Words: Richard Holmes | Images: Supplied

The Garden Route is famous for many things – dramatic coastal scenery, charming seaside towns and lush indigenous forests – but it’s also making a name for itself when it comes to fine wine.

High on the Montagu Pass above George is Herold Wines, which takes full advantage of its unique mountain terroir to craft wonderful cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc, Weisser Riesling and Pinot Noir.

“At between 650m and 700m above sea level, our vines are rooted at a higher altitude than most other South African vineyards,” explains owner Nico Fourie, who says that winter frosts, cooling coastal winds and year-round rainfall “results in a protracted growing season. The farm’s distinctive terroir puts it into a class of its own.”

The Herold Pinot Noir is particularly worth seeking out: bright cherry notes on a foundation of subtle oak. Firm acidity allows it to age well and develop further over time.

De Krans winemaker Louis van der Riet has also tapped into the region, sourcing grapes from the Waboomskraal valley at the foot of the mountains for its Garden Route label. The Garden Route Sauvignon Blanc 2017 blends fresh notes of green pepper, tropical fruit and subtle minerality, and has bagged a four-star Platter’s rating for the past three years. The Garden Route Pinot Noir 2016 is on the lighter end of the Pinot spectrum – cherries and strawberries, rather than forest floor.

Beyond Knysna, the coastal terroir offers ideal conditions for cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, and the region is particularly known for its Méthode Cap Classique production. At Packwood Wine and Country Estate between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, winemaker Vicky Gent offers a duo of bubblies, alongside award-winning still wines.

With coastal winds wafting through the 4ha of sea-facing vineyards, “the terroir speaks for itself in the wine,” says Gent, who has been making wine on the estate since 2013. “We promote sustainable practices in the vineyard, such as rain harvesting, compost-making, environmentally-friendly sprays and minimal till crop covers.”

Aside from the bubblies, “our Sauvignon Blanc 2017 packs a punch with exotic tropical notes and a refreshing finish,” says Gent.

If you have the time, keep meandering eastwards: you’ll find delicious Syrah at Plettenvale, unwooded Chardonnay at Newstead Lund Family Vineyards, and more wonderful bubbly at Bramon Wine Estate. Be sure to leave some space in the boot!

Herold Wines
072 833 8223

De Krans Wines
044 213 3314

Packwood Wine and Country Estate
083 999 9521