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HHermanus is best known for its peerless land-based whale watching opportunities, but the region is also home to estates that produce wines with a distinctive character. A visit to Hemel-en-Aarde is a must for wine lovers: the beautiful mountainous valley spills out above the Atlantic Ocean.
The name means ‘heaven and earth’ in Afrikaans, an apt description of the area’s scenic beauty. Here in the middle of Hermanus wine-farming country, the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Cape Overberg mountain range is dotted with young vineyards that produce home-grown nectar of the gods.
The terroir of the region – clay soil and cooling sea breezes – give the wines their unique flavour, one that is often compared to northern French wines. Surrounded by the majestic Overberg peaks, the valley provides a sheltered location for the production of many varietals, the most popular being pinot noirs and chardonnays.
There are 15 estates in the valley – starting with Hermanuspietersfontein (‘Hermanus Pieter’s Spring’ in Afrikaans) and ending with Domain des Dieux (‘Home of the Gods’ in French). Some, like Southern Right, take their inspiration from the whales. Others, like Creation and Mount Babylon, are informed by the names of the valleys in which they lie. Don’t pass through without visiting La Vierge (‘The Virgin’ in French), Ashbourne, Spookfontein (‘Ghost Spring’ in Afrikaans), Ataraxia and Jakob’s Vineyard.
The boutique winery of Whalehaven lies close to Hemel-en-Aarde village. It produces notable pinot noir and viognier-chardonnay. On the way to Caledon you’ll come upon the Hamilton Russell winery, producer of a pinot noir and a chardonnay, both accorded five stars by the John Platter wine guide. Bouchard Finlayson comes complete with a tasting room in which to sample the seven wines produced here. These include the highly regarded Galpin Peak pinot noir.
Then there’s Sumaridge estate, which has a beautiful picnic site, a stone cellar and a restaurant with a view over the valley. Sumaridge has won several awards and is famous for its pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
Newton Johnson Wines is a family-run business specialising in chardonnay, felicité, syrah mourvédre, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Add a bonus trip to your valley visit by stopping at Beaumont Wines en route to Bot River, where wines are handcrafted following ancient tradition.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)28 312 2629
Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Wine Village
Tel: +27 (0)28 316 3988
How to get here
The entrance to the valley is at the confluence of the R43 to Hermanus and R320 to Caledon. Follow the R43 to Bot River to reach Beaumont Wines, 25km from Hermanus.
Best time to visit
The warm summery months from September to April.
Self-drive on your own relaxed schedule.
Around the area
Bredasdorp is close to the De Hoop Nature Reserve: 60 000 hectares of endangered fynbos, with the country’s largest gathering of bontebok and the endangered mountain zebra.
What to eat
Try Newton Johnson Wines, which has a restaurant called Heaven. Sumaridge Wine Estate also has a restaurant that serves light meals.
The nearby towns of Elgin, Hermanus, Napier, Greyton and Stanford all host weekly markets that sell crafts, food, wine, fish and locally produced fare.
The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Wine Village showcases more than 1 500 different wines created by 600 producers.