The Swartland (Afrikaans for "Black Land") is a large wine producing area in the Coastal Region of the Western Cape of South Africa’s Wine Of Origin system. Located an hour's drive north of Cape Town in South Africa. It gets its name from the native Rhinoceros Bush that grows across the landscape, on the rare occasion when there is rainfall, this bush turns black. The Swartland is also a major wheat producing region so in summer, the landscape takes on a soft golden hue.
The climate is hot and dry, but these dry conditions reduce the risk of fungal disease and the lack of rainfall and water in the soil causes the vines to produce lower yields and smaller, more concentrated fruit.
The dominant soil type is Malmesbury shale (Malmesbury is the name of the town that sits in the middle of the region). Pockets of granite can be found as well, especially around the hilly Paardeberg area where some of the highest vineyards above sea level in the Swartland can be found.
The four ‘sub regions’ within the Swartland are as follows:.
Paardeberg - Translates to horse mountain which divides the Swartland from the Paarl region. The diurnal temperatures in summer are quite high (can reach 35 degrees during heatwaves) but the nights are nice and cool. Winters here are typically cold with an average rainfall of 400-500mm. The vines are planted in relatively deep soil on these slopes, the soils consist of decomposed sandstone, granite and some clay, while glen Rosa-scali-type soil is found on the lower northeastern slopes.
Malmesbury - This town and surrounds has incredibly diverse soil types and climate. Although summers are typically hot and dry, certain pockets catch the cooling ocean breezes from the Atlantic. Soils range from sand to deep red, to granite, each with very different characteristics, therefore creating unique growing conditions
Riebeek Valley/Kasteelberg - The vineyards in this valley stretch along the lower contours of the Kasteelberg (castle mountain). Here the soil is predominantly Malmesbury shale with some loamy soil on the high ground and sandy loam down on the slopes, scattered with fertile Hutton soils. A classic Mediterranean climate here with low rainfall in summer, cool afternoon breezes and cold winters.
Historically, the Swartland was better known for bulk wine production and co-ops rather than fine wine production by single estates. This is certainly not the case these days! Younger winemakers have come through the ranks, rubbing their purple-stained hands in glee at the wealth of old dry-grown vines at their disposal. It’s these young mavericks that are now producing some of South Africa’s most exciting wines. In 2011, a group of Swartland producers established an organisation that is completely focused on producing wines that are truly reflective of the Swartland. This group is known as the Swartland Independent Producers. The member’s wines are easily identifiable - all bottles are Burgundian in shape and all bear the “Swartland Independent” logo. These producers are dedicated to promoting a sense of terroir. There is a hands off approach in the cellar, so no adding of acid, no tannin management, no manipulation of the final alcohol content and no use of commercial yeasts. Only specific grape varieties are permitted, and no more than 25% of the wine is allowed to go into new oak barrels.
A Swartland Independent wine must consist only the following grape varieties:
This list of grapes is reviewed every few years, as a result of new varieties being planted in the region and an assessment of their ability to express Swartland terroir.
OUR MUST TRY SWARTLAND WINES