Swartland Wine & Olive Route
The raw and rugged Swartland - an area of extreme diversity - boasts wide-open horizons. Here, bush vines and trellised vines stand alongside wheat fields and olive groves in an area with many microclimates and soils.
Vineyards stretch along the banks of the Berg River and clamber up the rolling hills so typical of this area, and backroad wineries echo the terroir, with communities pursuing individual expression through wine, food, word and art.
The Swartland, which literally translates to “black land”, takes its name from the now endangered and indigenous renosterbos (“rhino bush”), which once turned the landscape a dark colour at certain times of the year.
There are numerous restaurants, delis and coffee shops in the quaint towns of the Swartland. Fresh local produce and crafts can be bought at the local markets including hip new Bill & Co. The Village Market in Riebeek West takes place on the first Saturday of every month and is a very popular local hang-out. At the Piket-bo-Berg Farmers Market, on the farm Kruistement, fresh produce can be bought on the last Saturday of every month. The Langs-die-bos Market in Malmesbury is also gaining popularity.
The Swartland offers a huge variety of outdoor activities. Walks and hikes are popular, as are 4x4 trails, and for the more adventurous there’s hang-gliding, paragliding, canoeing, clay-pigeon shooting and horse riding, to name but a few.
Terroir, tradition, as well as diversity and innovation, are the trademarks of one of South Africa’s most up-and-coming and exciting wine regions. The region not only boasts a great diversity in soil and micro-climate, but also in winemaking philosophies.
Harsh summer conditions, the Atlantic Ocean’s proximity and mild winters with low rainfall all contribute to the uniqueness of the area’s wines. The area is predominantly known for its excellent Shiraz, Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, but producers are continuously experimenting with new varieties like Viognier, Malbec, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre. The soils and climate also lend themselves to the production of top-quality Rhône varietals, as the area’s terroir is similar to that of the south of France.
The area’s vines are hardy and although trellising is increasingly being adopted, older bush vines, which are less stressed and result in well-balanced wines with excellent structure and full of flavour, are still dominating the scene. Little or no irrigation ensure low yields and therefore an excellent concentration of fruit flavours in the berries.
The Santam Swartland Wine- & Olive Route boasts numerous members including private cellars, garagistes and wine merchants. Smaller wineries, such as The Sadie Family Wines, offer intimate tastings in rustic cellars, whilst family farms, such as Allesverloren, dating back generations, welcome visitors with Swartland warmth and cheer.
Malmesbury is the Swartland’s largest town, established over 265 years, and is the main business centre of the area. The historic town is surrounded by wine, wheat, dairy and sheep farms. The town’s Heritage Route includes the Malmesbury Museum and several historical buildings. Swartland Winery, the local golf course and mountain bike trails are popular attractions. Hofstraat Winery, a garagista winery, in the town, is open by appointment only. A number of small boutique style wineries that are open by appointment only are situated in the nearby Paardeberg.
The twin villages Riebeek West and Riebeek Kasteel are home to several wineries and olive producers, including the historic Allesverloren and Kloovenburg. Other producers include Pulpit Rock, Het Vlock Casteel, Riebeek Cellars and Mullineux Leeu Family Wines. A number of artists have settled in the Valley and various curio shops and an art gallery are open to the public.
Piketberg is situated on the slopes of the Piketberg Mountain. The town has a historical Route, which includes the Dutch Reformed Church that is made of sandstone. Several protea and fruit farms are situated on top of the mountain. The nearby Org de Rac, an organic wine farm, and the Winkelshoek complex are popular attractions. Mountain biking and hiking on the mountain are becoming increasingly popular.
Wildehurst Winery and Nieuwedrift Vineyards are both small boutique wine producers that are open by appointment only, are situated near the town Koringberg. Koringberg is a small village surrounded by wheat farms. Top things to see and do in the Swartland include:
Olive oil tastings at Het Vlock Casteel, Kloovenburg and the Olive Boutique
Skydiving outside Malmesbury
Bird watching (various routes)
Local artists and art galleries
Watersports (skiing at Misverstand Dam, angling at various dams)
Historical routes (in the towns of Malmesbury and Piketberg, and in the Riebeek Valley)
Various country markets (in the towns of Malmesbury and Piketberg, and in the Riebeek Valley)
- Various interesting restaurants
Annual wine and food festivals include the annual Riebeek Cellars Grape Stomp in February and the Riebeek Valley Olive Festival in May.
Make sure these MTB-friendly wineries are on your route
The advent of mountain bike (MTB) enthusiasm has been a boon for many wineries. Many have dramatically expanded their offerings to cater specifically to this sport.
At the same time, these routes have given wine-lovers a new way to explore old favourites too.
The list that follows comprises a small selection of intersecting trails and wineries in diverse regions of the Cape Winelands. Most of the trails require permits and more information about these may be found at corresponding links.
From Vine to Glass: South African Wine & Traceability
In the Middle Ages wax seals were used to authenticate documents. South Africa’s own sustainability wine seal does a similar job. The seal guarantees that the information on the bottle label about the variety, vintage and origin of the wine is accurate and that the wine has been grown and made in an environmentally friendly way. To date, South Africa is the only country in the world with such an all-encompassing guarantee.