Paarl Wine Region Guide

Where Scenic Beauty Meets Wine Heritage Beyond Stellenbosch


Last updated: April 10, 2024


First-time visitors to the majestic Western Cape often head straight for its most famous wine region – Stellenbosch – to taste some excellent wines, relax, and pretty much stay put. This is understandable, as many excellent wineries can be found in South Africa’s premier wine zone. But, to miss out on Paarl would be a tragedy, as this is one of the Cape’s wine lands’ most beautiful and scenic parts. A mere 45-minute drive from Cape Town, Paarl offers quite a different set of growing conditions to Stellenbosch, with the resulting differences in wine styles quite apparent to anyone familiar with the wines further south. The town of Paarl itself is the third oldest European settlement in South Africa, and the region has played a major role in the country’s 20th-century history. On 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from Victor Vester Correctional Centre in Paarl after 27 years of imprisonment. His release signaled the start of a new era and the end of apartheid. Today, a bronze statue of Mandela is proudly displayed in Paarl, a reminder that there is more to the region than its viticultural legacy.

In the north of the Stellenbosch zone, Paarl is South Africa’s second-largest wine region. It is increasingly becoming important for high-quality winemaking and attracting lucrative tourism. Today, there are over 14,000 hectares under vine; Dutch settlers planted the first vineyards surrounding the town of Paarl in the 17th century and found the rich, fertile soil and benign Mediterranean climate more than favorable. The region has long played an important role in South Africa’s wine history. The former Cape Wine Association, known as KWV, was situated in Paarl before abandoning its remit and being privatized. They used to control the vast majority of the Cape’s wine industry (they still make the vast majority of the country’s brandy) before the rise of the private investor, and the number of Cape wine farms subsequently trebled. Although Paarl may no longer be the focus of the Cape wine scene, some excellent wines are made here by producers such as Fairview and Coleraine, often without the price tags of their Stellenbosch neighbors.


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James lawrence

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