Simon van der Stel, the second governor of the Cape founded the town of Stellenbosch in 1679. Today, this historic university town is the most famous wine region in South Africa. While many of us have visited the town or just enjoyed a bottle of wine from the Stellenbosch winelands, there’s plenty we can still learn about this much-loved area. To inspire you to drink more Stellies wine or pop in for a visit to the ‘City of Oaks’ soon, here are 5 things you may not know about Stellenbosch:
It’s the biggest and oldest wine route in the country
The Stellenbosch Wine Route is a bucket-list destination for international tourists and South African holiday goers alike. Formed in 1971 it is home to over 200 wine estates and made up of five sub-routes, divided according to wine styles, climate and location. These include the Greater Simonsberg, Stellenbosch Berg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Valley and Bottelary Hills.
There are 148 wine farms, with nearly 15100 hectares of vines, that are open to visitors. Many of the farms boast impressive landscaped gardens, beautiful Cape Dutch-style manor houses, luxury accommodation, as well as world-class restaurants such as Gåte, the fine-dining restaurant on the Quoin Rock Wine Estate.
Stellenbosch has the ideal climate to grow grapes
Vineyards in the region have been blessed with the perfect grape-growing climate. Hot and dry in summer and wet and cool in winter. Depending on the soil, some winemakers irrigate their vineyards while others choose not to. The surrounding mountains give the vineyards varying degrees of exposure to wind and sun and a cool breeze comes from False Bay in the afternoons. This helps to slow the ripening process, creating intense fruit flavours in the grapes. For this reason, white-wine varieties are often planted closer to the ocean.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted grape variety in Stellenbosch
Because of the hot, dry climate, Stellenbosch wine estates are the ideal producers of premium red-wine grapes and Cabernet Sauvignon is the region’s most popular. It is often combined with Merlot to create Bordeaux Blend wines which is a blend of wine made from a combination of two or more of the classic Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec.
Chenin Blanc is the most planted white grape. Originating from the Loire Valley of France, Chenin blanc has high acidity which means it can be used to make everything from sparkling wine to a well-balanced dessert wine. The most widely planted variety in South Africa, the grape, may have been one of the first to arrive in South Africa, planted by Jan van Riebeeck in 1655.
It’s the birthplace of Pinotage
Pinotage is the second most widely planted red grape variety in South Africa and South Africa’s signature variety. It was created in 1925 from a crossing of the Pinot Noir and Cinsault wine grape varieties by Professor Abraham Izak Perold, the first professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. Sixteen years later, Charl Theron de Waal (known as CT de Waal), produced the first barrel of Pinotage wine.
95% of Stellenbosch wines are made sustainably
Over 95 percent of the wines produced in the Stellenbosch region are committed to sustainable, eco-friendly wine production. The integrity and sustainability ‘seal’ was launched in South Africa in 2010 and refers to a label that appears on each container of wine. The ‘seal’ guarantees that the wine has been produced sustainably, that it was bottled in the country and that it is 100% South African.