South Africa and more specifically the Western Cape Province has a large number of wine producers which are classified, among others, as Estates, Wine Farms and Cooperative Cellars, to mention just a few. Wine production is, however, not confined only to the Western Cape, as extensive areas along the lower reaches of the Gariep River in the Northern Cape Province also produce wines.
The historic heartland of wine production is generally considered to be the Western Cape coastal areas closest to the ocean. Many of the older estates have historic roots going back to the initial influx of farmers from Europe in the 1660’s and shortly thereafter but wine production has extended into the Southern Cape and the Little Karoo since those early beginnings. Currently, there are between 800 and 1000 wine producers active in the region. Although there might still be farmers who only produce grapes and then sell them to somebody else to make the wine, the greater majority grow the grapes, make the wine, bottle it, sell it and of course drink it when the occasion arises.
The region where the wine farms are located, is loosely referred to as the Winelands of South Africa and this area is divided into regions, based on specific area distinctions and then each region is further subdivided into districts. Generally, the boundaries of the districts are physical ones such as mountain ranges and rivers while each district is further subdivided into Wards. One ward distinguishes itself from the next on the basis of differences in soil, climate, position relative to the sun (remember that in South Africa North facing slopes are hotter and drier), wind, altitude and proximity to the ocean. Very few, if any wine producers limit themselves to one grape variety or a single style of wine so, each wine is defined by a large number of factors and, just to complicate matters further, each winemaker has a specific, personal and distinctive style. The end result is a bewildering array of potentially delightful possibilities for anyone who ventures out on a wine tour.
There are so many different wine farms and wines that it is very difficult for all but the most dedicated wine industry professional, to be completely informed about every single wine and producer, so for the average tourist, it looks at first glance, like Mission Impossible. Not so, because there are ways of getting to grips with this diversity, and the most common one is to go on an official wine tour, which visits different wine estates. Most of these tours follow established wine routes and visit producers that are in close proximity to a specific major road and these routes have, in fact, become so well established that they are now major tourist attractions. Individual wine tours, on the other hand, can be designed to meet the needs of individuals or small specialist groups.
There are a bewildering number of permutations and combinations on offer to would be wine tourists, be they novices or of the more experienced variety. For this reason, ELF Astronomy does not offer predefined routes but prefers to negotiate a route that meets the requirements and expectations of each client or group of clients. We can take you to any of the top destinations in the wine producing areas, but what we really love doing is to put together tours that combine large, well-known cellars with smaller cellars, that are perhaps off the beaten track but make excellent wines. Longer tours that cover more than one region can also be arranged and, please note that on all our tours, information is liberally dispensed on the routes between stops.