The Franschhoek valley is one of the oldest regions in South Africa, and was once known as the French quarter or corner. Once a thriving township of its own, it has now been adapted into the Stellenbosch city, and has become at risk of losing the uniqueness that led to it being named as a wine ward. Stellenbosch is one of the most well-known wine-producing regions in South Africa, being particularly well known for its red wines, which are given flavour by the soil of the area. If Franschhoek Valley has become one with Stellenbosch, then what is the difference between the ward and the district?
The Franschhoek Valley does have a unique mix of features which make it clear that it should be a wine ward, including the fact that it has an immense wine culture which goes back almost to the beginning of colonization in South Africa. The reason behind this culture is that Franschhoek Valley was an early location for French Huguenot settlers, fleeing from regions in France that were already recognised for the quality of their wine production. These settlers brought their extensive knowledge of wine with them when they came to the New World, and it is through their vigorous campaign of planting vines and farming wine productively, that South Africa was first established as a power base of wine supply.
That should really be enough to ensure that the Franschhoek Valley was granted ward status, but there are other aspects which mean that it was well worth the legislators time to create a ward for this area. Firstly, the Franschhoek Valley is particularly well-known for its small industry wine producers. Unlike the majority of wine cellars in the Winelands, the Franschhoek Valley has a large number of dedicated boutique and estate wine farms. This means that these farmers are more specialists, and more likely to understand their wine’s particular needs.
The second reason that Franschhoek Valley is a ward is the condition of the area. Firstly, it is situated at the junction of a number of Mountain ranges, and many of the vineyards are very many feet above sea level. The mountains help to keep the vines cool, which is the modern method of farming these wines, and they also keep the vines dormant during the winter, particularly those which are above the snow line, and therefore can become completely frozen during the colder months.
The ability of the Franschhoek Valley to harness these natural environmental elements in order to enhance their wines has resulted in some of the most famous bottles of wine being produced. Most common are good-quality white wines, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Semillon. Red wines are also common there, due to the nature of the thick red soil. Red wine types include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot. These red wines are often used to create Bordeaux-style blends that show off the best features of a wine farm while also demonstrating their wine-making knowledge.