South Africa is home to a growing number of wine farms, and there are between 800 and 1000 at present. These estates, often with historical backgrounds in viticulture, occupy the areas closest to the coast, along the Western and Southern Cape, and going inland as far as Klein Karoo. The term wine farms is somewhat misleading, since it refers to what is known in other countries as a winery – a place not just for growing grapes, but for fermenting, blending and bottling the wine that comes from that fruit. This means that even a smallholding can become a wine farm if it manages to produce enough bottles of its own vintage wine.
The region where the grapes are grown, and where wine farms are found, is also known as the Winelands of South Africa. These lands are divided into different regions, based upon local area distinctions, and then into districts within those regions. The districts tend to be marked out by land boundaries including mountain ranges and rivers. Inside those districts are Wards, areas of land marked out for particular notice due to soil, climate or land position distinctions. This makes locating a wine farm much easier, since the wine will always have a Wine of Origin label, giving you information about the particular estate.
The majority of wine farms in South Africa are not limited to one single varietal of wine, and instead produce both red and white grapes. Some wine farms may even have more than one estate, perhaps spread over different districts or regions, in order to get better diversity in the taste of their grapes. The Graham Beck wine farm, for example, has four estates growing a range of different fruits, both red and white, which are then made into wine at two different locations.
There are so many different wine farms that it can be difficult to be informed about every single one. Some of the most famous wine makers of the last century have made wine for a number of different wine farms during their time, and this can make it harder to select a certain range of wine farms as superior to the rest. One way of getting about and trying some of the wine produced by the different wine estates is to go along an official wine tour. These follow Wine Routes, selecting wine farms that are in close proximity to a major road. There are now important wine routes along all of the wine regions, and also many along the districts, too. These Wine Routes were not put together at the same time, but where campaigned for by wine farmers for many decades, in order to allow domestic drinkers in South Africa to sample their wines. It has now become a major tourist talking point.
Selecting a particular wine farm to provide you with all your wine needs is not necessary in South Africa, since there are so many to choose from. Even drinkers in Cape Town do not need to select the Constantia wine farms as their sole providers, but can have their wines brought in from Klein Karoo, or as close by as the Western Cape. There are many different wine farms out there, and sampling a few of them can help you find the wines that you really like.