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May 24, 2012

Explore the tastes of the Cape Winelands

Try Durbanville Hills' version of a pintoage, South Africa's signature wine variety. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

A day in the Cape Winelands is usually a highlight of every Cape Town visitor’s itinerary. Set against a backdrop of rolling vineyards, stark-white heritage buildings, ageing trees and dusky purple mountains, the superb cuisine and wines of the region make for memorable adventures best enjoyed with a tour guide or designated driver. To whet your appetite, we have compiled a few Cape wine facts to mull over:

• South Africa’s wine roots can be traced back to the Dutch East India Company settling in the country in 1652, with its first harvest taking place in 1659.

• Vineyard planting was intended to produce wines and grapes used to ward off scurvy among sailors during their travels along the spice route.

• South Africa’s first wine was recorded on February 2, 1659, made by Cape Town’s founder, Jan van Riebeeck.

• The Constantia Valley is said to be the birthplace of South Africa’s wine farming industry. Constantia was the first wine estate to be established in 1685 and, at one time, Constantia’s wines were considered to be one of the greatest wines in the world.

• South Africa has the oldest wine industry outside of Europe and the Mediterranean.

• Pinotage is South Africa's signature wine variety, first developed in 1925.

• South Africa boasts the longest wine route in the world. Cape Route 62 is a tourist route running through the Western Cape and Eastern Cape, stretching from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.

• South Africa is committed to sustainable wine farming. Nearly all of South African wine is grown in the Cape Floral Region, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site, covering 553 000 hectares. Many wine producers put land and their expertise into conserving the area, and many associations within the industry are working to correct the socio-economic imbalances of South Africa’s troubled past, such as the Fairtrade Label and the Wine and Agricultural Industry Ethical Trade Association.

• Many wine estates host festivals and events around harvest time that you should keep an eye out for. The closest wine routes to Cape Town’s city centre are Constantia Valley and Durbanville Hills.

• South Africa’s wine industry has grown tremendously in the past few years. This year Cape Town will host the first annual Vindaba event from September 25 to 27, 2012 at the CTICC. Vindaba will run in conjunction with the Cape Wine 2012 event. Both events are exhibitions which focus on trade promotion and exposure.

• In addition to wine, brandy has been distilled in South Africa for over 300 years and has a rich history in the Cape Winelands.

The Cape Winelands covers a vast area, so one day will not be nearly enough to cover the entire area. If you would like to sample the abudant offerings, soak up the atmosphere, take in the gorgeous view and enjoy a meal, pick your favourite varietal of wine and contact us for advice on where you are most likely to find it at its best.

Oh, and many wine farms will ship your orders for you so you can take a little bit of the Cape home to share with your friends. Cheers!

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