Robertson

Robertson is a wine producing area in the Breede River Valley region of the Western Cape, 100 miles (160km) east of Cape Town. Robertson is one of South Africa's better known wine producing areas and is associated with the production of rich, fruit driven red and white wines made from Chardonnay and Shiraz.

The area covers the land directly surrounding the town of Robertson, from the ward of Eilandia in the west to Bonnievale in the east. It is separated from the semi-arid Klein Karoo region in the north by the Langeberg Mountains. The Breede River meanders through the region, and many of Robertson’s scattered vineyards sit along its tributaries, as well as on the foothills of the mountains.

The dry, hot climate in Robertson is optimal for the production of premium grapes. Annual rainfall is a scant 400mm, and the river is used often for irrigation. However, south-easterly breezes from the Indian Ocean 60 miles (90km) away have a cooling effect on the vineyards and bring moisture to the area. Occasional mists also bring refreshing coolness.

While daytime temperatures can get up to 85°F/30°C, evenings are much cooler. This diurnal temperature variation means that the grapes have a chance to cool down overnight, letting them retain acidity while still developing rich flavour profiles. Winters are relatively cold, allowing the vines a period of dormancy before the next growing season.

The distinctive medley of soil types gives growers in Robertson good options when it comes to site selection. Rich, alluvial soils in the river valley are perfect for the production of red wine, while red, gravelly soils reminiscent of the nearby Karoo desert are well suited to white wine varieties. Chardonnay grapes thrive on the pockets of limestone soil found throughout Robertson. High levels of lime in the soil give a chalky minerality to the resultant wines, much like in the region of Chablis in France.

Robertson is known locally as the "valley of wine and roses". Farmers began to graze sheep in the area in the 18th century, eventually leading to the establishment of a town in 1852. From the 19th century, it has been home to ostrich farming and racehorse stud farms as well as vineyards. While Robertson is not as historically significant as Stellenbosch or Paarl, it is still home to some of South Africa's best known wine estates.
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