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24/06/2009

New name for the third Wine Ward in Walker Bay Wine District

Following the recent approval by South Africa's Wine and Spirit Board of the name “Hemel-en- Aarde Ridge” for the third Wine Ward in the Hermanus area of the Walker Bay Wine District, the way is clear for producers in the three Wards to unite under the name Hemel-en-Aarde.

Producers can now form a new Winegrowers Association (out of the two year old Hermanus Winegrowers Association), to further advance the Hemel-en-Aarde area’s reputation for small production, cool-climate wines of exceptional quality.

Approval for the use of the term “Hemel-en-Aarde” in a name for the third Ward was granted once all the producers agreed to the inland boundary of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley being the watershed of the Onrust River.

This watershed lies on the boundary between the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Ward and the new Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Ward.

The three Wards represented by the Hemel-en-Aarde Winegrowers Association (and their existing grapegrowers and/or producers) are as follows as one proceeds along the beautifully scenic Hemel-en-Aarde Road (R320) from Hermanus to Caledon: Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Southern Right, Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Ashbourne, Bouchard Finlayson, Vrede, La Vierge. Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley Sumaridge, Newton Johnson, Lelienfontein, Pearly Gates, Southend, Tokara – Siberia Vineyards, Hemel-en-Aarde Country Retreat, Déjà vu, Hemelzicht, Klein Hemel, Spookfontein. Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Ataraxia, Babylon Farm Vineyards, Creation, Mount Babylon, Jakob’s Vineyards, Domaine des Dieux.

Although the Hemel-en-Aarde area with its 23 different winegrowers/producers, has developed a strong local and international reputation for exceptional, classically styled Pinot noir and Chardonnay, 63% of the area’s current plantings of around 250 hectares are comprised of a mix of other grape varieties. The principal plantings are as follows: Sauvignon Blanc – 24%, Chardonnay – 20%, Pinot noir – 18%, Shiraz – 12%, Other (15 varieties) – 26%. There are three principal groupings of soil types in the Hemel-en-Aarde area: • Stony, extremely clay-rich, Bokkeveld Shale-derived soils • Light structured, free draining, quartzitic Table Mountain Sandstone-derived soils; and • Decomposed granite based soils. These three groupings (with a multitude of different structural classifications) enable many different expressions of the grape types planted.

Wines from the three Hemel-en-Aarde area appellations do however share a common thread of higher than usual natural acidity and a lower than usual pH, combined with lower than usual alcohols for South Africa and a more marked “classic” tightness and minerality. The Hemel-en-Aarde area enjoys a strong maritime influence and is probably the most maritime winegrowing area in the country. The closest property to the cold Atlantic Walker Bay is only 1.5km away, and the furthest is only 10.6km away.

The Hemel-en-Aarde Winegrowers Association has recently registered “The Hermanus Wine Route” with the South African Wine Route Forum, making this the youngest wine route in the country. The Hermanus Wine Route, (which will include a few wineries which fall outside the Hemel-en-Aarde area), teams with a Whale Route and offers a spectacular combination of wine, whales, fynbos, sea-views, mountain nature reserve walks and five farm restaurants.

The Hermanus Wine Route is expected to launch soon to help pave the way for wine tourism.

Johan Holtzhausen, Chairman of the Hemel-en-Aarde Winegrowers Association (and owner of Mount Babylon) is extremely positive about the future. “Having finally named the third Ward Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge, is a milestone, which allows the small group of winegrowers in the area’s three appellations to finally unite their marketing and quality development initiatives in a cooperative spirit under the Hemel-en-Aarde name. We all appreciate the value of this name and will work together to develop its quality reputation still further — to the highest possible levels," he said.

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