The Western Cape: Oceans, Mountains and Vineyards
The city of Cape Town serves as the gateway to the Cape Winelands, a mountainous, biologically diverse area in the south-western corner of the African continent.
The Western Cape region is home to the vast majority of the South African wine industry, and the country's two most famous wine regions, Stellenbosch and Paarl.
The first vineyards were planted in the Western Cape when South Africa's very first European settlers arrived in the 17th Century. The second Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, is widely credited with bringing winemaking to the region in the 1600s and setting up a wine estate in Constantia. The Stellenbosch region is named after him. However, the wine industry in the wider Western Cape owes more to the Huguenots, Protestants who fled religious persecution in Catholic France in the late 17th Century and arrived in South Africa with vines from their homeland.
The region is littered with spectacular mountain ranges that form the Cape Fold belt. These are extremely important for viticulture across the whole region, contributing soils and mesoclimates ideal for the production of premium wines. The dominant soil types in the Western Cape are granite, Malmesbury shale and Table Mountain sandstone.
The surrounding oceans play a big part in the climate of the Western Cape. The area between Cape Point and Cape Agulhas is where the Antarctic Benguela Current of the Atlantic meets the warmer Agulhas Current of the Indian Ocean. The prevailing winds that blow in from the south-east – collectively known as the 'Cape Doctor' – are cooled by these currents, bringing refreshment to vineyards across the Cape.
Vergelegen Estate was established in 1700 and is situated at the foot of the Helderberg mountains 8km from False Bay, and falls under the designated wine producing region of ‘Stellenbosch’, situated in the Cape Winelands region in the Western Cape, South Africa.
What makes this region so unique? Stellenbosch and the Somerset West area is often referred to as South Africa’s premium red wine area. A combination of ocean influence: cool breezes, moderate rainfall and sheltered grounds in the shadow of the Hottentots Holland mountain range; along with some of the most ancient viticultural soils in the world – all contribute to crafting distinctive, world class wines of the highest quality.
A wide variety of wines are produced here. Wines from the Shiraz and Pinotage grape varieties can be fresh and juicy or full-bodied and gutsy. The Western Cape's elegant, ageworthy Cabernet Sauvignon wines and Bordeaux Blends were at the vanguard as exports recommenced in the mid-1990s, while Burgundy-style Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are gaining global acclaim, and cool-climate style Sauvignon Blanc is rivaling that made in any other New World country.