Calitzdorp is within the wine region of Klein Karoo, at the east end of the Western Cape of South Africa. It is located in between a number of large mountains, including the Swartberg and the Huisrivier Pass. This, combined with its lack of rainfall, make if a very dry, almost desert like area. Without the cooling breezes from the Atlantic Ocean, it is possible for the summers to become very hot indeed, with some temperatures reaching more than 100F, and the winters are also very hot, not usually falling below 40F. The soil drains well, and there is not much standing water in the district.
Due to the very dry soil of the area, and the alluvial soils that are used in farming, Calitzdorp has often been considered the Douro Valley of South Africa. The original valley in Portugal is the home of Port, and Calitzdorp is home to many port-wine making wine farms. Before the EU legislation that forbade the use of Port for any Country except Portugal, the district used to be known as the ‘Port wine capital’ in South Africa. The ground here is particularly accommodating to plants that enjoy very dry weather, including the Port blend grapes Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional.
As well as being the Port Capital of South Africa, the Calitzdorp district is also able to produce a range of distinct red blends, which can be similar to the wines of Portugal, or may resemble Brandy or Cognac. Nevertheless, it is as the country’s premium maker of port wines. This is extremely hardy for a wine region which only produces around 3% of the total wine of South Africa, and Calitzdorp is only a small town within that region. The very dry climate of Klein Karoo does not suit most wines, but the Calitzdorp district has found a way to produce internationally recognised fortified wines.
The poor soils of Calitzdorp continue to struggle to produce good white wines and red single varietals of wine, but the dry-soil liking Port grapes thrive. This is despite the risks of drought or flash flooding which many areas of Klein Karoo vulnerable. The very dry soil means that when heavy rainfall does happen, it will not be absorbed into the soil but instead runs down the surface, creating flooding. This can often cause problems for farmers, since harvests cannot be snatched up and preserved until the water dies down, and so a number of promising harvests have come to nothing in this wine district.
The major problem that Calitzdorp has for the moment is the labelling of its future Port-style wines. Most wine makers in the district seem to have chosen the ‘Cape blend’ title, in order to establish the unique origins of their products. The wine is distinctive enough to ensure that the wine-makers in the Calitzdorp area can continue to produce their fortified wines, despite the ruling from the EU. By blending the Tinta Barocca with other reds such as Merlot or Shiraz, the producers can make a wine which resembles Port, but is uniquely from the Eastern part of the wine regions of South Africa.
Axe Hill Winery produces and bottles limited quantities of award-winning, port-style fortified and other table wines. From Portuguese cultivars; Touriga Nacional, Souzão, and Tinta Barocca, the cellar produces one Cape Vintage port-style wine annually as well as what has become known as a Calitzdorp Blend (dry red table wine), which requires that at least 70% of the blend is made using Portuguese cultivars. The grapes are hand-sorted after picking, and where appropriate, crushed by foot in order to ensure maximum extraction of colour and phenolics from the fruit. The wines are blended and aged in old French ok barrels. These methods closely resemble the Portuguese traditions which have been unchanged for centuries.
Besides the red port-style wines, Axe Hill also produces a Cape White – a drier white, port-style wine made from Chenin Blanc grapes. This wine is aged in a solera system which is essentially the blending of new wines with old wines and cellared for some years in small, old French oak barrels giving this wine its distinctive oxidative character and considered to be the only Cape White port-style of this nature in the South Africa.
Exciting recent developments has seen the Axe Hill releasing barrel-fermented white wines, including Chenin Blanc and Viognier – available in limited quantities from the cellar.
Boplaas is situated in Calitzdorp, a small picturesque village in the Southern Cape in the majestic Little Karoo. The Nel family is part of a rich legacy that reaches back to 1880. Boplaas is a family concern with Carel Nel, a Cape Wine Master, as owner and cellar master.
Boplaas has long been regarded as in the forefront in premium wine production. Boplaas is known for world-class table wines, Ports and their award winning pot-stilled brandies.
Situated along Cape Route 62 in the Little Karoo town of Calitzdorp, CALITZDORP CELLAR / WYNKELDER has breathtaking views of the Gamka Valley.
The Calitzdorp area is well-known for its fortified wines; primarily port, and is worth a stop along the world’s longest wine route.
Calitzdorp Cellar has produced a number of award winning white, red and fortified wines since 1928.
De Krans Wine Cellar is situated along the upper reaches of the picturesque Gamka River Valley near Calitzdorp. The history of the farm dates back to 1890, when it was bought by the Nel family. Since 1985, most of the classic Portuguese port and wine varieties have been planted. De Krans is widely known as one of the leading port producers, as well as one of the most innovative cellars in South Africa.