The Santam Swartland Wine & Olive Route
Did you know?
The Swartland is home to award-winning olive and olive oil producers Het Vlock Kasteel and Kloovenburg.
The Santam Swartland Wine and Olive Route covers one of the Western Cape’s largest wine-producing areas. The landscape here is idyllic: quaint yet trendy villages surrounded by expansive fields of wheat and canola, dairy pastures, vineyards and olive groves, all framed by distant mountains that are snow-covered in winter.
Stretching from the Paardeberg mountains in the south to the Picketberg in the north, the Swartland is a coastal wine-growing district with 2 wards, Malmesbury and Riebeekberg, and a large unappellated area.
Owing to the geographic extent of the region, the West Coast Wine Route is demarcated into 4 regions for ease of exploration: Paardeberg, Riebeek Valley, Malmesbury, and Berg River.
Swartland winemakers refer to the unique terroir of each area as its ‘DNA’. Further, the Swartland is distinct from other wine production regions by virtue of the enormous diversity of soil types: granite, shale, clay, and slate found here, and its dryland bushvines.
Since the 1800s bushvines have been the traditional way of cultivating vineyards in the Swartland. This method, where untrellised vines are allowed to grow naturally in the region's Mediterranean climate, with minimal human intervention or irrigation, produces low yields of small but intensely flavoured berries.
This minimalist, some might say old-fashioned, philosophy is at the centre of a wine-making revolution, spearheaded by a new generation of boutique, family-run, and garagiste producers from the Swartland.
Outspoken proponents of hand-harvested and crafted, natural wines, produced sustainably and in small quantities, many Swartland winemakers use technically unproductive ‘old’ vines (vines that are 40 to 60 years old and more) and wild yeasts from their vineyards to make their wines.
In so doing, they are defining themselves, and their wines, in the context of terroir with a fervour that borders on an artistic movement. Even the local corporate wineries are onboard.
Whether you regard Swartland winemakers as visionaries or cowboy-cranks, the region’s wines that range from double-gold medal winners for just a few rands a bottle, to top dollar for a handmade elixir, speak for themselves.
Classic Rhône-style white blends, and particularly Chenin Blancs made from unfashionable old vines, exhibit structure, complexity, and layers of flavour that are causing the rest of the wine industry to take note.
Add the Swartland’s signature Shiraz, Mourvédre and Grenache - characteristically dark in colour, full and layered with smooth tannins - and it seems that the Swartland’s 20-odd winemakers aren’t so crazy after all.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Santam Swartland Wine Route
Tel:+27 (0)22 487 1133
Fax +27 (0)22 487 2063
Porterville Tourism Bureau
Tel/Fax: +27 (0)22 931 3732
Riebeek Valley Tourism
Tel/Fax: +27 (0)22 448 1545