Why Stellenbosch, Why Cabernet?
What is it about Stellenbosch, that enables it to grow Cabernet grapes.
Soil & Climate
As a region, Stellenbosch has the ideal soil types and climatic conditions to produce world-class Cabernet. Mild temperatures with enough sunlight hours throughout the day, well-drained soils comprising a fair amount of granite, shale and sandstone, and moderate rainfall ensuring that this noble variety thrives.
The warm climate and daylight hours (approximately 14 hours in summer and 10 hours in winter) in Stellenbosch are paramount to the growth process of the Cabernet grapes which would otherwise not be able to reach their optimal ripeness.
Temperature & Annual Rainfall
The average temperature in Stellenbosch is 16.4°C with temperatures reaching the mid-high 20s during the summer months. Although the vines struggle in extremely hot temperatures, the close proximity to False Bay and associated cool Atlantic sea winds provide the vineyards some relief from the hot weather during the summer months. The Cape Doctor, a strong and dry south-easterly wind that blows from spring to late summer off the mountains, has less, but still some, of a cooling effect.
With an annual rainfall of between 600mm – 800mm, Stellenbosch vineyards receive plenty of rain. The abundant annual rainfall means that, while there might not be sufficient rains during the summer periods, winemakers can store excess water for irrigation when necessary.
While all these factors enable the grapes to ripen, largely disease-free, and display quintessential Cabernet aroma and flavours profiles and structures, the quality drivers that refine Cabernet in Stellenbosch, that polish it and enable it to reflect the myriad terroirs where it has put down roots can be categorised as being of the mountains (soil, aspect and slopes) and the ocean (sea breezes).
A major contributing factor is that of aspect and slope, because of the impact they have on the vineyard’s exposure to the prevailing winds and sea breezes, as well as the sun’s passage over and penetration into its canopies. And of course, slope and soil because of their impact on drainage and nutrition.
Furthermore, proximity to the ocean, because of the moderating effect of its temperature inertia on the temperatures of adjacent land as well as because of the winds caused by the alternating pattern of air circulation over the water and the land during the day. While there are notable exceptions, the effects of rivers and lakes are usually limited to their immediate valleys but maritime influences can extend inland for many miles.
In other words, ‘topography’ – it’s Stellenbosch’s secret weapon.