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Walker Bay

Walker Bay is a wine-producing area on the south coast of the Western Cape, 60 miles (95km) from Cape Town. It is typified by its maritime climate which is one of the coolest in South Africa. The region is held in high regard for the Burgundian-styled Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that is made here, along with fresh, flinty Sauvignon Blanc.

Walker Bay's viticultural zone extends from the town of Hermanus on the coast to Bot River in the north and Sunday's Glen in the east. The region’s most notable vineyards are found in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley, which runs in an east-west direction from the coast.

Proximity to the ocean means that the vineyards in Walker Bay are subject to heavy maritime influences. Long, sunny summers are cooled by the ocean breezes that come from the south-east. The Antarctic Benguela current from the nearby Atlantic Ocean ensures these breezes are cold enough to refresh the grapes during the ripening season. This has the effect of slowing the ripening process, allowing the grapes to develop concentrated flavours while retaining acidity.

The local soils are predominantly Bokkeveld shale and Table Mountain sandstone, and are marked by a high clay content, particularly in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. These well drained soils with good water retention are perfect for the cultivation of premium grapes. Vines have to work harder to get to the water stored in the soil below which causes them to grow deep root systems. Yields tend to be lower which means there is a higher concentration of flavour and aroma in the grapes. Pockets of well draining weathered granite can be found in the central Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and in Sunday's Glen.

The area's main centre of Hermanus is particularly famous for the Southern Right whales that are frequently seen in Walker Bay. This, combined with the flourishing wine industry surrounding the town, has seen Walker Bay become a popular tourist destination in South Africa. Walker Bay wines are attracting international attention, and wineries like Bouchard Finlayson and Hamilton Russell are rivalling their Stellenbosch counterparts in reputation.