due to this issue none of the properties here are classed as `estates’, most buy fruit from Distell in Stellenbosch.
The Region – [The Ward]
Stellenbosch is the wine capital of South Africa the ward is located 45 minutes north of Cape Town at the foothills of the Simonsberg and Stellenbosch mountains. The ward receives natural airflow from the mountain ranges and cool breezes off False Bay, this lowers the temperature and disease pressure eventhough there is still some reliance on a strong spray program most seasons.
The average temperature is a cool 21.5 degrees couple it with rainfall between 229mm and 713mm it makes the climate very similar to many viticultural districts of Victoria. The altitude of Stellenbosch ranges between 200 metres and 400 metres above sea level, the ward has an undercurrent of granite under the varying soil types which mainly fall into shale, sandy clay loams to compact clay with some iron rich deposits resulting from centuries of erosion of the many mountain ranges. This would suggest that site selection is a very important factor, the sides of the valley is traditionally good for Merlot and Cabernet as the floor of the valley often produces too much vigour due to the increased presence of clay.
The ward has many sub regions which are;
- Devon Valley
- Polkadraai Hills
Note; the last three are yet to be officially recognised [demarcated]
Due to the merger 6 to 9 months a go of the two biggest alcohol producers of South Africa `Distell’ was created, this has meant that Distell now have the largest land holding throughout Stellenbosch. This includes vineyard infrastructure, production facilities through to warehousing and cooperage enterprises.
The region – [The ward]
The ward is located 15 minutes out of central Cape Town and is between 150 metres to 350 metres above sea level and is currently in threat of urban development. The ward has around 1500 hectares under vine and heavily influenced by the oceans surrounding the Cape, the natural air flow reduces disease pressure and the need for systemic chemicals. It also comes with the added benefit of cooling the ward and aiding in producing quite classy cooler climate flavours and structures, as the average temperature is a low 22.4 degrees. The average rainfall for the region is between 140mm and 481mm which is quite low so the vineyards and wineries rely heavily on the availability of other water sources such as dams and bores. The ward itself is not an old vine district and many vines are around 10 to fifteen years of age. The soils are a mix of shale, gravel and clay loams and it is considered that the best vineyards are the blocks that face the southern cape coast at the crest of the hill. This is due to the depth of soils above the underlying gravel beds
The Region – [The Ward]
Paarl is located north of Stellenbosch in a warmer viticultural district, it is considered to be a ward that can produce robust wines of some depth. My experiences here reminded me of the Barossa Valley in respect to the South African eternal hunt for the larger, blacker fruit structures. The wine farms range from 100 metres to 300 metres in altitude and are close to the base of the Simonsberg Mountains, as to be expected the soils are granite based meaning a heavy sand content. Shale and sandy clay loams are also part of the structures which help the ward to specialise in Shiraz, Viogner, Cabernet and Mourvedre, this is a district of very hard ground which assists these varieties to increase depth of flavour and aromatics.
The average temperature of Paarl is 23.2 degrees, this is 2.3 degrees higher than Stellenbosch its closest neighbour and makes a massive difference when a viticulturist seeks flavour development. The rainfall ranges between 273mm and 945mm, when considering this with the low influence of any air flow zones it shows that Paarl is a district of some disease pressure.
When travelling through the district I was interested to see many trucks carrying tonnes of fertilizer, this made sense as most grape varieties were at 150mm growth or more. A good time to boost trace element take up of the vine, especially where sand is present due to its low nutrient holding ability.
The Sub-Wards of Paarl are;
- Voor Paardeberg
This ward can produce wines that rival the biggest selling wine regions of Australia, the Barossa valley and McLaren vale. Many wine farms will buy fruit in from more southerly wards to build structure, but it is not necessary and I would think that most large company’s buy in fruit to supply their required volume of sales as there are many very large wineries in Paarl. Like other wards of South Africa most volume heads straight to Europe, this would be thanks in part to the robust back palates and natural tannin development in the wines.
Under the liquor control reform act 1999 it is an offence
– To supply alcohol to a person under the age of 18 years of age [penalty exceeds $8,000.00] – For a person under the age of 18 years to purchase or receive liquor. [penalty exceeds $700.00] – Liquor Licence number – 33764483 – Liquor Licence number – 36132334 – ABN – 77 145 084 055