The wine-growing area in South Africa is located within a two hour radius of Cape Town in the southwestern corner of the country. This area has a Mediterranean climate suited to premium wines. It is temperate and there is abundant sunshine during the growing season. The grapes are kept cool by the strong southeasterly winds that blow over the South Atlantic Ocean from the Antarctic. Because of the consistency of the climate, there are not radical vintage variations. The first wines were made in the 1650s.
The moderate Mediterranean climate of the Cape is temperate with southeasterly Antarctic winds cooling the effect of the summer sun. A winter northwesterly wind brings bouts of rain and moderately cool temperatures. Occasionally, the peaks of the highest mountains in the winelands are dusted with snow. As a broad generalization, temperatures range from 55° - 75° in the summer months and 45° - 55° in the winter. Paarl is often 5° warmer than Stellenbosch, which is warmer than Walker Bay. Where the northwesterly winds bring rain, the southeaster blows it away. Both the summer and winter winds are often gale force, blowing between 25 - 60 miles per hour. January to June is usually calm, with gentle breezes and little rainfall. Harvest is February through April.
Although the wine growing regions cover a vast expanse of the Western Cape, the premium estate wine is grown mostly within a ninety minute drive of the city of Cape Town. In this southwestern tip of the country (red semi-circle on topographic map below), the mountains interupt the wind flow capturing the winter rain / summer winds weather pattern that is ideal for wine vines. The land north of the mountains is savanna and to the east, tropical.
SOIL TYPES The first land formed some 600 million years ago when the Paarl Mountain intruded their massive granite domes into the marine sediment. The Paarl Rocks are the second largest granite outcrop in the world, measuring some 654 meters (the largest outcrop is Ayers Rock in Australia). Table Mountain with its symmetric pose over Cape Town and its expansive body and tail to Cape Point, formed its imposing position some 400 million years ago. This was a time of great activity as the impressive mountains around Stellenbosch and Franschhoek also date from this time. The rock formations of the Table Mountain era is that of younger sandstone resting on a floor of slate and granite.
The age, composition and relative stability of the Table Mountain structure created a unique environment for flora and fauna. There are more unique species of plant life on Table Mountain than any other ecological site. On the top of Table Mountain alone, there are more than five times the number of unique floral species than have been catalogued in the entire state of California.
Three basic parent materials produce the following soil types: