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Spotlight on the South African Winelands

By 19th April 2012 No Comments

Following on from our news story this week about the introduction of a new tram system we thought we would take a look at the South African Winelands in more detail.

The Winelands is an area in South Africa close to Cape Town that is home to the majority of South Africa’s vineyards. The main wine growing districts in the Winelands area are Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. Stellenbosch is the second oldest settled town after Cape Town.  During 1690 some Huguenot refugees settled in Stellenbosch, grapes were planted in the fertile valleys around Stellenbosch and soon it became the centre of the South African wine industry.

The region possesses a wide range of soils in the area which produce fantastic wine grapes rather than table grapes. The South African winelands produce around 1,000 million litres of wine a year and they are gaining respect across the world for the sophistication of flavour. The South African Cabernet Sauvignon is now one of the most popular wines in the UK.  The region has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot and dry and winters cool and damp, with snow on the peaks during August and September. And just like the Med it is a perfect climate for growing grapes. The scenery is diverse and often spectacular and so many peaks, valleys, cliffs, rivers, pools, waterfalls, canyons, springs, forests, caves and other natural features that make sightseeing in this area such a pleasure.

The area is not only full of beautiful scenery but is also full of history.  Since the area was settled by Dutch colonials it is home to many very pretty Cape Dutch colonial houses and very picturesque towns and villages. A feature of this kind of architecture are the curved gabled roofs of the buildings and pretty white facades.

The Winelands are popular with tourists not just for the fabulous wines but also because the area is also home to many world beating restaurants with a focus on fine dining. One of the most popular ways to spend a day in the vineyards is to enjoy a wine tasting tour and walk around the vineyards followed by a fantastic lunch at a table in the stunning gardens.

The new tram which we mentioned at the beginning is being introduced this spring and will operate along the old railway line in the Franschhoek valley. It will be guided so that visitors can learn all about the history of the Winelands en route and it will transport tourists between the vineyards allowing them to safely sample South Africa’s finest at their leisure.