Far-flung SA vineyards, from Stellenbosch to Jeffrey's Bay to the KZN Midlands

Wednesday, 29 May, 2019
WOSA blog, Angela Lloyd
South African vineyards have spread into some remarkable areas, way beyond the hub of Stellenbosch, since the quota system was discontinued in 1992.

John and Trish Critchley established The Mile High Vineyards in 2008, planting two hectares of Shiraz, Pinotage and Pinot Noir in the Eastern Free State highlands, near Fouriesburg, around 1200 kilometres from Stellenbosch.  At 1680 metres, these are arguably the country’s highest vineyards, producing cool-climate wines under the name, Bald Ibis Wines (WO Free State), after the rare Southern Bald Ibis, which is endemic to the area. Ripening early to mid-season so avoiding April frost, the grapes have thick skins and high acidity; these and the budding vines attract unwanted visitors in birds and Duiker (small buck) respectively.

Flying east over Lesotho into the KwaZulu Natal Midlands and Lions River, one reaches Ian and Jane Smorthwaite’s Abingdon Estate (1142 metres). Their three hectares of vines comprise a basket of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier (a consistent performer), Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo, the last enjoying the cool autumns and seemingly rot resistant. Sparkling wine does well, as harvest occurs before summer rains, which then bring hail and mildew. Vervet monkeys offer another challenge. Around 1500 kilometres from Stellenbosch, Abingdon Estate wines are certified WO Lions River.

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South Africa
South Africa

Abingdon Estate, in winter
Abingdon Estate, in winter

Mile High Vineyards, Eastern Free State
Mile High Vineyards, Eastern Free State

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