The Paarl wine region is located in the coastal area of South Africa’s Western Cape - and about 65kms north-west of Cape Town. The town of Paarl at the heart of the region is named for the shiny granite mountain in the distance, which early Dutch settlers arriving in 1657 called “den Diamont ende Peerlbergh” - 'The Diamond and Pearl Mountain'.
In 1688 Dutch settlers established the first farms in the area, and one year later a group of French Huguenots arrived and began to plant vineyards. Over 320 years later and with approximately 18,000ha of vines in the region, this French influence can still be seen in the landscape and tasted in the wine. Paarl is situated in the Berg River Valley, flanked by the Paarl mountains and Drakenstein Range and is further subdivided into the Franschhoek Valley, Wellington, Simonsberg-Paarl and Voor Paardeberg.
The climate is very similar to the Rhône Valley in France, with moderate warm summers cooled by Atlantic breezes towards harvest season. Vineyards grow on the flat valley floor, and have expanded extensively into the surrounding hillsides. There are three distinct soil types in the Paarl district - with the mountain slopes composed of granite-based soil, and as such have very good drainage. The fertile Berg River Valley contains a soil blend of primarily Table Mountain sandstone, whereas shale deposits are interspersed throughout the north-eastern corner of the district.
The Paarl wine region is home to several leading producers, including Veenwouden, Nederburg, Fairview, Glen Carlou and Plaisir de Merle. Traditionally known as a white wine region, but with its Mediterranean climate and suitable terroir it is now focusing more on red varietals. The region is hotter than Stellenbosch, so the very best wines come from the more elevated vineyard sites.
For most of the 20th century, the Paarl region was at the heart of the South African wine industry. Gradually the focus shifted southwards to Stellenbosch where the University gained a prominent role in the South African wine industry with its viticulture and winemaking programmes. However the terroir driven wines of its sub-areas Franschhoek Valley and Wellington, have revitalised the region in recent years.
The Paarl Vintners represent approximately 70 wine producers ranging from vast co-operative cellars to historic family-owned estates. The Paarl Wine region combines old-world charm with new-world style winemaking - with the ‘Wine of Origin’ status granted on the Paarl region in 1972.
The main grape varietals grown in the Paarl region are; Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Semillon and Chardonnay. The Paarl wine region is increasingly well-regarded for red and white wine blends, recently for Methode Cap Classique wines, as well as Sherry, and Tawny Port style wines along with Brandy.