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Terroir is the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced.

Hemel-en-aarde Region

In May 2004, the Walker Bay Wine Ward was reclassified as a Wine District – one of 21 in the South African winelands. Given its size and the greater number of wine producers active in the area with a multitude of different wine styles, Walker Bay was increasingly unable to justify Ward Status. A Wine Ward is the smallest unit of appellation after an individual wine estate and is supposed to delimit an area of relatively homogeneous terroir.

The way was now 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. Within the Hemel-en-Aarde region, three wards were created: the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge. Each appellation has its own signature character and personality.

Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

This is the first appellation as you enter the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. It is also home to the first vineyards planted in the area and is the closest to the Atlantic Ocean of the three appellations.

The overwhelming majority of the vineyards in this appellation are planted on northeast, north and northwest facing slopes of Bokkeveld Shale-derived soil on the southern side of the Onrus River. This soil has an unusually high clay content.  The clay contents of these soils approximate the clay contents of the Cote D’Or in Burgundy, although they tend to be shallower and far stonier. In addition, they do not have the limestone content or limestone bedrock, but have pure clay subsoil and solid shale bedrock. For the South African winelands these soils would be classified as low-vigour and more marginal.

Higher up the northern slopes and on the south facing slopes of the valley, the soils are Table Mountain Sandstone-derived. These quartzitic, sandy soils have a very low to non-existent clay content, and are light structured, generally far deeper and have the potential for greater vigour.

Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

This is the second appellation encountered as you proceed northeast up the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley from Hermanus, and is the largest of the three Hemel-en-Aarde Region appellations. Ripening tends to occur later here than for the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation. It is the second closest Hemel-en-Aarde Region appellation to the sea.

The vineyards in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley are planted on both the north-facing slopes (on the southern side of the Onrus River) and the south-facing slopes (on the northern side of the Onrus River). The soils in the vineyard areas consist of decomposed granite which yield deep subsoils of varying clay content allowing greater water retention and root penetration as deep as 1.3 metres in young vineyards. The Table Mountain Series sandstones of the Babylonstoren and Kleinrivier ranges border the valley. As in all of the Hemel-en-Aarde Region appellations, there are numerous different soil structural classifications within broad groupings of soil types. 

Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

This is the third and smallest appellation encountered as you proceed along the R320 from Hermanus and the furthest from the sea. It is not located in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (geographically speaking) but at the headwaters of the Klein River Valley, from the watershed of the Onrus River downwards and eastwards. Ripening here, generally occurs later than for the other two Hemel-en-Aarde Region appellations.

Bokkeveld Shale-derived soils re-occur in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge and the overwhelming majority of the vineyards are on these stony, clay-rich soils. The vineyards are planted with many different aspects from southerly to northerly, and the average altitudes of these vineyards are the highest of the three Hemel-en-Aarde Region appellations. The highest mountain slopes of this appellation have lighter structured Table Mountain Sandstone-derived soils.