Located in the very arid climate of Klein Karoo, Montagu is perhaps one of the most unusual of the wine wards that have been granted so far. The majority of the wards are noted for their cold conditions, which make them ideal for the production of European grapes, and traditional wines, but Klein Karoo is one of the hottest and driest areas of the wine-producing regions in South Africa, and it is certainly no place to claim a ward on the basis of a cold climate. Instead, something else has triggered the decision to grant Montagu wine ward status.
One of the reasons could be the particular climate around Klein Karoo. While it is not very convenient for the wine farmer, who must struggle with the daily irritations of not having enough water, but having too much sun, that inhibits the growth of proper vines in the area. However, the climate here, of all the climates in the wine-growing regions, is certainly unique. It has a very low rainfall, which is also rather unpredictable, and this low production is sometimes as little as 200mm a year, compared with the 1200mm a year in some coastal areas. This difference is clearly extreme, and makes Montagu at least worth considering for a ward.
Klein Karoo is virtually like a desert, with some flora and fauna scattered around. There have been major conservation issues with plant life in South Africa, and one of the initiatives was to introduce environmental legislation which applied to wine growers. There were also steps taken by wine producers, known as the Wine and Biodiversity Initiative, which encourages wine producers and farmers to do what they can to minimise the danger to wildlife through intensive vine farming. This is an initiative which Montagu and its farmers have been a big part of, and this means that the conservation of wildlife puts Montagu into the ward league.
The third reason is that, thanks to Klein Karoo’s weather and arid conditions, the climate is deemed suitable for growing wines such as Tinta Barocca that have come from the Portuguese Port-making region. These areas are normally very dry, and arid, just like the conditions around Klein Karoo. Montagu has a number of wine producers who will be growing these Port-vines, and that can also mean that it is an area of unusual distinction, worthy of being named as a wine ward.
The problems with the port vines do not stop at the growing of them, because recent legislation has ensured that only Portugal may call its wines Port, and other countries must use other names. South Africa may be obliged to use the name Cape, which has been identified as unique to the country, but it may also be a good idea to protect the area near where large amounts of the Port-vines are grown. This means ensuring that Montagu stands out from the rest of the port wine makers, and the easiest way to do this is by making it into a wine ward.