Hout Bay, in the Cape Point district of South Africa, is one of the more recently named wards. It was easily overshadowed by competitors such as the Constantia ward, which could rely upon its fame as a producer of fine wines since the end of the 17th century. Constantia is one of the most well-known wards and wine-producing areas in the Winelands, simply because of its long history, but this was not the case for Hout Bay, which has just not been head of until recently. When struggling to become a ward on the basis of uniqueness, being anonymous can be a very difficult problem to overcome.
Yet Hout Bay really should not be invisible. It was one of the first places to be colonised when the Dutch first landed in the middle of the 17th century, the name Hout meaning Wood in Afrikaans, and implying that the bay was at one point very important to the settlers, who needed wood to build homes and start farming. Once the wood had been cleared from the bay, it was then turned into a pair of farms. The area has a long connection with the Dutch Settlers, and it was certainly farmed during the periods when viticulture was at its highest in South Africa, but in order to find out why Hout Bay became a ward, other factors need to be considered.
Hout Bay has two wineries on its land area, the Hout Bay vineyard, and another producing sparkling wine. The reason that the wine farms are there is due to the exposed area of ground that is Hout Bay. It is directly exposed to the sea, and there are a number of mountains around it to funnel that Ocean wind, and ensure that it reaches the vines. The mountains also provide a source of altitude for the vineyards, meaning that they can get the vines even colder by planting them up the sides of the mountain.
The cold climate wine-growing method is very much in vogue now, as farmers realise that it is the best way to produce a strong crop of plants from European backgrounds. The majority of the vines which have been brought to South Africa have been used to cold climates, and particularly to very cold winters which are an essential part of the vine’s life cycle. Without that cold, and with too much warmth, the vine will not flourish, and the grape yield will be very small.
This factor means that Hout Bay ward was given the title due to the defining nature of its climate, which can ensure that planted vines are able to thrive, even where the ground is tricky, or where the growing methods are not the most up-to-date available. By defining this area as a ward, the WO legislation is clearly making room for more cold climate areas to become wards in the future, and this could mean an explosion in the number of wards which each district has a year from now.