Robertson Wine Valley

Dubbed the 'valley of vines and roses', the Robertson district's lime-rich soils make the area eminently suitable for racehorse stud farming and also, of course, winegrowing. Situated in the Breede River valley, the river is the lifeblood of this lower rainfall region. Although summer temperatures can be high, cooling south-easterly winds channel moisture-laden air into the valley.

Robertson is renowned for the quality of its wines and while traditionally considered white wine territory and known mainly for its Chardonnays and more recently for the quality of its Sauvignon Blanc, it is also the source of some of the Cape's finest red wines, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, while the distinctive fortified dessert wines for which it was originally famed continue to be produced. The district of Robertson incorporates several wards, including Bonnievale.


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Robertson -  Wine Valley  or Vyn Vallei 

Number of vines bottles produced: 47.5 million
Area under vines: 13 603 ha
% Of total ha vines planted in SA: 15.4% (SAWIS Nr 32 - 2008)
Signature whites: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Methode Cap Classique
Signature reds: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon

Fun Facts
• One hectare of land is home to between 3 000 and 6 000 vines and sometimes even up to 10 000?
• There are between 35 and 60 clusters of grapes per vine?
• Each bottle of wine contains about 1,5 kg of grapes.
• One vine produces between 24 and 36 glasses of wine?
• A ton of grapes makes about 720 bottles of wine?
• One barrel of wine equals 1 800 glasses of wine?
• One hectare of land is home to between 3 000 and 6 000 vines and sometimes even up to 10 000

Weather
• Average annual rainfall low: 150 mm
• Average annual rainfall high: 321 mm
• Average day temp summer: 28.6 d C
• Average night temp summer: 14.1 d C
• Average day temp winter: 21.1 d C
• Average night temp winter: 7.4 d C (Infruitec Nietvoorbij)

Location and Districts
The Robertson Wine Valley is situated about 175km from Cape Town and is located in the demarcated Wine of Origin "district" Robertson.  According to this legislation we have 9 "wards":  Agterkliphoogte, Bonnievale, Boesmansrivier, Eilandia, Hoopsrivier, Klaasvoogds, Le Chasseur, McGregor and Vinkrivier.   While wineries located in these wards can certify their wine as "wine of origin (eg) Agterkliphoogte", it is more common for them to use the "wine of origin Robertson" certification as this currently enjoy best recognition.  Altitude approx. 181m

Terroir
 In the central part of the valley, alongside the Breede River the landscape is reasonably “flat” and terroir is mainly determined by difference in soil type, as the meso-climate and aspect in this part of the valley are very similar. Towards the foothills of the Langeberg and Sonderend mountain ranges, the landscape changes to that of rolling hills. In these areas a vast number of different terroirs can be found, which are influenced by differences in soil type, aspect and therefore also difference in meso-climate.

Soils
The soils of the Robertson Wine Valley are quite variable, but can be grouped into two main categories:
• Soil derived from transported material which includes the sandy and loamy alluvial soil, as well as the red clay loam and clay “Karoo” soils.
• Residual soils which include the shale soils of the Malmesbury and Bokkeveld soil families. The red clay loam and clay Karoo soils are the most dominant soil types in the wine valley and are often very calcareous. The water holding capacity of these soils is very good and the potential of growing quality wine on these soils are very high. The water holding capacity of the shale soils depend on the state of weathering. On the highly weathered sites the water holding capacity is excellent. On sites where weathering has not been that advanced, the water holding capacity varies from moderate to low.

Climate
The annual rainfall in the Robertson Wine Valley is approximately 260 mm per annum of which ± 70 % falls during winter. This rain is not enough and therefore additional irrigation is necessary for growing wine grapes. The Robertson Wine Valley growers can be divided into two main groups of water users:
• Growers depending on the Breede River and Brandvlei Dam as their main source of irrigation water. By far the highest percentage of growers will fall into this group. Winter water from the rivers from the adjacent Du Toitskloof mountain range is stored in the Brandvlei Dam near Worcester. Some water from the Breede River is also pumped into the Brandvlei Dam. During the beginning of the irrigation season (September to beginning of November) the Breede River normally has sufficient water to supply the network of irrigation canals supplying water to growers. From November the irrigation demand gets to high and additional water from the Brandvlei Dam is released into the Breede River system to sufficiently supply the irrigation canals. The growers have a water allocation from the canals which they then store in dams from which they then irrigate their vineyards and orchards.
• Growers depending on stored winter water and boreholes Towards the mountains and further away from the Breede River growers do not have the luxury of irrigation canals from the Breede River and therefore these growers need to store winter run-off water from the mountain in storage dams on their properties. Quite a number of these growers are also dependent on additional groundwater extracted from boreholes.

Vinyards

Spring
The beginning of spring is the beginning of a new growing season in the vineyards. New shoots start emerging from the dormant buds and active growth commences. Spring is a very active time in the vineyards and activities such as fertilizing, shoot thinning and preventative sprays against fungal diseases takes place during this time. Shoot thinning is an activity where unnecessary and unwanted shoots are removed by hand in order to create a canopy microclimate which will be beneficial for wine quality. In areas where vine growing without supplementary irrigation is not possible, growers will also start irrigating during the spring period.
Towards the end of October and beginning of November the vines flower and after berry set the new bunches will start to develop. Other canopy management activities towards the end of spring include shoot positioning and tipping the growing tip of shoots in order to control growing vigor.

Summer
During summer time the irrigation demand reaches its peak and more frequent irrigation is necessary. Growers continue with there preventative sprays against fungal diseases, normally until the beginning of January – depending on the weather conditions of that season. Berry development takes place during summer and at the end of December and beginning of January veraison occurs. Veraison is that stage in berry development where berries start to soften and the berries of red wine varieties start to colour red.
Summer time is also harvest time and picking of grapes will commence from the end of January. Different grape varieties will ripen at different stages during the summer. Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc are examples of early ripening varieties, while Cabernet Sauvignon is a late ripening variety.

Autumn
Autumn sees the end of harvest, with the later ripening varieties which will be harvested during March and the beginning of April. Some of the post harvest activities that take place in our vineyards during autumn are the following: Post harvest fertilizing, post harvest disease control in high disease pressure situations and post harvest irrigation. The irrigation demand has dropped off considerably and less irrigation is necessary during this time.

Winter
The main activity on a wine farm during winter is pruning. Pruning will commence during June and can continue up to the end of August. During pruning the vine is cut back severely and 8 to 10 two bud spurs are all from the current season’s growth which will be left on the cordon of a vine.
Planting of new vineyards will also take place at the end of winter while winter is also the time for repairs to irrigation systems, trellis systems and time for holiday.
Briaan Stipp, Viticulturist

Vinpro in the Cellar
You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but wine IS made in the vineyards. It’s a simple fact: you can make bad wine from good grapes, but you can’t make good wine from bad grapes!

White Wine
Take healthy, freshly picked grapes
De-stalk and crush, add SO ² (to prevent oxidation)
Seperate Juice from skins and stalks
Pump Juice to settling tanks +- 24 hrs, temperature controlled @ 14 - 16 degrees C
Then you should have clear grape juice
Add pure yeast culture
Fermentation 10 - 14 days
Control the Temperature at 12 - 14 degrees C
You have dry white wine, add SO ²
Rack 2 or 3 times
Blend if so desired
Fining of the wine - removal of proteins
Stabilise, removal of tartrates
Chilled to -3 degrees C for +- 8 days
Filtration
Bottling - cold-sterile bottling or pasteurisation

Red Wine
Healthy, freshly picked grapes
De-stalked and crushed, add SO ² (to prevent oxidation)
Pure yeast culture added, skin contact for colour, fermentation 5 - 7 days
Temperature controlled @ 24 - 27 degrees C
Skins removed after 3 - 7 days (can be
Left for much longer)
Dry red wine
Malolactic fermentation (to convert from one acid to another)
Rackings 2 or 3 times. Wine drawn off
Lees until clear, SO ² added
Maturation in oak vats. Natural
Stabilising of wine (depending on style of wine)
Filtering
Blending
Bottling

Things to do in and around the valley

The Robertson Wine Valley has so much to offer, you can keep busy for weeks!  Whether you’re here for a weekend or stay for a week, the Robertson Wine Valley will keep you entertained. However, if you are pressed for time, choose from these popular attractions – in no specific order!

Wine tasting
With 48 wineries offering FREE wine tasting, you’re bound to discover many new favourites!  Tear-off maps are available from all our wineries and tourism associations and contain useful information, such as who’s making what type of wines, trading hours etc.  If you are new at tasting wine, don’t be shy - the friendly staff are there to help and guide you.  Some wineries offer informative cellar tours (by appointment), and a number of wineries have additional activities, such as boat cruises, tractor trips etc.  Contact the Robertson Wine Valley office for more information.

Olive tours and tasting
The Robertson area is ideal for olive growing and many farmers have planted olives trees in the last decade.  The quality is as good as anywhere in the world and the value is unbeatable!   Join an olive tour, learn about the different varieties and styles and sample some products such as smoked olives, olive chutney, olive oil and even  … olive chocolate!  Two worthwhile stops are Rhebokskraal in McGregor and Olyfberg in the Eilandia area – remember to book in advance though.

Game drives
Klaas Voogds Game Reserve situated on the Pat Busch Private Nature Reserve offer affordable game drives led by a trained personal guide in open viewing vehicles.   Game drives available Wednesday’s – Sunday’s at 10h00 or 16h00, other days and times by appointment. Game include Black Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Vaal Rhebok and Zebra to name but a few.  We recommend the sunset-game drive with breathtaking views as the sun sets over Rooiberg Mountain. 

Cheese shops
Langewater, La Montanara, Parmalat, Mooivallei and Stillerus are just some of the cheese making establishments we have in the area.  Before you leave, be sure to visit some of their shops – find out more at the local tourism bureaus.  local tourism association.

4 X 4 Off Roads
Mountains, rivers and valleys:  sceneries simply inviting 4x4 enthusiasts!  Popular trails include Mount Eco and Groot Toren (both previously listed in the top 10 in SA), Hessequas, Leopard Trail, Rooiberg Eco Route, Pat Busch Eco Route and Protea Farm.  Along many of these trails you’ll be able to stop and cool off in fresh mountain streams.  For those not fortunate enough to own a 4x4, we recommend the Leopard Trail Sundowner trip with wine tasting on the slopes of the Langeberg, snacks served in the veld and many interesting stories of the area.

River Cruises and Rafting
The Breede River is the lifeline of the area and there is plenty to do on and around the river!  You can choose between 3 different boat cruises:  Kolgans River Restaurant, Viljoensdrift’s Uncle Ben and the Breede River Goose, which offer cruises lasting between 1 and 2 hours.  Or if you want to be more hands-on, join one of Rafting Route 62 trips paddling down the river,  something the whole family can do together. Booking is essential and can be done at the local tourism bureaus.

Have a Picnic
Enjoy a picnic at one of our wine estates.  Try Viljoensdrift, Janeza, Goedverwacht or Rietvallei, each of which offers (pre-booked) picnic baskets.  Otherwise bring your own picnic and visit Buitehof, Rooiberg, Zandvliet, Wolvendrift or Weltevrede. Be sure to phone ahead and let them know of your visit.

Bird Park
Bird’s Paradise in Robertson is ideal for families (especially children!). With over 260 exotic birds, monkeys, lamas, crocodiles and ponies, kids will be well entertained while you relax and enjoy something from the coffee shop.  Open 7 days a week.  

Arts and Crafts
Each town has a great variety of artists, galleries, and many studios.  Paintings, sculptures, wire-work, clothing, linen, pottery – it’s all here!  Please consult the local tourism bureaus for the complete list of artists in the area.

Visit our markets
With so much fresh produce it’s to be expected that there will be some markets!  Products range from fresh fruit and veggies (including organic), breads, croissants, rusks, olive oil, local cheese, freshly cut flowers to arts & crafts.  Visit the Montagu Craft Market (09h00 – 12h00) and McGregor Morning Market (09h00 – 11h00) every Saturday morning and the Robertson Farmers’ Market the 1st Friday (08h00 – 10h00) of every month.  Come early as products tend to sell quickly.  Consult the local tourism bureaus for more information.

Hiking
Robertson Wine Valley is a must for hikers, with plenty trails to choose from:  Arangieskop (Robertson-20.9km), Bloupunt (Montagu-15.6km), Cogmans (Montagu-12.1km), Dassieshoek (Robertson-34km), Boesmanskloof (McGregor-Greyton-14km), Rooikat Vrolijkheid (McGregor-19km) and Fish Eagle Trail (Van Loveren-8km) to name but a few.  Contact the local tourism bureaus regarding bookings and/or permits. 

Fishing
A great outdoor activity for the family!  Bass is plentiful – try your luck at the following wineries, all bordering the river: BurCon Wines, Viljoensdrift Wines, Wolvendrift Winery or Weltevrede Estate.  If you don’t have a fishing rod, visit Outdoor Arena in Bonnievale, where a large variety of fish such as largemouth bass, carp, barbel, blue Tilapia, blue gill and grass carp are kept in their well stocked ponds.  Fishing rods can be hired.

Farm Tours
Merwenstein offers one-hour guided “Fruit About” tours on a working farm, where you can view the vineyards, apricot, plum, peach and persimmon orchards and pick fruit in season.  End the day with some wine tasting and a traditional South African meal on the river bank.  Only for groups of 10 or more, by appointment only.

Horse Riding
If you love horses and the outdoors, this is a must.  No experience is needed, safety-helmets are provided and, with groups no bigger than 6 (minimum 2), each rider will receive personal attention.  Trails vary from 1 hour, half day, full day (which includes wine tasting and lunch at a nearby organic wine farm) to 3 day trails.   We love Rene Burger of Nerina Guest Farm for her patience and “never-give-up” attitude!

Tractor Trips
Montagu Tractor Trips - a legendary outdoor activity since 1985 and certainly one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. It takes you to the summit of the Langeberg with stunning views of the Koo and Robertson Valleys.  Fresh fruit, grown on this working farm, is served on your way up, with local muscadel being served at the summit.  Afterwards enjoy traditional South African “Potjiekos”, served under magnificent pine trees.     Booking at the Montagu Tourism Bureau.  Weltevrede Wine Estate offers informative Terroir Tractor Trips, outlining the Jonker’s passion for Chardonnay and the area.  Both these trips are great for families!   

Hot Springs
Avalon Springs is beautifully situated at the entrance to Bath Kloof,  only 3 km outside Montagu.  Visitors can enjoy hot pools (said to work miracle cures!) at a constant temperature of 43˚C, .   A putt-putt course and children’s play area are also on site.

Quad Biking
Bonfrutti (Bonnievale) offers guided farm tours, with stops at the ostrich camps, and the trips extend drives half way up the Langeberg Mountain.  Personal attention, with a maximum of 4 people per group, no experience needed, makes a great family outing. Views are stunning, so don’t forget to bring the camera.  Waboom Mountain in Montagu also offers quad biking.

Rock Climbing
Montagu is one of the top sport climbing areas in South Africa, offering routes for the absolute beginner to the hardest route in the country. Slabs, Cracks, Face steep, Roofs Multi pitcs , they’ve got it all.  Contact Montagu Tourism Bureau for more information.

Golf
Bonnievale and Montagu both have 9 hole courses.  (Robertson course is currently being expanded to 18 holes).  Also try Outdoor Arena’s Kaps ‘n Raps course  - played on a  9 hole par 3 course on lovely green lawns between the fish ponds.

Maze and Cactus Gardens
Soekershof Walkabout Maze is different in almost all aspects.  Incorporating the world’s largest hedge-maze, succulent gardens and a stone-age cinema, the concepts are almost as weird as the hosts.  Open your mind for strange stories, legends and quests. A great activity for families.  Also visit Sheilam Cactus Garden next door to the maze, Robertson’s little Mexico, with over 2000 species of cacti and aloes.

Historic Tours and Museums
There are various historic tours, walks and museums in every town.  Try the Robertson Walkabout, visit the Myrtle Rigg Memorial Church in Bonnievale, join McGregor’s Historic Tour or visit Joubert House in Montagu.  Contact the local tourism bureaus for more information. 

Attractions