What makes the wines of the fertile valleys around Stellenbosch so special? First, the Stellenbosch Winelands are globally recognised and considered the heartland of the South African wine industry. Wine has been made here since the mid-17th century. Stellenbosch, with its mix of historic estates and contemporary wineries, produces excellent examples of almost all noble wine grape varieties.
Second, the terroir of the region is dynamic, versatile and diverse. The mountains and undulating rolling hills aren’t just beautiful to look at – they’re important factors in cultivating the vines that grow here. The hills aren’t steep, meaning that farmers can plant vines in rows up to the top, some of which are as high as 250m above sea level.
The Stellenbosch Winelands are made up of diverse soil types – as many as 50 – with decomposed granite in the mountainside vineyards and alluvial soils on clay bases in the valleys. The soils in the region are well drained and able to retain the right amount of water needed for the vines to thrive.
The climate in Stellenbosch is certainly one of the most important contributing factors to the growth of noble wine cultivars. The average temperature of the area is 16.4 degrees, with temperatures reaching the mid-high 20s during the summer months. Although the vines struggle in extremely hot weather, the maritime climate with close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean means that the cool, prevailing south-easterly wind allows the vineyards some relief during summer. These winds also inhibit the development of disease in the vineyards.
The versatile terroir makes the region ideal for most noble cultivars. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates plantings, but Pinotage, Merlot and Shiraz are also widely planted. Cool breezes from False Bay cool down the vineyards nearer the ocean, where Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc find their homes.