Worcester South Africa

An hour’s drive from Cape Town brings you to the Worcester winelands, the largest in terms of winegrowing area and volume in conjunction with the Breedekloof district. With more than 250 years of winemaking knowledge and close to 20,000 cultivated hectares, it accounts for almost 30% of the country’s wine and spirits production. This is also the Cape’s most productive brandy region and home to the largest brandy cellar in the world. The Worcester Wine Route forms part of Cape Route 62, the longest wine route in the world.

Unique Blend of Tradition and Terroir

During the late 17th century, the Worcester region was home to abundant wildlife and was used as a hunting ground, and in the mid-19th century  German settlers started cultivating the land and planting vineyards and orchards. The town falls under the municipality of the Breede River Valley and lies surrounded by wine farms and majestic mountains, the latter not only contributing to the area’s mysterious beauty but also playing an important role in the quality of crops and wine. Winelands stretch from Wolseley and the Hex River Valley to Villiersdorp, protected from extreme weather conditions by mountain ranges all around. Summers are hot and dry, and winters cold, wet and occasionally snowy.

Worcester Vineyards and Wines

Wines have been produced for generations and today the area of Worcester is nationally  praised for its Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Columbar. The Worcester Wine Route was also the first ever to produce a Braille wine bottle, and a percentage of its sales goes to the Institute for the Blind. Award-winning wines are bound to appeal to true connoisseur, but you’ll also be able to find some of the best value-for-money produce.

Because of the district’s terroir variations, wine styles significantly vary and encompass both red and white varieties. Grapes are mostly grown on the valley floor, though wines of higher quality come from vineyards situated on mountain slopes. Well-drained soils help produce vines with highly concentrated fruit and consequently more complex and concentrated wines.

The Worcester winelands consists of 24 cooperatives, several private wineries and couple of brandy cellars. Among numerous estates along the Worcester Wine Route, most of which are open for tastings, you’ll find Slanghoek Wine Cellar which was established back in 1951. It’s situated in the picturesque Slanghoek Valley, 20 kilometers from Worcester and 880m above sea level. The soils and microclimate combined with innovative technology and modern cellar equipment, result in renowned and award-winning red, white, sparkling and dessert wines.

Another prize-winning estate, the Nuy Wine Cellar, purposely runs a limited operation to ensure that an experienced eye watches over each and every part of the winemaking process. The Du Toits Kloof Wine Cellar, tucked away in a corner of the Breede River valley, was established as a co-operative in 1962 by six wine farmers. Today it encompasses 22 member farms belonging to 11 families which live in a close-knit community and produce exceptional wines.

Founded in 1946, De Wet Cellar is the oldest cellar in the Worcester area, processing about 18,000 tons of grapes each year. Opstal winery is a 7th generation family-run estate renowned for their hospitality and friendliness. The estate originated in 1847 but it wasn’t until 1950 that the owner decided to make his own wines, which today include Shiraz, Pinotage and Cinsaut.

Where to Go and What to Do

The best time of the year to explore the Worcester Wine Route is probably during spring and autumn, when weather conditions are perfect for outdoor wine tasting and lunches. You can get a good insight into how grapes go from vine to table by visiting one of the family-run vineyards and taking part in grape picking or stomping. Two large festivals are held annually, the Nuy Valley Feast in May and the BC Wines Family Festival in November.

Having tested great Worcester wines, you might want to enjoy some of the other attractions this area has to offer. Open Air Living Museum showcases history of a rural way of life and agriculture, with each building representing one agricultural sector during the period of 1690 to 1900 and making demonstrations by using the same methods and equipment as those employed by the early farmers.

Stretching over 154 hectares at the foot of the Hex River Mountain range, the Karoo National Botanical Garden displays a wide range of desert and semi-desert plants, including tree aloes, euphorbias, wild grapes and a large variety of smaller species. The best time to visit is during spring, when the flowering of annuals and vygies provides a spectacular show of colours.