Western Cape

Stellenbosch Many of the photos you see of South African vineyards – positioned in front of striking granite mountains,–are from the Stellenbosch area. It contains the most developed vineyares; it is home to an important wine University (University of Stellenbosch); and it is the center of wine tourism. In short, Stellenbosch is to South African wine much like Napa is to Californian wine.

Of course, finding good wine from Stellenbosch can be challenging because there are so many producers. However, there is a secret to exploring the area. The highest rated wines tend come from vineyards that are on alluvial fans of the granite mountains. The wines from these locations are often described as having a subtle mineral note which many believe is from the decomposed granite soils. The granite mountains are approximately 600 million years old, over 3 times as old as the soil in Napa.

Stellenbosch is divided into five unofficial subregions, each with different macroclimates and soils: Blaauwklippen River Valley (southwest of Stellenbosch and known for spicy Syrah), Somerset West (west of the mountains and bordering the sea, known for Bordeaux blends), Simonsberg-Stellenbosch (Mountain straddling Paarl to the north and Stellenbosch to the south, rich, red clay soils thrive here), Banghoek (Adjacent to Simonsberg, the region is cooler and produces zingy whites very well), and Jonkershoek Valley (Known more for the nature reserve, the fragile climate and soils make for good wine in certain years but only a few daring producers make wine from here).