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TThe historic Wellington wine route is just 45 minutes' drive from Cape Town. The region was first inhabited by San and Khoi nomads, followed by French huguenot refugees who settled in the valley in 1688 and eventually named it Val Du Charron or Wagenmakersvallei ('valley of the cartwrights').
The Wellington Wine Route comprises 3 producer cellars, 26 member producers and a sprinkling of garagiste winemakers (in South Africa a ‘garagiste’ refers to ‘an artisanal winemaker who makes 9 000 litres per vintage or less’), all within easy driving distance of each other.
Surrounded by the Groenberg, Slanghoek and Hawequa mountains, you enter the valley via Bain’s Kloof Pass – a winding road and famous landmark built between 1848 and 1852 by engineer Andrew Geddes Bain – which provides magnificent views of Wellington’s wine farms below.
Wellington is a ward of Paarl, a coastal wine region within the Western Cape province.
Wellington's winelands are among the warmest in the world. The area experiences temperatures that are fiercely hot in summer and extremely cold in winter due to the mountain ranges surrounding the valley.
Above-average winter rainfall coupled with these climatic extremes creates unique meso- and micro-climates in the Wellington vineyards, especially those in the foothills of Bovlei and the Groenberg.
On the mountain slopes, weathered granite and sandstone soils with a high clay content, good acidity and water retention predominate. Descending into the valley, rich organic oakleaf topsoil in the foothills gives way to shale and alluvial deposits on the valley floor.
This combination of altitudes, soil types, drainage, micro-climates and sun exposures not only gives Wellington’s cabernet sauvignon, pinotage, shiraz, chardonnay and chenin blanc wines their character, but has made Wellington the Cape’s vine nursery and a top wine-growing area.
The Wellington wine route is hot stuff for more than its climate and terroir. Good-value gurus will delight in Wellington’s 3 producer wineries while serious oenophiles are sure to depart with carloads of investment wines from top estates.
Add scenic beauty, historic Cape Dutch architecture and gracious hospitality, and wine lovers who visit this lesser-known wine route will want to return to Wellington again and again.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Drakenstein Local Tourism Association
Tel: +27 (0)21 864 1378
Wellington Wine Route Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +27 (0)21 872 4842
How to get here
Wellington is 75km from Cape Town. Follow the N1 highway north-east and at exit 47, signposted as the R44 (Wellington via Agter Paarl), turn left off the N1. Follow the R44 for 20km until you reach the 4-way stop. Cross over the 4-way stop and drive 2km, through two sets of traffic lights. Turn left into the centre of Wellington, and you’ll find the tourism information centre on your left.
Best time to visit
Visit Wellington in late spring/ early summer if harvest festivals are your thing, or head here in winter for snow on the peaks and cosy log fires.
Around the area
Visit the SAD dried-fruit factory shop and the Wellington Museum. Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek winelands are a short drive away, or venture north-east to Ceres and the quaint hamlet of Prince Alfred, or north-west to the Groot Winterhoek Nature Reserve and the Swartland.
Tours to do
Tour Wellington’s brandy producers, all within driving distance from one another, or go horse riding or walking. Wine Walks specialises in 1 to 3-day walking trails around Wellington.
It's best to drive yourself or use the services of a tour operator. Wellington has no car-hire facilities, but shuttles can be arranged to wine farms through the tourism office. Alternately, catch the train or hire and fly a helicopter to Welbedacht estate.
What will it cost?
The majority of Wellington wine farms do not charge to taste wines. Those that do will waive the fee if wines are purchased.
Length of stay
The Wellington wine route is compact and can be explored in a weekend.
What to pack
Wellington summer and winter temperatures can be extreme. Pack season-appropriate clothing, including sun protection in summer.
Where to stay
Serviced and self-catering cottages are popular in Wellington but, if you prefer, you’ll also find 5-star guesthouses that will pamper you royally.
What to eat
Wellington is a famous fruit-farming area, producing deciduous and citrus fruits, including guavas, apricots, olives, avocado pears, mangoes and wine grapes.
Wellington’s Wine Harvest Festival usually takes place in March.
Buy shiraz, pinotage, Bordeaux blends and dried fruits. Winebums Wine Bar has a range of 68 wines, 6 pot-still brandies and 2 grappas, all from Wellington’s smaller wineries. Distell's James Sedgwick distillery at the foot of Bain’s Kloof produces South Africa’s only single-grain malt whisky.