Swartland

Swartland is a large wine producing area 40 miles (65km) north of Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa. Traditionally a wheat growing region, it now specialises in making rich, fruit-driven wines from Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.

Swartland covers a large area, encompassing the vineyards on the northern side of the Paardeberg mountain in the south to the plains of Piketberg in the north. The smaller ward of Riebeekberg and the Kasteelberg Mountain lie to the east, while the cooler district of Darling separates the area from the Atlantic Ocean. The topography is varied, and vineyards can be found on steep mountain foothills or on gently folding hillsides.

The climate is hot and dry, which viticulturists have used to their advantage in Swartland's vineyards. Dry conditions significantly reduce the risk of fungal diseases among the vines, and a lack of water in the soil leads to lower yields and smaller, more concentrated fruit. Hardy, drought resistant bush vines have been utilised in the hottest, driest parts of the region.

The dominant soil type in Swartland is Malmesbury shale, named for the town of Malmesbury that sits in the middle of the region. There are also pockets of granite, particularly around the Paardeberg area. While these soils are well drained, they also hold enough water in their lower reaches to support the irrigation-free farming technique that is used extensively throughout the region. Bush vines will dig especially deep to get to the water reserves in the soil, resulting in stronger vines and particularly concentrated flavours in the grapes.

Swartland, Dutch for "black land", is named for the native renosterbos (rhinoceros bush) that turns black after rain. Chenin Blanc and Shiraz are the most important grape varieties in the region; the latter is often blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre to create a Southern Rhône Blend.
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