Located approximately 50kms east of Cape Town along the banks of Eerste River, Stellenbosch is home to a number of South Africa’s renowned wine estates. Stellenbosch, which gets its name from former Cape Colony governor, Simon Van Der Stel was founded in 1679 and is the second oldest town in South Africa, after Cape Town. The region lies at the foot of Cape Fold mountain range and is home to over 140 wine estates. It is dubbed as ‘Eikestad’ (City of Oaks in Afrikaans) thanks to early settlers who grew Oak trees that lined the town’s streets. Owing to its location in a valley in between high mountains and the great soils in the area, the region has thrived as a fantastic wine-producing region.
Stellenbosch wine route which was established in 1971 is the oldest wine route in the country. Wine production thrived in the 1800s during the war between France and Britain. This however declined when the war ended and France re-established its wine industry. When Italian and German settlers made their way to the Cape in the late 18th century-early 19th century, with their expertise and traditions in the wine making process, the country’s wine industry began to flourish once again. For the most part of the twentieth century, since the KWV cooperative had a standing policy in the purchase of excess wine, wine in the country was more of quantity as opposed to quality. The quality however changed with the privatization of the wine industry (KWV) in 1997. Following the privatization of KWV, the country’s wine industry took a step into the global setting and thrived to what it is today.The region has managed to survive ruined crops owing to bad weather and the mildew attack as well as Apartheid to enjoy the present day recognition as a world-class wine producer. From Helderberg in the south to the lower slopes of Simonsberg Mountain in the North, the Stellenbosch Wine region thrives on wine-making with plenty of vineyards enjoying the beautiful ocean breezes, fertile soils and sloping hills to produce quality wine that is exported to different parts of the world. Variations in Terroir have meant different wine styles are found throughout the region. Thanks to the vastness of the region, the route is divided into a number of sub regions inclusive of Stellenbosh Berg, Greater Simonsberg, Stellenbosh Hills, Helderberg (Somerset West) and Bottelary Hills. Soils in the area range from clay to dark alluvial.
Although technically, the region is known for the production of quality white wines, red wine has not been left behind. Today, South Africa as a country is a world-class wine producer with plenty of international wine drinkers favouring wines from the region. Region has a reputation for top class red wines like Cabernet Savignon and Merlot which often blends with Syrah. As a white they produce high quality Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. There is a wide variety of grapes grown in the region which account for the different qualities and tastes of wine from the country. Quite a number of tourists flock the wine-producing regions for a tour of where their favourite wine comes from. Visitors are able to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of farms nestled between magnificent mountains and the delicious smell of grapes in the air.