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TThe Tulbagh Wine Route encompasses one of the Cape’s oldest wine-producing regions.
Wine of Origin status was conferred on Tulbagh in 1971, but it was only in 2002 that 12 wine cellars elected to form an official wine route.
Owing to its considerable size, Tulbagh has no wards, but north of the town, the so-called Little Berg Valley, is where you’ll find some of the finest cellars.
Tulbagh is encircled by the Obiqua mountains in the west, to the north by the Winterhoek Mountains, and to the east by the Witzenberg mountains.
These peaks not only give Tulbagh’s well-watered valley, drained by the south-flowing Breë and the north-flowing Berg rivers, a majestic alpine beauty, but the encapsulating horseshoe traps the cool night air in the valley, resulting in relatively cool daytime temperatures despite hot summer months.
This anomaly, along with Tulbagh cellars' northerly position in the valley, sees grapes ripen early and with high acidity – perfect for making its acclaimed methode cap classique wines.
Despite its classification as a coastal wine region, Tulbagh is far removed from the Atlantic Ocean. Rather, the southern slopes of the valley are open to cooling south-east winds in summer. This Mediterranean climate sees Tulbagh cellars receive their rainfall in winter, and often snow on the surrounding mountains.
Geographic diversity is a trademark of Tulbagh, whose mountainous terrain provides a wide variety of altitudes, aspects, and microclimates.
Planting occurs on the valley floor and in the foothills, where winemakers are able to handpick vineyard blocks to suit a particular grape variety owing to Tulbagh’s tremendous diversity of soils that range from high-lying boulder beds to valley-floor shales.
A tour of the Tulbagh Wine Route (it's best to drive yourself) rewards with friendly Boland hospitality and affordably priced, award-winning chenin blanc, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.
Moreover, with chenin blanc and colombard among Tulbagh wine farms' most planted varieties, lovers of sweet, dessert and brandy wines will not be disappointed.
Traditional though Tulbagh’s old buildings and Dutch gabled, whitewashed wine estates may appear, winemakers here are apace with developments internationally.
The 1969 earthquake may have shaken the town, but Tulbagh’s new breed of terroir-driven winemakers continues to cause a stir.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tulbagh Tourism and Wine Route
Tel: +27 (0)23 230 1375
How to get here
Take the N1 towards Paarl. Turn left at the Klapmuts/Wellington turnoff (R44). Before Wellington turn left (Hermon/Ceres), taking the R44. Continue on this road through the Nuwekloof Pass where it becomes the R46. Follow the Tulbagh signs into town. Tulbagh Tourism's offices are at No. 4 Church Street.
Best time to visit
In Spring, Tulbagh is a patchwork of green vineyards, fynbos fields, and blossoming orchards. Summer (January to April) brings harvest festivals and fruits in season, and winter (May to early September) sees russet vineyards and snow on the peaks.
Things to do
The Groot Winterhoek wilderness area for walking and hiking trails, and mountain biking. Also, go fruit picking (in season), horse riding, and fishing. Nearby are the towns of Gouda, Wolseley, Ceres and Prince Alfred.
You can do walking tours of historic Church Street, and guided tours of the Oude Kerk Volksmuseum (also called the Tulbagh Museum) and the Oude Drosdy Museum.
What to pack
Tulbagh’s summers are hot. Sun protection and cool clothing is advisable. Pack a warm jacket, though, as nights can be surprisingly cool. Winter is crisp and cold, so bundle up.
Where to stay
You can stay at Rijk’s Country House (five-star), the Tulbagh Hotel (four-star), B&Bs, farm and mountain self-catering cottages and chalets, guesthouses, caravan parks and campsites.
What to eat
Sample classic Cape Dutch cuisine at Paddagang (booking essential), or order a gourmet picnic from Schoonderzicht and have it delivered to one of 8 scenic venues in Tulbagh. In season, enjoy Tulbagh’s wide variety of deciduous and citrus fruits.