The Spotlight N°3 - Swartland
Characterised by an austere name that translates from Afrikaans as 'black land’, (paying homage to the renosterbos, a native bush that turns a picturesque ebony colour after rainfall), Swartland is a land of contrast and extreme diversity in its landscape.
From sprawling fields of grain to thriving orchards and, of course, spectacular vineyards specialise in making rich, fruit-driven wines, particularly from the Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage grape varieties.
Situated just 25 miles north of the vibrant Cape Town, in the sun-kissed western Cape of South Africa, this wine region is distinguished by several influences ranging from is 3 different Mountain ranges, lush rolling hills and the Atlantic Ocean.
With its 11,500 hectares of vineyards, Swartland has a relatively modern history dating back just 4 decades to the 1980s – in South Africa, only 4000ha of South Africa’s total 90500ha of vineyards are 35 years and older. However, it's not only
the natural beauty that defines Swartland; it's also the passionate individuals who work to create exceptional expressions of this land.
From internationally-renowned cooperatives to independent wine producers, the passionate individuals of Swartland are challenging conventions and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with their extraordinary creations.
Their wines are a testament to the unwavering commitment and expertise that helped put Swartland on the international fine wine map in the last 20 years.
Swartland remains unapologetically true to its roots, in each sip of wine crafted from this exceptional region, we can taste its wild essence.
TERROIR AND CLIMATE
A land of great abundance, famous for its wealth and olive tree cultivation, Swartland is a region with a wide variety of terroirs due to its diverse geology and climate.
The topography is varied, featuring vineyards on steep mountain foothills as well as gently folding hillsides.
The ancient geology of the region, combined with characteristic sandy soils mixed with clay and granite, creates a well-drained and nutrient-poor environment, posing challenges for cultivation. However, these conditions also result in wines with exceptional concentration and character. The dominant soil type in Swartland is Malmesbury shale, named after the town of Malmesbury situated in the middle of the region. Additionally, pockets of granite can be found, particularly around the Paardeberg area.
While these soils offer good drainage, they also retain enough water in their lower layers to support irrigation-free farming techniques extensively employed throughout the region. The bush vines, in particular, develop deep root systems to access water reserves, resulting in robust vines and grapes with concentrated flavours.
The climate in Swartland ranges from dry and Mediterranean in the south to cooler and more continental in the north. Being conditioned by the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the region benefits from ocean breezes that help moderate the climate and bring a salty tang found in some of the region's wines.
The drier conditions of the Swartland region result in smaller grape berries that have increased levels of concentration and flavour components, undiluted by excessive irrigation. Valuable minerals and nutrients are prevented from washing away, and in spring, when the grain dies back, it forms a protective blanket over the soil, further reducing moisture loss during the long hot summers and also curbing the growth of weeds.
The main grape varieties grown in Swartland are Chenin Blanc and Shiraz/Syrah:
Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in the region, can be made in a variety of styles in Swartland, from dry and mineral-driven to sweet and honeyed dessert wines.
Shiraz or Syrah is another important grape variety in Swartland, often blended with Grenache to create a Southern Rhone-style blend, it also can be made in a variety of styles, from light and fruity to full-bodied and spicy.
Other grape varieties grown in Swartland include Grenache both Noir and Blanc, Mourvèdre, Pinotage, and Carignan, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Clairette Blanche, Palomino (Fransdruif/Vaalblaar), Sémillon (Groendruif), Muscat Alexandrie, Muscat d’Frontignan, Colombard and Verdelho.