About

Why Cape Town Wines

Cape Town is a top travel destination with a creative spirit and a modern, vibrant and dynamic energy combined with an open-minded mix of cultures and traditions. Integral to Cape Town is an eclectic bunch of historic and contemporary wineries, all within close proximity to the city. Cape Town Wines provides a collective dynamic communication platform for the wineries and estates of Cape Town. 

The Dutch East India Company established a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652 with the aim to provide fresh food to the company's merchant fleet on their voyages to Asia. This evolved to a trading station that led to a flourishing wine industry and later to the birth of a nation.
Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor of the Cape, planted a vineyard in 1655 in what is today still known as the Company Gardens in the middle of modern day Cape Town. On 2 February 1659, the first wine was made from Cape grapes and this led to the planting of vines in areas that today are known as Bishopscourt and Wynberg..

Van Riebeeck was succeeded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, who was very knowledgeable about viticulture and winemaking. He planted a vineyard on his farm Constantia and made good wine from the outset. Today there are a number of wineries in the Constantia ward and they proudly continue the tradition of producing excellent wine.

South Africa’s Wine of Origin legislation is highly acknowledged and respected as one of the best implemented and regulated in the world. When the term 'Wine of Origin' together with the name of a production area, such as Cape Town appears on a label, it confirms that 100% of the grapes from which the wine was made come from the Cape Town District as a grape growing area. There are currently 27 grape growing districts in South Africa.

Each district comprises of a number of wards and in the case of Cape Town district these wards are Constantia, Durbanville, Philadelphia and Hout Bay. 

The historic Constantia wine growing ward lies on the southern slopes of the Table Mountain range with its world-renowned floral kingdom. Rooted in ancient soils, the vineyards climb up the east-facing slopes of the Constantiaberg, where the vines benefit from the cool sea breezes blowing in from False Bay. The ward receives about 1 000mm of rain annually, making irrigation unnecessary, and has a mean February temperature of 20.6°C.

The vineyards of the Durbanville ward, like those of Constantia, lie very close to Cape Town but bordering the northern suburbs. The area is characterized by a south-north running range of hills, known as Tygerberg and Kanonkop, open towards the west (10 km) and south (28 km) to the sea. The vineyards are situated mainly on the eastern slopes at altitudes of 100-300 m. Some of the vineyards grow at altitudes as high as 380m above sea level. Cooling sea breezes, night-time mists and close proximity to the ocean are beneficial factors when it comes to the quality of the grapes. Although the mean February temperature is given as 22.4 C, the duration of high temperatures during the day is short, due to cooling by prevailing summer sea breezes from False Bay, which usually take effect at midday.

The newer ward north of Durbanville, Philadelphia also benefits from cooling Atlantic influences. The hilly terrain of this area means some of the vineyards are higher than usual, up to 260m above sea level. This facilitates a significant difference in day-night temperature and results in slower ripening.

South Africa is widely recognised as the cradle of mankind but older still are the soils of the Cape wine regions. They are highly varied, mainly due to pronounced differences in topography and geology, greatly impacting on meso-climate and vine performance. Various weather cycles and several periods of inundation by the sea, together with the pronounced and varied geography of the Western Cape, gave rise to great soil diversity over short distances.

In the Cape Town district, the general pattern is sandstone mountains, often resting on granite intrusions, surrounded by shale at lower altitudes. In Constantia the highly regarded reddish and yellowish brown soils on the granitic foot slopes of Table Mountain, are relics of a past, high rainfall, tropical era. They are mainly derived from granite and are highly weathered and acid, very stable and well drained, with a good water-holding capacity.

In Durbanville and Philadelphia the soils are derived from greywacke and phyletic shales and are mainly reddish-brown, deep and well drained. These soils are not acidic, unlike typical Western Cape highly weathered soils, and have a good water-holding capacity, making dryland production possible, even with a rainfall of only 481 mm on average on the eastern slopes and even less on the western slopes.

A wide variety of cultivars are planted across the Cape Town district. Cultivars vary from the classic noble varieties like Sauvignon blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Shiraz to the more exotic like Barbera, Touriga Nacional, Nouvelle and Nebbiolo.

Sauvignon blanc however dominates with more than 33% of planted hectares, followed by Cabernet sauvignon with more than 17% and Merlot with more than 11%. Shiraz, Chardonnay, Pinotage and Chenin blanc make up the rest of the bulk of the vineyard plantings.