The Hemel en Aarde Wine region can be found around 90 minutes out of Cape Town, stretched along the coastline down into the depths of the Western Capes beauty. Fringed by towering mountains, the area runs narrowly with the Atlantic sealine lapping on its right-hand side and the wall of mountains on the left. It’s absolute beauty bestowed its name on it, meaning heaven and earth, and as you stare down the long blue coast, you don’t wonder why.
Hermanus is the gorgeous coastal town, found in the region and this sleepy little town is one of the main attractions of the area. It is known locally and internationally as one of the best places for a quiet, sleepy get away, a place to go and clear your head in the peaceful, fresh air. Its tranquil little bay brings the whales in, and during the right time of the year, you can perch on a rock and be a arms length away from the huge aquatic animals.
The Hemel en Aarde region really begins past the little town of Hermanus and runs all the way up to the Klein River Valley, almost 20kms outside of Hermanus. A trip out here will not be wasted. The town itself holds hundreds of tiny gems to be visited, with a restaurant perched in a cave, directly on the rocks to its quaint, rustic feeling places, the town is a must see while driving through to go and taste your favourite wines.
Hermanus’s history stretches back to the 1800’s, when Hermanus Pieters, who has been credited at finding this gem, trekked to Caledon and started his new life teaching and farming. His farming endeavors led him to discover the beautiful and fertile land and word soon spread about the beautiful valley and teeming sea. By 1891, there were two schools, two churches, a hotel, shops, a post office and a thriving fish industry and by 1902, the tiny town converted its name into simply Hermanus, receiving official municipal status in 1904. Word of the crisp clean air in Hermanus spread all over the South Africa and the world and soon it became a popular holiday town to visit. Hermanus boasts of a railway station that has never seen a train arrive or leave from it. After its construction by the developer, Sir William Hoy, he became concerned that the steam trains would pollute the beautiful clean air and overruled the railway line, setting up a horse and carriage service instead, preserving the sleepy coastal town.
As you continue your journey through, and out of Hermanus, you begin to come across the extensive wine farms that the beautiful Hemel en Aarde Valley has to offer. This, aptly named after is heaven on earth beauty extends for almost 20kms out of Hermanus. It is divided up into three appellations: Hemel en Aarde Valley, Hemel en Aarde Upper Valley and Hemel en Aarde Ridge.
The Walker Bay Wine District was only re-classified as just that, a Wine District in May 2004. With the reclassification of the Walker Bay as a Wine District, the way was open for producers in the District to create their own more relevant Wine Wards with the assistance of a committee of soil specialists and viticulturists. This allowed for the three appellations of the Hemel en Aarde area to be created.
Wine Route and Farms
Over 20kms lies ahead of you as you exit Hermanus along the R320. This route offers you some of the best and most unique wine farms in the Western Cape and you are really spoilt for choice with over 15 farms to choose from.
A well known, and well loved winery, they are known for their sheep, carefully selected wines and their weekend markets. The farm boasts of little farm cottages, for the perfect farm stay-over for the whole family. Their wines vary in ranges from the classic to flagship with ten different wines, ranging from white, through rose to red. Find the Bordeaux blend, Kleinboet here.
This boutique winery prides itself on its hand crafted wines what intrigue and tantalize the palate. This delightful array of wines are mostly from grapes that originate from the Bottega Family Farm in Stellenbosch, but are vinified and bottled at Whalehaven. Buy a bottle of the gorgeous 2013 Pinotage, made in the noble French tradition here.
Almost touching the ocean, this is one of the most southerly wine estates in Africa, and it prides itself on its perfected winemaking and viticulture. The estate specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as these two wines and these two wines are considered, by the wine makers to be an expression of the terroir. Find their wines here at CyberCellar.
Founded in 2004, Ataraxia boasts a wine room that is spectacular and dramatic at the same time. Built as a chapel in the vernacular architectural style, you are afforded a quiet and contemplative time to sample the three wines in the range. They specialize in unwooded Sauvignon Blanc, wooded Chardonnay and a red blend called Serenity. They are eagerly anticipating the Pinot Noir which will be added soon.
Steeped in a Garden of Eden theme, this gorgeous farm is nestled in the valley of Hemel en Aarde and offers everything from a picturesque setting, to a wedding venue, restaurant and a perfect wine selection. Offering eight wines with associated Garden of Eden names, these wines individually styled wines true to the cool climate region of the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Don’t miss out on the wines here.
The climate in this region differs somewhat vastly to most wine regions in South Africa. With its heavy maritime influence due to the close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, it is significantly cooler than other regions around the Western Cape. The strong Summer South Easters, the cold Bengula current and as one of the lowest points in South Africa, the days are cooler, as are the summers. With average temperatures hovering around the 25 degree Celsius mark, and a higher than average rainfall, the natural irrigation provides for a unique and fertile growing climate in this region.
Winters are warmer than in most areas in the Western Cape, yet experience a significantly higher rain fall than most regions. Around 43% of the rainfall is in the winter months, 23% in the spring, 10% in the summer ripening season and the remaining 24% falls after harvest in the autumn.
Soils, Terrior and Irrigation
Hemel en Aarde Valley
Around 6kms outside of Hermanus, you will come across the first of the three appellations. These vineyards are planted closest to the Atlantic Ocean than the other appellations and can be found creeping up the slopes of the Bokkeveld Shale and on the Onrust River. The soil found in this area has a significantly high clay content that can be comparable to Cote D’Or in Burgundy. It consists of pure clay subsoil and solid shale bedrock and tends to be somewhat stony and shallow. As you move up the slopes of the valley, you begin to find more quartzitic, sandy soil that are lightly structured and almost non-existent clay. Compared to further down, they are deeper and have more potential for greater vigour.
Hemel en Aarde Upper Valley
Of the three areas, this is the largest and can be found around another 6kms from the Hemel en Aarde Valley. Here the vineyards are planted on north and south facing slopes close to the Onrus River. Soils here change greatly to intrusive granite pluton and porphyritic granite. A substantial amount of decomposed granite can be found with fragmented quartz pebbles. Of all three appellations, this has the broadest groupings of soil types.
Hemel en Aarde Ridge
Starting around 13kms outside of Hermanus is the smallest of the appellations. It is located near the headwaters of the Klein River Valley and around the same watershed as the Onrust River. The soils here are stony, clay-rich soil and the altitudes are higher than in most of the appellations. They have northerly and southerly facing slopes and the mountain slopes display a lighter structured Table Mountain Sandstone Derived Soil.