The Cape Winelands
Cape Town boasts world-class wine estates within its actual city limits. The wineries of the Constantia Valley and elsewhere on the Peninsula are some of last surviving urban vineyards in the world. The city is also in close proximity to other renowned Cape Winelands regions.
The Dutch brought the first vines to the Cape, and in so doing, set off a chain of events that would eventually see the Cape become one of foremost wine regions of the world. Cape Town is one of the few cities in the world that has vineyards and wineries within its city limits. It is also in close proximity to the outstanding Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Wellington, Robertson and West Coast wine regions. Wine tourism is well-developed, and many visitors to the Cape enjoy world-class excursions along the picturesque wine routes which include wine-tastings and fine dining.
Unlike many other of the world’s wine-producing regions, the Cape Winelands are particularly scenic with vineyards and estates set in stunning valleys and on the slopes of towering mountains. Cape wine farmers are mostly conscious of farming in the biodiversity ‘hotspot’ of the Cape Floral Kingdom, and many follow innovative practices to preserve natural areas on their farms.
Origins of Wine-Making in the Cape
• In 1655, the Dutch brought vines to the Cape, and four years later Commander Jan van Riebeeck recorded in his diary that the first wine was pressed from Cape grapes
• In 1659, Simon van der Stel became Commander and then first Governor of the Cape. He was experienced viticulture and viniculture and he soon realised the potential of the Cape as a wine-growing region
• He established the first wine farm, Groot Constantia and produced a fortified sweet wine that became famous in the wine-drinking world
• Van der Stel also founded the second town in the Cape, Stellenbosch and laid the foundation for it to become one of the finest wine-producing regions
• In 1685, van der Stel offered refuge to French Huguenots with wine-making skills and granted land to them in the valley now know as Fanschhoek
The Estate Wine Movement
• Wine-farming and wine-making in the Cape had long been dominated and monopolised by large co-operatives who dictated the quotas and grape varieties that farmers could grow
• In the early 1970’s certain wine farmers who longed to be more innovative opposed these restrictions and succeeded in lobbying authorities for the establishment of a wine route in Stellenbosch
• The Stellenbosch Wine Route paved the way for more than 15 other successful regional wine routes in South Africa and had far-reaching effects by fostering the movement to boutique wineries focused on a much wider range of high quality wines
• Today, South African wines are enjoyed and appreciated in many parts of the world
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