Cape Winelands

The Cape Winelands is a district municipality located in the Boland region of the Western Cape province of South Africa. As of 2011, it had a population of 787,490. The largest towns in the municipality are Paarl, Worcester, Stellenbosch and Wellington.

The boundaries of this municipality, which covers an area of 22,289 square kilometres and coincide roughly with the boundaries of the geographical area that has been known since the early days of the Cape Colony as “The Boland”. In Afrikaans Boland means “up land” or “the higher land” or “the land above” (i.e. in contrast to the low coastal areas of the original Dutch settlement at the Cape). However, the term “Boland”, as originally used, was a loose concept, with no defined borders (cf. the informal but not meaningless terms “The Sahara” or “The Rocky Mountains”). The Boland is generally mountainous, with range after range of beautiful and isolated sandstone peaks reaching towards 2000m but also has broad, fertile valleys that are home to some of the country’s finest vineyards.

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. The extent and diversity of the geographical features here are truly marvellous. There are so many peaks, ranges, escarpments, valleys, cliffs, rivers, pools, waterfalls, screes, canyons, springs, forests, caves and other natural features that no person could visit all of them in a lifetime.

The Cape Winelands is part of the Western Cape and is a Geographical Unit within the Wine of Origin classification system of South African wine. Corresponding to the province of Western Cape it includes most of the vineyards in South Africa.

On 2 February 1659 the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, produced the first wine recorded in South Africa. In 1685, the Constantia estate was established in a valley facing False Bay by the Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. His ‘Vin de Constance’ soon acquired a good reputation. But it was Hendrik Cloete, who bought the homestead in 1778 who really made the name of Constantia famous, with an unfortified wine made from a blend of mostly Muscat de Frontignan (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains), Pontac, red and white Muscadel (probably clones of Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) and a little Chenin blanc. It became a favorite tipple of European kings and emperors, from Frederick the Great to Napoleon. But the vineyards were decimated by phylloxera, the Cloete family were bankrupted, and Groot Constantia was sold to the government as an experimental station. In 1980 Duggie Jooste bought Klein Constantia, redeveloped it, and is now selling a new version of Vin de Constance made from Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains.

The Franschhoek Valley was settled over 300 years ago by the French Huguenots. The first official wine route was opened in Stellenbosch in 1971.