From ancient soils and a climate perfect for vine cultivation to unsurpassed vistas, the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley has been blessed and is keen to share these blessings, writes EMILE JOUBERT.
As far as wine regions go, Hemel-en-Aarde appears to have it all. Ancient soils of clay, decomposed granite and shale combine with a cool maritime climate to offer an individual terroir for vineyard cultivation. The fruit of the cultivators’ labour is presented each year in vintages of wines brimming with character and class, brightly displaying the fingerprint of a unique geography and the impassioned skill of those farming the vines and making the wine. And being in a relatively small region along a 20km stretch of valley-slicing road, the producers are allowed the luxury of focus, both in terms of quality and in their choices of grapes grown and wine made.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards pioneered Hemel-en-Aarde’s vinous ambitions when patriarch Tim Hamilton Russell bought the first piece of land destined for vineyard-growing in 1975. The focus was on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, varieties that were new to the South African wine scene at the time, but hit the country with a bang when Hamilton Russell’s first wines were released in 1981.
Four decades later, wine quality and terroir distinction have pushed Hemel-en-Aarde to the top end of the Cape’s wine regions. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay still drive the identity, although certain producers are making great wines from, among others, Cabernet Sauvignon, Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz.
The quality of the wines is complemented by the valley’s stunning beauty and tourist offerings that exhibit creativity and class, all within reach of the ocean at Walker Bay. And wine estates like Newton Johnson Vineyards, Creation, Bouchard Finlayson, Restless River and Ataraxia are living the dream.
Read more about each of the estates by clicking on the links below:
Part 1: Restless River
Part 2: Creation
Part 3: Newton Johnson Vineyards
Part 4: Hamilton Russell Vineyards
Part 5: Bouchard Finlayson
Part 6: Ataraxia