Since I am based in the Helderberg, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West; I often wondered what it is that makes this wine growing area so unique. Is it the climate, the soil type, the location? The answer is yes to all of the above.
The Helderberg wine growing area stretches from Somerset West to the edge of Stellenbosch and in this area lies the Golden Triangle, a top wine growing area that stretches from the foothills of the Helderberg to the edge of the Stellenbosch Mountains.
Some of the popular grape varietals planted in this area:
- Chenin Blanc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
So what makes this such a top wine growing area?
The secret lies in the diversity of the soil types as well as the growing climate. Elevation ranges from 60 to 400 meters above sea level and the soil types found in the area includes granite, shale, sandstone and clay.
The combination of these different soils have both great water holding capacity as well as drainage; making it possible for producers to administer a dry-land viticulture method (when no irrigation is used) or micro-irrigation (e.g. drip or trickle irrigation).
Since this growing area is situated close to the False Bay the vines benefit from the cooling ocean breezes, producing smaller berries with optimum ripeness, concentration of fruit flavour, lively acidity in white wines and colour and smooth tannins in red wines.
According to The New York Times 2008 60% of South Africa’s top wines came from the Golden Triangle.
Next time you are in the Stellenbosch area, be sure to explore the fantastic wines from this region. Cheers!
Want to learn more about growing areas and different types of terroir?
Get your hands on The Essential Guide South African Wines: Terroir & Travel by Elmari Swart