Look out for reds from South Africa’s ‘own’ variety, Pinotage, which makes striking gamey and earthy-tasting wines, often with a savoury, cheesy edge to them. The most famous regions are Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia, although cooler regions such as Walker Bay are beginning to attract attention.
Historical region that’s tucked away in the southern suburbs of Cape Town (this is where the first vineyards were planted in South Africa. The vineyards are sited on the slopes of Constantia Mountain, where they are cooled by the sea breezes. Just five estates: Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Buitervenwachting, Constantia Uitsig & Steenberg.
Newish cool-climate region east of Stellenbosch, which is still predominantly a fruit-growing area. Because of the altitude, it’s usually a good few degrees cooler than the main wineland regions. Leading producer is Paul Cluver, but some of the 12 other grape growers apparently have plans to bottle their own wines soon.
The Franschoek valley is a small but significant region, inland (to the west) of Stellenbosch. Surrounded by the spooky-sounding Drakenstein mountains, the wide variety of soils and relatively high rainfall permits production of a wide variety of wine styles. It’s a hotter region than Stellenbosch, and with its profusion of trendy restaurants it can rightfully claim to be the gourmet capital of the winelands. An easy day trip from Cape Town.
Well known region north-west of Cape Town, and home to several leading producers, including Veenwouden, Nederburg, Fairview, Glen Carlou and Plaisir de Merle. Traditionally a white wine region, but with its Mediterranean climate and terroirs it’s now focusing more on reds. Hotter than Stellenbosch, so the very best wines come from the more elevated vineyards.
Some 120 km east of Cape Town, next door to Worcester, this hot region is rather paradoxically best known for its whites. De Wetshof, Springfield and Graham Beck are among the leading producers here.
Just a short distance east of Cape Town and is home to many of the country’s leading estates. The town itself is dominated by the University, and despite its relatively large size has quite a relaxed feel. Vineyards fringed by mountains make for some lovely views, and the wine route, which takes tourists through several different trails, is well marked out. There are several different sub-regions, and the geology here is quite complex. Simplistically, the granite-based soils in the east are especially suited to the production of fine red wines, whereas the sandstone soils in the west are best for whites.
A large region to the north of Cape Town, mostly given over to wheat farming. Rainfall is light, so irrigation is usually needed. The cooperatives dominate.
This cool-climate wine region, on the Whale Coast to the south of Cape Town, is on the up: just a few producers so far, but Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson are now making classy Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc shows promise.
Hot (thermally, that is) wine region located inland from Cape Town. Production here is dominated by several large cooperatives.