There are three kinds of wine regions in South Africa: historic regions of quality, historic regions of quantity, and the newborns.
The legacy appellations can be counted on one hand and famously include Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Constantia. By contrast, areas that have long been associated with bulk production number in the dozens, and many of them are attempting to reinvent themselves as sources of quality wine. Of such makeovers-in-progress, the most successful has surely been the Swartland, where Eben Sadie has inspired a new generation of winemakers to venerate the area’s unique terroir and abundant old vines. Echoes of that revolution are starting to reach other traditionally maligned areas and an increasing number of impressive, but often isolated, producers are cropping up in the Klein Karoo, the Breede River Valley, and Tulbagh, to name a few.
The recently founded appellations are perhaps the most fascinating and the best mascots for the new South Africa. Generally confined to the climatically marginal fringe of the country’s coasts, areas such as Elgin, Hemel-en-Aarde, and Greyton are setting themselves apart with their production of high quality, cool climate wines. These elegant wines are electrifying critics and providing a fresh take on a country known primarily for big reds.
Of course, these regions face the dual challenge of forging their reputations both from scratch and from within a country that has its own reputational hurdles to clear. Even those markets that forgive South Africa’s fraught social history consider it a good source for cheap supermarket wine and little else—an unfair and inaccurate assessment that acts as an ankle weight to any producer of merit, no matter how established.
Given the circumstances, which is more helpful to the vintner seeking market share: the stamp of a heritage appellation or novelty appeal? And how are the established regions working to maintain their relevance? This article will attempt to answer those questions by focusing on two specific regions: Constantia and Hemel-en-Aarde.
Ask any consumer what they know about South African wine and, after tripping over Pinotage, they’ll likely land on proud Constantia. Sweet wine from Constantia is by far the most famous wine to have come out of South Africa. Its nectar has inspired rhapsodic prose and royal praise from the highest courts in Europe and is still among the nation’s most prized exports. But that reign has been less than steady. In the 333 years of this wine’s history, quality has wavered, the wines have gone in and out of fashion, and the vines have nearly capitulated to urban sprawl more than once. In truth, the fine reputation of the area’s wines—specifically the sweeties—has only recently been restored.
View of Table Mountain from the vineyards of Constantia (Photo credit: Kelli White)
What is now a wine region began as a single estate. Constantia was founded in 1685 by Cape Town’s first mayor, the Dutchman Simon van der Stel. It is not known which varieties he planted, but the dessert wine that resulted, the “Governor’s wine,” was the Cape’s first vinous victory. Earlier attempts made from fruit grown much closer to the ocean were decried as underripe and shrill.
Van der Stel died in 1712, and his vast estate was subdivided and put to auction. Following the sale, two of the parcels remained in wine production: Groot Constantia and Klein Constantia (groot and klein mean “big” and “little,” respectively, in Afrikaans). Confusingly, today’s Klein Constantia is an unrelated property; it was shaved off Groot Constantia in 1823. The historic Klein Constantia enjoyed renown mostly under the name Hoop op Constantia, where it was the leading producer throughout the 18th century. This property was later incorporated back into Groot Constantia.
The various estates of Constantia produced a range of wines, but the sweet wines remained prime, and international demand outpaced supply by the mid-1700s. These dessert wines, made from Muscat de Frontignan, were unusual in that they were largely unfortified (fortification occurred only rarely, when a poor vintage disallowed extended drying on the vine). The fruity aromatics of the Muscat coupled with the lack of fortification set these wines apart from the heavier Port, Madeira, and sack of the day. Perhaps this singular taste is what made the wine so trendy; perhaps it was its exotic origin. But whatever the cause, Constantia became the most fashionable wine of the times. A bevy of writers that included Austen, Baudelaire, and Dickens detailed its pleasures (in Sense and Sensibility, it was said to have “healing powers on a disappointed heart”), and it was the preferred tipple of dukes, kings, and one famously diminutive emperor.
Toward the end of the 1700s, Groot overtook Hoop op as the favored producer in the region, but its fortunes began to dim in the mid 19th-century. This is likely due to the arrival of oidium and the ratification of the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860, which reduced tariffs on French wine in Britain, South Africa’s biggest export market. In a bid to stay solvent, the proprietor sold off chunks of land (such as Klein Constantia) but went bankrupt nonetheless. When the owner passed away in 1885, the property was acquired by the state and transformed into the “Government Wine Farm,” a kind of educational center for the agricultural sector.
According to historian Jose Burman, sweet wine was made intermittently in the region after this point, but the category had lost much momentum. And the historic elixir was seemingly put to rest forever in the 1940s, when production stopped completely. Emblematic of the changing times, Groot Constantia was redeveloped in the late 1950s to red grapes, predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Pinotage, which had only been created in 1925.
Constantia was not the only wine region in South Africa to experience major changes. The entire industry was transformed in the late 19th century. The year after Groot Constantia landed in state hands, phylloxera was discovered in the Cape. And though Constantia’s relative isolation kept it safe for many years, it too succumbed in 1898. Interestingly, though Groot Constantia was no longer South Africa’s leading wine estate, it still had a critical role to play; its state-run nursery provided much of the rootstock and scions for the post-Phylloxera replant.
Phylloxera’s arrival marked the beginning of a long depression in the South Africa wine industry. The replant proceeded slowly, but once it finished, the Cape was faced with a new crisis: overproduction. This sudden surplus was so extreme that many of the nation’s farmers, who had just finished paying for their shiny new vines, threatened to go out of business. To address this crisis, the government established a string of cooperatives around the country starting in 1906. These collectives kept costs down by sharing resources; they also stabilized prices and provided a reliable home for the growers’ fruit. Their success would prove short-lived, however, as within a few years, several went under. One man, Charles Kohler, believed that only total centralization could salvage the stuttering industry. His vision was realized in 1923, when the KWV (Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika) was registered as a mutual cooperative society.
South Africa’s growers celebrated the establishment of the KWV, and nearly all of the country’s several thousand farmers signed up. Only a handful of top estates in Stellenbosch and Constantia felt confident enough in their reputations and acumen to maintain independence. But while co-ops are fairly common throughout the world of wine, the KWV differed in one extraordinary way: over time, it was granted regulatory control by the government. This made the company extremely powerful, and its reach grew dramatically after 1948 when the National Party, with whom it had close ties, came into power and instituted apartheid. The KWV, which eventually earned the nickname “KGB,” soon came to monopolize and control nearly every aspect of South African winemaking.
Though some good wine was produced after the KWV’s formation, excellence became the exception rather than the rule. As winemaking and grapegrowing were now separate activities, growers didn’t need to concern themselves with quality and emphasized only yield. As a result, high-cropping clones and varieties were given preference over more noble selections. Quality control also suffered and virus became rampant—a problem South Africa is still grappling with today. And, despite the historic success of coastal Constantia, viticulture was emphasized in the warmer inland areas, where ripening came easily and disease pressure was diminished. In short, the entire South African wine industry descended collectively toward bulk wine.
In the 1970s, sprawl took its first major swipe at Constantia. During this decade, several estates were converted into housing for the expanding urban population. And yet, at the same time, Groot grew, absorbing some of its neighbors. Then some light penetrated the darkness. Though the National Party was still in power and the KWV still reigned, the wine industry began to shake off its stagnation. A small number of proper wine estates emerged during the 1970s and ‘80s, which marked the beginning of a slow-building wave of investment across South Africa. These estates were initially concentrated in the historical regions of quality, and the modern face of Constantia began to take shape.
During this time, multiple ancient estates were dusted off and several new properties were developed. The most important moment of this decade was when Klein Constantia broke ground in 1980. Their debut vintage, 1986, included Vin de Constance, an unfortified sweet wine made from Muscat de Frontignan, deliberately crafted to honor the classic dessert wines of the region. This wine was an almost immediate success and has inspired several copies. In 2003, Groot Constantia came out with Grand Constance, which was followed three years later by Buitenverwachting’s 1769. Constantia was suddenly sweet again.
Beautiful Constantia is one of the more isolated wine regions in South Africa. Located on a sliver of land that juts out into the Atlantic, it is separated from the mainland by the capital city of Cape Town. Indeed, homes and businesses butt up against the wine farms, effectively pinning them along Constantiaberg Mountain. The winegrowing area is described as a valley but really forms more of an amphitheater shape, with predominately southeast-facing slopes that overlook False Bay.
Map credit: Wines of South Africa
Vineyards range in elevation from sea level to 450 meters in elevation. Until 2000, vines reached only to around 250 meters. But that year, a massive fire burned the forest on a large swath of the upper slopes, paving the way for the establishments of two estates: Eagle’s Nest and Constantia Glen. These vineyards are planted on some of the steepest slopes in South Africa, and being higher up moves them out of the mountain’s shade. This gives them up to an extra hour of sunlight a day, which makes the area more suitable for red grapes than sites further down the hillside.
Of the over 430 hectares of vines, 185.5 are dedicated to Sauvignon Blanc, the region’s most widely planted grape. Beyond that, things get a little schizophrenic, with nearly 30 different varieties in the ground. Many of Constantia’s wineries produce an extensive array of wines, part of the something-for-everybody syndrome that often appears in wine regions with high foot traffic. Interestingly, the region has very little Chenin Blanc or Pinotage planted, which is unusual in South Africa.
Data from SAWIS
Stark and stunning, the mountains in this part of the country are generally composed of granite capped by sandstone. Over time, the two bedrocks have decomposed and mixed with clay. In Constantia, the higher slopes tend to feature more granite, with granular sandstone prevalent in the lower reaches. Though southeast is the dominant exposure, the undulating hillsides make for great variations in microclimate, and a handful of sites even enjoy the warmth of a fully northern exposure.
The heart of Constantia is only seven kilometers away from False Bay and five kilometers from Hout Bay, though the region is largely blocked from Hout Bay’s influence by the tall Constantiaberg Mountain. A cold and often wet wind known as the Cape Doctor regularly batters the vines from the southeast. The moisture brought by these breezes can make for mildew and rot issues. Compounding this, rain is plentiful, falling an average of 1,000 millimeters per year. Between the proximity to the ocean, the shade from the mountain, the high rain, and the relentless wind, this is one of the coldest and wettest growing regions in South Africa. Summertime temperatures average only 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) and irrigation is rarely required.
On paper, Hemel-en-Aarde and Constantia are very similar. They are both cool, wet, coastal growing regions with soils dominated by sandstone and granite. Both eschew the preferred national grapes of Chenin Blanc and Pinotage for more fashionable varieties. And both are populated by only a handful of estates: Constantia has nine to Hemel-en-Aarde’s dozen. But that is where the similarities end.
Author Tim James believes that the Constantia region only survived the pressure of urban sprawl and the faltering market for sweet wine by way of government intervention—specifically, the state’s purchase and preservation of Groot Constantia. By contrast, Hemel-en-Aarde’s very existence was directly prohibited by the government (or rather the government’s wine henchman, KWV) and only recently emerged through the stubborn insistence of two renegades, Timothy Hamilton Russell and Peter Finlayson.
The undulating slopes of Hemel-en-Aarde (Photo credit: Kelli White)
A major part of the KWV’s scheme to avoid overproduction was the imposition of a quota system. This regulation debuted in 1957 and effectively froze the existing grapegrowing areas in amber. Farms were invited to apply for a quota, without which they could not plant vines. This limited viticulture to existing areas and prohibited expansion into new regions. Much of South Africa’s coastland remained out of bounds.
Timothy Hamilton Russell was an advertising executive who dreamed of producing world-class wine. His family owned a vacation home in the seaside resort town of Hermanus, and he believed that the nearby Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (Afrikaans for “heaven and earth”) would be ideal for wine production. In 1975, he purchased two farms, which he planted the following year. This was an act not only of high idealism (Hemel-en-Aarde had a limited history under vine) but of open treason. Only one of his two properties had come with a quota. This made the second vineyard illegal, a fact he attempted to skirt by declaring the vines “experimental.”
Winemaker Peter Finlayson joined the project in time to craft the debut vintage of 1981. Of the many varieties that were initially planted, Pinot Noir seemed the most promising. Unfortunately for him, it was planted on the wrong farm. Though the illicit vines had been allowed to remain, producing wine from them was strictly prohibited. Because of this, Peter had to effectively steal his own fruit, sneaking out to harvest either very early or very late in the day. Each year, he would be sure to leave the first few rows’ worth of fruit discarded on the ground (evidence of the “experiment”) and pray the inspectors didn’t walk further into the vineyard.
The problems continued inside the winery. Because the variety wasn’t planted in the quota-carrying vineyard, they couldn’t very well bottle and release a Pinot Noir. As such, their first five vintages did not list the variety, but were surreptitiously designated “P1,” “P2,” “P3,” and so on. During these five years of high intensity subterfuge, Peter was caught only once. In penance, he was forced to open the valve on a 5,000-liter tank of Pinot Noir and watch it run down the drain.
The KWV’s regulations relaxed slightly in 1986, and Hamilton Russell was allowed to purchase an unused quota for his Pinot Noir vineyard. This was a massive relief to Peter Finlayson, though he quickly found himself in hot water again. Peter had long been frustrated with the quality of Chardonnay budwood available in South Africa. The cumbersome bureaucracy of the KWV meant new clones or varieties could be tied up in quarantine for a decade or more. Because of this, he and a few equally rebellious colleagues had taken matters into their own hands. They had arranged for Chardonnay cuttings to be sent from Germany to Swaziland, where they were smuggled in a logging truck over the border into South Africa. This budwood was meant to be planted in secret, passed off as the same material the nurseries were selling—a common tactic during these desperate times. Where Peter and his friends went wrong was that a significant amount of the cuttings were Auxerrois. As this variety had never been offered in South Africa, the government smelled a rat. An official investigation was launched in 1986—with the unexpected and happy result that the quarantine process was dramatically streamlined.
Hemel-en-Aarde (Photo credit: Kelli White)
Now able to operate with ease, Hamilton Russell’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir began to garner major praise. As did their winemaker. In 1989, Peter Finlayson was awarded Winemaker of the Year by Diners Club. Among the judges was Paul Bouchard of the large Burgundy négociant house, who invited the winning winemaker to Meursault. While there, Peter convinced Bouchard to join him in business, and the Bouchard Finlayson winery was established shortly thereafter. That a prominent Burgundy family would invest in a South African Pinot Noir project was major news and affirmed what the wines of Hamilton Russell had implied: that Hemel-en-Aarde was indeed a top site for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The decade that followed was a time of incredible transformation in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and, following the country’s first democratic election, became president in 1994, thereby ending apartheid. Massive changes befell the wine industry as well. The KWV’s power unwound, starting with the abandonment of the quota system in 1992. This not only cleared the way for the development of new wine regions but also allowed existing ones to be expanded. The minimum pricing system, which had encouraged growers to overcrop their vines, ended in 1994, and in 1997, the KWV was transformed into a private company with no regulatory capabilities whatsoever. And, importantly, international sanctions lifted, opening the export market to South African wineries for the first time in decades.
The dawn of the new millennium seemed to announce a fresh start for the South African wine industry. After so many years of isolation and stifling regulation, the country’s various wine regions and producers were finally free to come into their own. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of the initial investment seemed to be concentrated within South Africa’s previously unplanted coastal regions. Many of these new producers looked to Hemel-en-Aarde’s nascent but impressive success and planted Burgundian varieties. Meanwhile, Hemel-en-Aarde’s own ranks continued to swell, with most wineries tracing their roots directly back to Hamilton Russell, which has become something of a talent factory.
When Hamilton Russell was just getting started, its vineyards were the most southerly in South Africa. It was also considered part of the large Walker Bay Ward. Today, neither of those statements is true. More extreme vineyards have been cultivated, and Walker Bay was promoted to District status in 2006. Rather than declaring the broader Hemel-en-Aarde region as a single Ward within Walker Bay, the producers elected to subdivide. Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley were both granted in 2006, and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge was demarcated in 2009. The growers within the regions claim to have been inspired by the similar subdivisions that had just occurred in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, which they seem to view as a kind of sister region (Hamilton Russell is set to release its first Willamette Valley wines any day).
Of the three, the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Ward lies closest to the sea and occupies the lowest elevations. Its vineyards top out at around 200 meters, and its soils are a clay-heavy shale. This is the historic heartland, containing the region’s first two wineries: Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson. Farther inland and upslope is the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, which sees less shale and more decomposed granite and sandstone mixed in with the clay. Both these regions have predominately north and west aspects to their slopes. The Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge is located even deeper inland, separated from the other Wards by mountains. This puts the region in a different watershed, and the microclimate differs accordingly. Of the three, this is the coldest and highest Ward, with vineyards that approach 400 meters in elevation and face the chilly south and east. The nearby formidable Babylonstoren Mountains act as a cloud trap, collecting moisture and enshrouding the Ridge in regular shade. The soils are also clay-rich sandstone and granite. Across the entire Hemel-en-Aarde region, producers brag about their clay. Many credit it as the secret to their success, claiming that their 35 to 55% clay content is comparable to that found in the Côte d’Or.
The closest major town to Hemel-en-Aarde is the resort village Hermanus, famous for the southern right whales that migrate past every year. Hemel-en-Aarde is just inland from this town and is greatly affected by the Atlantic Ocean, specifically the Benguela Current that caresses the South African coast with frigid water from Antarctica. As in Constantia, cold breezes blow in from the southeast, often carrying considerable rain. Though Hemel-en-Aarde, with 750 millimeters, receives less precipitation than Constantia, winemaker Chris Albrecht from Bouchard Finlayson is quick to point out that that is still more rain than what falls annually on London! The climate is cool but not cold, warmer than Burgundy in the spring and fall but colder in the summer, rarely surpassing 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit). The maritime influence renders the climate a bit more continental than the rest of Mediterranean South Africa.
As of 2017, according to SAWIS (South Africa Wine Industry Information & Systems), the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley had 105 hectares under vine, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley had 170, and Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge had 126. All three regions are dedicated primarily to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but Sauvignon Blanc and Rhône varieties are also present in significant amounts. As with the rest of South Africa, virus is a major issue except in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. This area was the site of the first post-apartheid planting of virus-free material on a commercial scale, and its relative isolation has thus far kept it clean.
In tasting my way through the Hemel-en-Aarde region, I couldn’t help but marvel at the wines. Quality was high across the board, but the consistency of that quality was perhaps even more remarkable. There were subtle variations, of course, but the producers all seemed to embrace a similar style: hard-spined, slightly reductive, lightly oaked Chardonnay and elegant, fragrant Pinot Noir. Perhaps this is because so many of the winemakers were trained at the same place (Hamilton Russell), or maybe it’s simply that the terroir is particularly indelible. Whatever the cause, the result is a kind of compelling aesthetic unity. And though other varieties perform well (Southern Right’s Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc were both tasty, and Restless River made a hell of a cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon), the wineries seem to agree that sensitively crafted Burgundian varieties are their calling card.
By contrast, the wines of Constantia were all over the place. Though the highs were often quite high (I had some excellent dessert wines, Sémillons, white blends, and red Bordeaux blends), the lows were deep, and there were inconsistencies not only across the region but within individual portfolios. Why would this be? Clearly the potential for excellence is there; Constantia has been making top-shelf wine for longer than anywhere outside Europe. I believe the problem is too many different varieties planted, which leads to too many different wines. But it might be a temporary condition.
According to Matt Day, winemaker at Klein Constantia, the situation is rapidly improving. He is part of a kind of band of brothers, a collective of young winemaking friends that have found themselves at the helm of Constantia’s nine estates. Together, they are working hard to both revive and rewrite Constantia’s reputation. “Back in the day, I think the wineries were making a whole lot of everything, trying to appease the market. Now we are moving away from that.” In the 10 years Matt has been at Klein Constantia, he has worked to narrow the focus. They have shaved nearly 200,000 bottles off their production, mostly at the lower end, and dropped a number of wines. “Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and sweet wines are what the region should focus on. Plus, the few pockets that can do red blends and Shiraz,” he tells me. “We want people to realize that Constantia is a great cold climate growing region, and that the dessert wines are next level. That it’s not just a story of Jane Austen and Napoleon drinking sweet wine in the past.”
Boela Gerber from Groot Constantia takes a different position. He has been at the winery for 18 years and has witnessed a similar winnowing, but thinks it’s in Constantia’s nature to do a lot of things well. “We range from 40 to 250 meters. Also, we have north-facing and south-facing slopes, plus granite clay soils and lighter sandy soils—so many variations. We can’t do one or two varieties.” Indeed, their portfolio is quite varied, ranging from MCC (tradition method sparkling wine) to whites to reds to dessert wine. “We make the wines the estate wants to make, and then we find the market for them.” And with tourist visits numbering between 420,000 and 450,000 a year, that is easily done.
Tim Atkin, MW, a leading critic of South African wine, thinks the problem lies with their flagship grape. “I think Constantia has become a little untrendy, perhaps unfairly. The trouble with Sauvignon Blanc is that it’s popular, globally, but not taken that seriously. It’s easy to sell cheaply, but hard to sell at higher prices.” Matt agrees, noting, “We are working on a term called Constantia White, which would be a Sauvignon/Sémillon blend. Obviously, we can sell a blend for more than we can a Sauvignon Blanc. If we take the name Sauvignon Blanc out of it, maybe we can convince people it’s more like Sancerre.” Matt believes the signature of Sauvignon Blanc/Sémillon blends from Constantia is unique enough to merit its own niche, similar to what they enjoy with their dessert wine. “We are the little Jack Russell biting at the heels of Yquem, but we do something different. We don’t want botrytis on our dessert wines. If you have it, then you taste the same as all the others.”
Atkin goes on to posit that it’s not so much that Constantia is underperforming but that other regions are simply overperforming. His 2017 South Africa Special Report awarded a series of wines of the year: 13 went to Hemel-en-Aarde wines while only 3 went to wines from Constantia. He believes part of the reason why Hemel-en-Aarde seems so much more dynamic is that it’s much easier for a young producer to start a brand there. “Constantia has kind of like the Napa problem, where the land is so expensive it reduces risk”—implying that producers can’t contort to respond to trends with the same gymnastic ease as those less burdened by a good name. Master Sommelier Christopher Bates, a longtime buyer of South African wine, feels similarly. “In my 20 years of following South African wines, Constantia makes great ones, but the producers haven’t changed. But in Hemel-en-Aarde, it seems there’s a new winery every day. My guess is it’s impossible for a young winemaker to buy vines in Constantia. It’d be like buying vines on the hill of Hermitage. Only Hermitage is in downtown Paris.”
One of the things Peter Finlayson loves most about the current wine scene in Hemel-en-Aarde is its lack of history. “The beauty is that everybody is invested. No one came from the background of a grape-grower. All the people that arrived wanted nothing but to make great wine.” And while to many it seems as if Hemel-en-Aarde just sprang onto the scene, he knows how long it took to build the reputation. The real work—the prime directive in contemporary South Africa, what Hamilton Russell stumbled on and Constantia is making its way back to—is the matching of vine to site. Hannes Storm, another graduate of Hamilton Russel and one of the brightest talents in the region, reflects on this process. “The industry was controlled by the KWV until only around 20 years ago. And when the industry was controlled, we didn’t always plant the best cultivars on the best terroirs. In the past 20 to 30 years, we’ve had to do a lot of research just to catch up on that end.”
And perhaps that is the biggest takeaway: that the current era of South African wine is one of transformation. So much has yet to be discovered, who knows what the legendary wines of tomorrow will be? The elixirs that will titillate writers and soothe the disappointed hearts of future generations. In contemporary South Africa, even the established regions are being newly born.
Burman, Jose. Wine of Constantia. Cape Town: Human & Rousseau, 1979.
James, Tim. Wines of the New South Africa: Tradition and Revolution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013.
South Africa Wine Industry Information & Systems. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018. http://www.sawis.co.za.
Swart, Elmari and Izak Smit. The Essential Guide to South African Wines. San Francisco: Board and Bench Publishing, 2009.
Van Zyl, Philip, ed. Platter’s by Diners Club International South African Wine Guide 2018. Hermanus, South Africa: John Platter, 2017.
Wines of South Africa. Accessed Nov. 29, 2018. https://www.wosa.co.za/About-Us/WOSA. (Particularly helpful were articles by Lindsaye McGregor)
Great article Kelli. I'm interested in one particular thing you had to say. Usually I'll read that the Cape Doctor is a beneficial wind that prevents spores from landing and airdrys any moisture off the grapes (indeed even the guildsomm study guide says, "The Cape Doctor, a notoriously strong southeasterly wind, blows across the Western Cape throughout the spring and summer, inhibiting fungal disease and moderating temperature", so I was surprised to see you say that the wind can bring moisture that causes rot and fungal issues. Is this a giveth and taketh away issue? How should I think about this famous wind?
Thank you for the question. I BELIEVE that the Cape Doctor is generally a beneficial wind for more inland regions, but as it hits Constantia and the coastal regions first, they get the brunt of the moisture. But I'm a tad insecure in that data so let me circle back with you in a bit.