Wine Routes, South Africa | Information on Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl and Constantia accommodation, business and tourist destinations

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THE HISTORY OF THE WINE ROUTES IN THE WESTERN CAPE

 

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The Wine Routes in the Western Cape have become world renowned for offering the general public the opportunity to visit some of the legendary wine farms of South Africa. Because of the widespread interest in wine making and wine tasting, there are many fine wine estates along a number of wine routes in the Western Cape.

 

The original Stellenbosch Wine Route was founded in 1971.

 

Most wine cellars offer daily wine tasting, cellar tours and sales and many wine estates offer excellent restaurant and picnic facilities.

 

Some cellars offer tasting by appointment only.

 
 

SELECT THE ROUTE YOU DESIRE

STELLENBOSCH WINE ROUTE

 

FRANSCHHOEK WINE ROUTE

 

PAARL WINE ROUTE

 

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF WINE : Compiled by Louis-John Havemann

 

Little is actually known of the early history of wine. It is thought that early farmers made various alcoholic beverages from wild fruits, which would have included certain favoured wild grape varieties more than likely Vitis Silvestris, which is the ancestor to modern wine grapes. Most wild grapes are small and sour, and rarely found at archaeological sites, so it is unlikely they could have formed the basis of the world’s wine industry.
It is commonly accepted that the development of pottery vessels about 9,000 years ago in the late Neolithic era in the Near East, would have contributed to the making of wine much easier. There are some records that point to the fact that the first wine was made some 7000 years ago.
In January 2011, The oldest known winery was discovered in the "Areni-1" cave in the Vayots Dzor Province of Armenia. This winery, which is over six thousand years old, contains a wine press, fermentation vats, jars, and cups. Archaeologists also found grape seeds and vines of the species Vitis Vinifera. Archaeologists have further commented that, "The fact that winemaking was already so well developed in 4000 BC suggests that the technology probably goes back much earlier."

 

Winemaking spread to Egypt, with records dating back to 5000 BC. Phoenicia started making wine at about the same time. The Greeks as well as the Cretans had also begun producing wine by the year 2000 BC. In fact the Cretans became famous for exporting good quality wines.

 

By 1000 BC, most countries in North Africa had begun planting vineyards together with Sicily and Italy. By 500 BC wine production had spread to Spain, the south of France and Arabia. By 100 BC, wine was being made in northern India and China. Winemaking then spread to northern Europe and the Balkan States. For a 1 000 years the history of wine making was unheard of as the Roman Empire declined and Europe descended into the Dark Ages. In the 16th century exploration grew and flourished and by 1530 wine making had spread to Mexico and Japan.

 

Thirty years later Argentina imported vine plants and Peru followed a short while later. The South African wine industry was born with the planting of vineyards at the Cape in 1655. California followed in 1697, and Australia and New Zealand in 1813

 

The spread of civilisation has been followed by the development of wine cultivation and making. It is apparent as we look back at the history of the grapevine and wine making, that the basic principles of winemaking methods have changed very little. It is interesting to note that viticulturists selected and propagated different varieties of vines thousands of years ago to make distinctive and excellent wines for themselves as well as for export.

 

We know today that the ancient Greeks had up to 18 adjectives to describe wine and the Romans made more than 80 types of wine. Some Roman wines were apparently still drinkable after being stored for 200 years and many of the sophisticated viti- and vinicultural techniques are still in use today.

 

South African Wine History:

 

South Africa, apart from the Mediterranean, North African, countries, is one of the few countries within the African continent to produce wine, this is largely due to its southern Mediterranean climate of winter rainfall.

 

South Africa's history of wine making goes back 350 years, with the arrival of the first European settlers at the then Cape of Good Hope (Cape Town). Since then many people and events have made an impact on the industry. Although the first wine pressed from South African harvested grapes in 1659 was not at all good, the country has had three and a half centuries to fully develop its wine making skills.

 

When The Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie known as the VOC) established a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope in 1652 the one single aim was to provide fresh food to its merchant fleet while sailing around the Southern Cape of Africa to India and The East. The establishment of this trading station resulted eventually in a flourishing wine industry and the birth of a Country.

 

Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor of the Cape, planted a vineyard in 1655, and on 2 February 1659, the first wine was made from Cape grapes. This led to the planting of vines on a larger scale at Boschheuvel, which today are the suburbs of Bishopscourt and Wynberg. Van Riebeeck strongly encouraged farmers to plant vineyards, which they, initially, were most reluctant to do because of their ignorance and lack of viticulture experience.

This led to many setbacks in the beginning and things only improved when Simon van der Stel, succeeded Van Riebeeck as the second governor in 1679. He was not only enthusiastic but also very knowledgeable about viticulture and winemaking. He planted a vineyard on his farm Constantia and made good wine from the start.

 

Because the Dutch had almost no wine tradition, it was only after the French Huguenots, who were religious refugees, settled at the Cape between 1680 and 1690 that the wine industry began to flourish. The Huguenots had very little money and had to make do with the bare essentials, however over time considering their culture and skills they left meaningful results on our wine industry, and the lifestyle at the Cape. They brought with them their rich winemaking heritage and by using their experience and skills, they learnt to adapt to the new conditions of winemaking at the Cape. Their legacy which they gave us is still very evident, especially in Franschoek which was where most of them settled.

 

The Cape wine industry went through a very difficult period during the 18th century for a number of reasons. One of the reasons was a shortage of oak wine vats; this shortage made it difficult to age the wines properly and led to poor quality wine, which in turn caused a resistance to South African wines in Europe and the Far East. Some of the oak vats used had previously been used to corn or brine meat, which did not do the taste and quality of the wine any good at all. Oak trees were planted which grew too well and too fast for the timber to be really suitable for vat making.

 

Lack of experience of local conditions made it difficult for wine farmers to identify the best cultivars for the different growing conditions and soils, so wine making techniques suffered as a result.

 

During the first half of the 19th century the Cape Wine Industry prospered. Britain had taken occupation of the Cape and she was also at war with France, this meant that French wines were unavailable to the British and her colonies. Cape wines had a huge market opened up for them as a result and wine production increased from half a million to 4.5 million litres in forty five years. During this same period Cape vines increased from thirteen million to fifty five million plants but unfortunately there was no thought of quality control and planning. Disaster struck the wine industry in 1869 when Britain and France made peace with each other. Over production caused the South African wine exports to collapse and coupled to this was the outbreak of a disease called Phylloxera, spread by a plant louse, which devastated the Cape vineyards. Phylloxera is a bacterial disease which had first appeared in the USA in 1854 and spread to France in 1863 and despite stringent controls it appeared in South Africa in 1886. There was no answer to this disease other than replanting with American vines that were Phylloxera immune.


The Cape wine farmers faced ruin and so turned to alternative farming ventures such as Ostrich farming amongst others.

 

The Anglo Boer War started in 1899, which threw the wine industry into overproduction and chaos and so 25 years of hardship followed.

 

Finally in 1918 a man called Charles Kholer created the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Beperkt (KWV) in an attempt to bring law and order to the chaotic situation. The KWV, was an umbrella, which brought stability to the wine industry, this placed it on the road to growth and prosperity and led to today's thriving wine industry.

 

Some Important dates of the Wine Industry

 

1906 -The first co-operative winery, the Drostdy Ko-operatiewe Keller Beperkt, was founded in Tulbagh.

 

1918 - The Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereeniging van Zuid-Afrika (KWV) was formed, by Charles Kohler thus saving the industry from disaster.

 

1925 - Professor Perold successfully cross-pollinated Pinot Noir with Hermitage (Cinsaut) to develop South Africa's own grape variety, Pinotage.

 

1935 - Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery (SFW) Limited was founded.

 

1936 - Nederburg wine farm was bought by Johann Graue, a German immigrant who used cold fermentation for making white table wine in the 1950s.

 

1940 - The Wine and Spirit Control Amendment Act was passed to control the minimum price for good wine.

 

1945 - Distillers Corporation was founded.

 

1950 - Gilbeys SA was founded.

 

1955 - The Viticultural and Oenological Research Institute (VORI) was founded. Today it is known as Nietvoorbij.

 

1959 - SFW launched Lieberstein, a semi-sweet table wine which revolutionised wine-drinking habits in South Africa.

 

1961 - The first Pinotage, a 1959 under the Lanzerac label, was marketed.

 

1964 - Lieberstein sales topped 31-million litres, becoming the world's largest selling bottled wine.

 

1965 - SFW, Monis and Nederburg amalgamated.

 

1968 - Distillers built the Bergkelder with its maturation cellars tunneled into Papegaaiberg in Stellenbosch.

 

1971 - Stellenbosch Wine Route, the first wine route in the country, was founded.

 

1973 - The Wine of Origin legislation was instituted.

 

1975 - The first Auction of Rare Cape Wines was held at Nederburg.

 

1979 - The Cape Wine Academy* (CWA), the wine industry's general education body, was founded in Stellenbosch by SFW in October. The restructuring of the Liquor Industry by government sanction took place.

 

1980 - Regulations regarding the residual sugar content of table wine changed - for the first time provision was made for wine exceeding 30g per litre.

 

1983 - The Cape Winemakers' Guild (CWG), an independent association, was formed.

 

1984 - Flavoured wines introduced to the market.

 

1985 - The inaugural CWG wine auction was held.

 

1990 - Changes in the Wine of Origin legislation. The SA Wines & Spirits Export Association (SAWSEA) was established.

 

1991 - First National Bottled Wine Show and inaugural Veritas awards.

 

1992 - The quota system was scrapped. Merger of KWV wine courses with the CWA. The Méthode Cap Classique Association was formed.

 

1993 - The Port Producers' Association was formed.

 

1995 - The Pinotage Association was formed. KWV International was founded.

 

1996 - Stellenbosch Vineyards (Pty) Ltd was founded.

 

1997 - KWV Registered as a private company on 01 December. ARC Infruitec - Nietvoorbij was founded.

 

1998 - The new Liquor Bill, a three - tier system, was approved by parliament. The CWA was registered in an independent Trust.

 

1999 - The new Liquor Bill was rejected as unconstitutional and referred back to parliament for amendment. The South African Wine Industry Trust was established to advance the transformation of the wine industry and promote exports.

 

2000 - The inaugural Cape Wine 2000, showcasing South African wines, was held.

SAWSEA was renamed Wines of South Africa* (WOSA). An independent, non-profit company representing all exporters of South
African wines, its aim is to build Brand South Africa internationally.
The Chenin Blanc Association was formed. SFW and Distillers Corporation merged to form one company

 

SOUTH AFRICA’S WINE ROUTES
Compiled by Louis-John Havemann

 

South Africa is lucky to have a selection of seventeen official “Wine Routes” registered with the South African Wine Routes Forum (SAWRF), most of which are in the Western Cape. There are some other and newer unofficial routes.

Scroll down to see the list of wine routes and their emails at the end.

The majority of wine routes in South Africa fall under the auspices of the Wine of Origin Scheme, an origin control system instituted in 1973 to safeguard the diversity and uniqueness of South African wine.

As you move further North away from the Cape there are newer wine growing areas;
There is in KwaZulu Natal, a new wine producing area established in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains in 2004.
The most easterly wine producing area in South Africa is Loopspruit in Mpumalanga Province.
The most northerly is at Bronkhorstspruit some 50 kms east of Pretoria in Gauteng Province.
One is in the Northern Cape Province on the Orange River or Gariep River as it is now known.
In the Free State province of South Africa which is in the centre of the country another new wine producing area has started up under the name of Jacobsdal.

Every area producing wine has its own variety of soils and climate suitable to specific and different types of wine. To enjoy the wide variety of wines each with a separate character and taste provides any wine lover a tremendous cross section of wines and different country sides to see and enjoy.
We are going to deal with some of the better known areas.

 

Constantia
Constantia wine routes in Cape Town

Simon van der Stel was appointed as the second governor of the Dutch East India Company’s Replenishment Settlement at the Cape of Good Hope in 1679. He was knowledgeable in wine making and viticulture and it was he who first started the proper growing of grapes and wine making on his farm Constantia which makes it the oldest wine estate in South Africa.

 

It was actually the arrival of the French Huguenots from 1680 -1690 and their skills in wine making that created a firm footing for South Africa’s wine industry. This farm was given to van der Stel in 1685 by a commissioner named Hendrik Adriaan. van Rheede tot Drakenstein of the Dutch East India Company or VOC ( Vereenigde Oost Indische Compagnie) in recognition of his work and service to the Company.

Constantia was the name of van Rheede’s daughter and it is presumed that it was after her that the farm was named.
Simon van der Stel died in 1712 and his property was sub divided into three sections, Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Bergvliet.
In 1779 Groot Constantia was sold to the Cloete family who improved the homestead and added the now famous wine cellar in 1791. During this time Groot Constantia became famous for its Constantia dessert wine.
In 1885 the Cape Government purchased the Groot Constantia and established it as an experimental farm.

A disastrous fire burnt the manor house down in 1925 which was restored to its Cape Dutch splendour by the South African government.

 

In 1969 Groot Constantia was brought under the umbrella of the South African Cultural History Museum and from 1993 has been owned by The Groot Constantia Trust.

There are other wine estates on this wine route well worth visiting as well as beautiful and well known accommodation establishments and restaurants.

Durbanville Valley:

the ripening process.
The soils are deep, red, rich and well drained with excellent water holding properties. The heavy dews and mists coming in from the Atlantic Ocean mean that even though the rainfall is relatively low – 500 to 550 mm per year -  the vines don’t need to be irrigated.

 

With regard to white wines, Durbanville is best known for its Cabernet Sauvinon and its Semillon wines are starting to gain recognition.
As far as red wines are concerned Durbanville Valley is noted for its Merlot and Shiraz.
The Durbanville Wine Valley Association was formed in 2004, but there are some families who have been making wine for generations.

There are numerous restaurants and accommodation establishments on this wine route.

.Wellington:
 
STELLENBOSCH
Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is the second oldest European settlement in the Western Cape Province, South Africa after Cape Town, and is situated about 50 kilometers away along the banks of the Eerste River. The town became known as the City of Oaks or Eikestad in Afrikaans due to the large number of Oak trees that were planted by the founder to grace the streets and homesteads.

 

The town is home to the University of Stellenbosch. The Technopark is a modern corporate and research complex situated on the southern side of the town near the Stellenbosch Golf Course. Stellenbosch is said to be the heart of Afrikanerdom due to the large number of academics and stThe town was founded in 1679 by the Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, who named it after himself — Stellenbosch means "(van der) Stel's forest". It is situated on the banks of the Eerste River ("First River"), so named as it was the first new river he reached and followed when Jan van Riebeeck sent him from Cape Town on an expedition over the Cape Flats to explore the territory towards what is now known as Stellenbosch.

 

The Dutch were skilled in hydraulic engineering and they devised a system of furrows to direct water from the Eerste River in the vicinity of Thibault Street through the town along van Riebeeck Street to Mill Street where a mill was erected. The town grew so quickly that it became an independent local authority in 1682 and the seat of a magistrate with jurisdiction over 25 000 square kilometres in 1685.

 

Soon after the first settlers arrived, especially the French Huguenots, grapes were planted in the fertile valleys around Stellenbosch and soon it became the centre of the South African wine industry. The first school had been opened in 1683 but education in the town began in earnest in 1859 with the opening of a seminary for the Dutch Reformed Church and a gymnasium which known as het Stellenbossche Gymnasium was established in 1866. In 1874 some higher classes became Victoria College and then in 1918 the University of Stellenbosch. In 1909 an old boy of the school, Paul Roos, captain of the first team to be called the Springboks, was invited to become the sixth rector of the school. He remained rector till 1940. On his retirement the school's name was changed to Paul Roos Gymnasium


Stellenbosch University is one of South Africa's leading universities. This institution has a rich history dating back to 1863 and has 10 faculties, including Engineering, Science and Arts. The University currently has about 25,000 students. Although the official language of the university is Afrikaans, most post-graduate courses are presented in English.

FRANSCHHOEK
Franschhoek

The valley was originally settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees, many of whom were given land by the Dutch government in a valley called Olifantshoek ("Elephants' corner"), so named because of the vast herds of elephants that roamed the area.

 

The name of the area soon changed to Franschhoek, with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came. La Motte, La Cotte, Cabriere, Provence, Chamonix, Dieu Donne and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms — most of which still retain their original farm houses today. These farms have grown into renowned wineries. The Huguenot MonumentThis heritage is preserved today with the Huguenot Monument standing at the top of the village.

 

The museum nearby chronicles the history of the first settlers, with each of the original Huguenot farms having its own fascinating story to tell.The Cape Dutch architecture in much of the village is unspoilt, with restrictions having been placed on the extent of renovations and new construction in order to preserve the spirit of the original settlers to the area.

 

Once a sleepy country retreat, the village began experiencing a boom since the 1990s, and property prices have sharply increased. The ideal summer weather, snowy peaks in winter and proximity to Cape Town have turned Franschhoek into one of South Africa's most sought after residential addresses.

 

The construction of the new English-medium private Bridge House School outside the village has also attracted many urban dwellers to the village.Franschhoek is notable for having some of the top restaurants in the country within its quiet borders. This fact, together with the strong wine culture, and pristine natural and architectural beauty has made Franschhoek into what many describe as the "food and wine capital" of South Africa.The attributes of the village have turned Franschhoek into a popular tourist destination, with dozens of bed & breakfasts and small cottages available for accommodation at premium prices.

 
PAARL
Arrial view of Paarl

Paarl (meaning "Pearl" in Dutch and called "Die Pêrel" in Afrikaans) is the third oldest European settlement in the Republic of South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch) and forms part of the Western Cape Province. The 2001 census reports Paarl to have a population of approximately 108,000 which makes it the largest town in the Cape Winelands. It is situated about 60 kilometers northeast of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province and is renowned for its illustrious past and haunting scenic beauty.

 

The district is particularly well known for its Pearl Mountain or "Paarl Rock". This huge granite rock is formed by three rounded outcrops that make up Paarl Mountain. In 1657, while Abraham Gabemma was searching for additional meat resources for the new Dutch settlement at the Cape of Good Hope, he saw a giant granite rock glistening in the sun after a rainstorm and named it "Diamondt-ende Peerlberg” (Diamond and Pearl Mountain) (Schirmer, 1980). Gabemma (often also spelled Gabbema) was the Fiscal (public treasurer) at the settlement on the shores of Table Bay.

 

The "diamonds" soon disappeared from the name and it became known simply at Pearl Rock or Pearl Mountain. Then, in 1687, just 35 years after the landing of Jan van Riebeeck at the Cape, land for farms was given to some Dutch settlers on the banks of the Berg River nearby. The fertile soil and the Mediterranean-like climate of this region provided perfect conditions for farming. The settlers planted orchards, vegetable gardens and above all, vineyards, which today produce some of the best red wines in the world.

 

Like many towns in the Cape Winelands, Paarl is home to a prosperous community, with many well maintained and attractive Cape Dutch houses, beautiful gardens and streets lined with old oak trees. Paarl boasts a unique cultural attraction: it was here that the foundations of the Afrikaans language were laid by the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners.

 

The "Afrikaanse Taalmonument" (monument to the Afrikaans language) on the slopes of Paarl Mountain, the Language Museum and the Afrikaans Language Route through Dal Josaphat are memorials to this achievement. The headquarters of the wine industry in South Africa are also situated here.: this is the famous "Co-operative Wine Growers' Association" (better known by its Afrikaans initials KWV). The KWV is a South African institution that has acquired an international reputation based on its unique achievements and its imprint of quality on the local wine industry.

 

The town and its surroundings attract many visitors with an array of activities and interests. There are magnificent Cape Dutch buildings (17-19th Century), scenic drives, hiking trails and the Paarl wine route, with its many wine tasting opportunities (including vintages from the famous Nederburg estate) and excellent restaurants. The Paarl Rock itself is these days a popular Mecca for rock climbers.

 

However, in the pioneering period of rock climbing in South Africa, the mountain was ignored or shunned because its steep faces were so smooth and unfissured that climbers could find no place to attach "runners" or anchor points for belays. The first serious climbing routes up the rock were pioneered in 1969 by climbers from the University of Cape Town, (notably J.W. Marchant and J. Knight), who established a few routes on which the rope was run out for 100 m or more with no protection whatsoever (UCTMSC, 1970). This was in the days before bolting was possible and these achievements are still held in high regard today.

 

Nowadays protection is afforded by bolts in the granite and there are on Paarl Rock a few dozen spectacular, beautiful and very hard routes that attract the best climbers of the current generation. (All of these climbs remain dangerous for the inexperienced). A guide book for these routes was published in mid-2006.

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