Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa. Early settlers were encouraged to plant oak trees, resulting in oak tree-lined streets, and the town becoming known as a village of oaks, or “Eikestad”. In fact, some of the oaks have become national monuments. Or maybe they could use the oak in place of the French or California oak used for their aging barrels? In 1859, the theological seminary was established, leading to their heritage as a leading educational center. In 1918, the University of Stellenbosch was established, and continues as one of the leading universities on the continent.
Surrounded by beautiful mountains, Stellenbosch was the first wine route in South Africa in 1971. It is the largest wine route in South Africa, containing over 140 wineries. The area has won the most wine awards per capita than any region in South Africa.
Those of us from California think that the wine world revolves around the Napa and Sonoma Valleys, perhaps also including the Central coast. In a broader view, we might even think of wine regions like Washington, Oregon, and upstate New York. Beyond our borders, New Zealand, Australia, and South America come to mind. But South Africa is rapidly becoming a wine center in its own right. And it is so much more affordable.
The US has 1,180,000 hectares under cultivation as grape vineyards, compared to only 134,000 hectares in South Africa. France is second to the US with 834,000 hectares. What the heck is a hectare? A Hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square meters. For those of us familiar with the term acre, there are 2.471 acres in a hectare.
Perhaps the best feature of these wineries is the fact they are small and cannot accommodate tour buses. As we moved so nimbly by auto, no wine can be left unturned. The famous South African golfer, Ernie Els, has a winery here. Some of the wineries make goat cheese. I’ll pass on those. Another highly rated winery is Tokara Estates. The area is also studded with numerous Bed and Breakfast Inns and restaurants reflecting the area rich agricultural heritage. In fact, we ate at a very upscale place called Indochine, worthy of most places in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys back home.