Before molecular gastronomy was a culinary buzzword and chefs took it upon themselves to seek art and atoms in their stock pots, the winemakers of Hemel-en-Aarde were pioneering another scientific wisdom: terroir – the influence that the natural environment, and, some say, the personality of the winemaker have on growing grapes and making wine.

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The Hermanus Wine & Food Festival has been nominated as one of the 10 best wine shows in South Africa.

Every cellar along the Hermanus Wine Route, which follows the Walker Bay wine region's R320 and meanders through the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (or heaven on earth, in Afrikaans), is worth visiting for more than just the wine.

Located in Hermanus in the Western Cape, this out-of-the-ordinary wine route includes 15 wineries, each producing small amounts of premium quality wine.

The winemakers of the Hermanus Wine Route specialise in highly individual, origin-expressive wines. Plantings are limited to grape varieties in soil types that will complement the terroir-driven style they aim for. It’s about expressing the personality of the individual vineyard through its wine.

As a result, the Hemel-en-Aarde wine district is patronised by those in the know, who come to buy arguably the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir the Cape has to offer; and by those who chance upon the cellars here and feel like they’ve discovered a viticultural grail trail.

For those making the wine pilgrimage for the first time, prepare to be amazed. The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley is a spectacularly beautiful place, enfolded by the Babylonstoring and Raed-na-Gael mountains. Enter the valley from Hermanus and wind your way through 20km of heavenly scenery, interspersed with vineyards and cellars.

Hemel-en-Aarde vineyards Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russell are internationally acclaimed producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, with newer cellars like Hermanuspietersfontein, Newton Johnson, Creation Wines and Ataraxia set to entrench the area’s world-class reputation.

Mineral Sauvignon Blancs are a mainstay of the area and fine Pinotage, Merlot and Shiraz are also being produced here. New cultivars include Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Mourvèdre, Viognier and Grenache. Visit Whalehaven for some interesting Italian-style wines under the Enoteca Bottega label.

The Hermanus Wine Village is a one-stop shop that showcases Cape wines, olives and local produce under one roof.

Where there is fine wine, fine food will follow. Heaven Restaurant at Newton Johnson vineyards serves elegant bistro fare, and Creation Wines offers food and wine pairings using only locally sourced produce.

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