The Klein Karoo is the most diverse wine region of South Africa. This wine region runs along the route of the R52. This route starts at Montagu and passes through Barrydale, Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Oudtshoorn and Langkloof. The Klein Karoo is well known for its extremes in terms of its soils and climate. Some of the highest mountain peaks of the Western Cape are located in the Klein Karoo. these mountains form part of the Cape Fold Mountains. The majority of the Klein Karoo forms part of the Bokkeveld where there is good water retention. Viticulture activities take place mainly in the valleys, kloofs and ravines of this rugged landscape.
The Klein Karoo wine region is a semi-arid wine-producing region in South Africa. As a result of the regions hot and dry climate, the region produces South Africa’s best-fortified wines. Despite this, the varying terroir of the region means that a range of other wine styles are also produced. Once in a while, fresh breezes reach the wine region from the sea and provide some cooling relief from the warmth of the sun. this breeze brings with it cooler Karoo evenings. This variation in temperature helps to balance and ripen the flavours of the grapes in the region and give them the perfect level of acidity. The wines of the Klein Karoo wine region are diverse and varied and should not be missed by any wine lover.
Where is Klein Karoo?
The Klein Karoo is a semi-arid wine-producing region. This region lies on the eastern side of the Western Cape province of South Africa, bordering Cape South Coast and Breede River Valley wine regions. The vineyards of the Klein Karoo wine region can reach up to 700m above sea level. These vineyards are located particularly high up in the areas of Montagu and Tradouw on the western border of the Klein Karoo.
What to Expect from Klein Karoo Wines
Home to the Best Fortified Wines of South Africa
Historically, the Klein Karoo has been known for the Muscat grapes that flourish in this area. This area is now best known for its sweet wines and pot still brandies. The sweet wines of the Klein Karoo are made using Muscat a Petits Grains and Muscat de Frontignan. Both of these varietals are known as Muscadel in this winemaking region. Besides excellent wines, the Klein Karoo is widely recognised for the production of port-style wines that can rival those produced in Portugal.
One of the specialities of the Klein Karoo wine region is its excellent fortified wines. These fortified wines have flavours of black cherry and dark chocolate. These flavours are enhanced by hints of intense black currant with aromas of leathery spices. The fortified wines are rich, round and well balanced. They are made with full and ripe berries that overflow with soft brown chocolate tones.
More recently the winegrowers of the Klein Karoo have begun to focus more on Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Shiraz. This terroir is ideal for the production of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The wines have a rich fruit flavour and a balanced acidity.
The red wines of the Klein Karoo can be described as big and flavoursome because of the terroir of the Outeniqua Mountains. They have scented bouquet with abundant flavours of smoke and spice. These wines deliver an exceptional level of richness. They are also powerful and full-bodied. The tannins of the Klein Karoo red wines are ripe and soft with a long, clean aftertaste.
The white wines of the Klein Karoo wine region are firm with flavours of tropical fruits and gooseberries. These wines have a refined and appealing minerality. They are described by many as clean, fresh and bone dry.
The hidden gem of the Klein Karoo
The hidden gem of the Klein Karoo wine region is without a doubt the prestigious Axe Hill Winery. This winery has received five stars in the John Platter Wine Guide for its maiden vintage, the 1997 Axe Hill Vintage Port. A visit to the Axe Hill winery is a must for all who go to the Klein Karoo wine region. At the winery, enjoy a wine tasting paired with excellent local foods and treats. The team at Axe Hill await you!
Oudtshoorn – The heart and soul of the Klein Karoo
The town of Oudtshorrn is considered the main hub of the Klein Karoo wine region. Oudsthoorn is one of the best known and most visited tourist attractions in the area. What makes Oudtshoorn most popular is its title of the Ostrich capital of the world. The dry summers and the long, sunny winter days make Oudtshoorn the perfect breeding ground for these large, flightless birds. Oudtshoorn is home to more than 400 ostrich farms where one can go for guided tours and purchase a range of ostrich products such as handbags and feather boas.
The most popular tourist attraction in Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves. These caves are a set of underground caves that cover a distance of over 2 km. The caves have been sculpted as a result of 20 million years of erosion and were declared a National Monument in 1938. Daily guided tours are available through the magnificent halls of the cave system.
For those looking for a good time at a local event, the annual Klein Karoo National Arts festival (KKNK) is held in Oudtshoorn. This event is a celebration of the arts and of the local culture.
For sport lovers, Oudtshoorn offers a challenging and modern 18 hole golf course, as well as facilities for tennis, cricket and rugby.
Prince Albert – Experience the true charm and warm hospitality of the Karoo
The town of Prince Albert is known across the Klein Karoo for its charm and welcoming community spirit. Prince Albert can be described as an oasis in the middle of the desert thanks so its water source from the Swartberg Mountains. This gorgeous Karoo town is named after High Royal Highness Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. This beautifully quaint town is famous for its fresh and dried fruit, Karoo lamb, olives and award-winning cheeses. The farmers of Prince Albert have also recently restored the local vineyards that were last farmed during the 19th century. For visitors to Prince Albert, activities include guided historical walks through the town, ghost walks in the evening, hiking trails, fossil hunting and browsing the local museums and galleries.
De Rust – The gateway to the magnificent Meiringspoort
The small town is De Rust is the most scenic and quaint town of the Klein Karoo wine region. This small town lies at the foot of the Swartberg mountains and is considered the gateway to the famous Meiringspoort.
The village of De Rust was established in 1900 and is the perfect example of Karoo old-world hospitality and tranquillity. This is the perfect place to relax, quiet your mind and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings. In 2011, De Rust was declared the South African town of the year. The town offers a number of activities for all visitors. These activities include hiking, mountain biking, and kloofing.
Nature is not a place to visit – it is home
The Klein Karoo wine region is a vast expanse of open spaces, blue skies and dramatic landscapes merging with the horizon. The scenery of the Karoo is an explosion for the senses. Driving through this wine region one can stop and see a herd of Springbok grazing on the arid semi dessert land. The natural environment of the Karoo can be incredibly moody, and the landscape alters dramatically with the changing seasons. Even when at its driest, the Karoo has a natural charm that makes it unique and wonderful to experience.
Inverdoorn Game Reserve – The ultimate Karoo safari experience
The Inverdoorn Game Reserve is located in the vast and majestic Tankwa Karoo. The reserve is nestled in between thick woody Acacia beds and golden mountain peaks. This environment is the perfect home for the reserves resident Big 5 Game – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. The Inverdoorn Game Reserve provides guests with a luxury safari experience on the 10 000-ha wildlife reserve. Visitors have the option of visiting for the day or staying overnight in the luxury safari accommodation. Inverdoorn is also well known for its Cheetah rehabilitation programme where guests can learn more through the Cheetah Educational Tour. Visit Inverdoorn for a true African Safari experience.
Anysberg Nature Reserve – Wide open spaces under a canopy of sparkling stars
The Anysberg Nature Reserve is situated between the Karoo towns of Ladismith, Laingsburg, Touwsrivier and Montagu. This wonderful Klein Karoo nature reserve covers 79 629 ha of land in the incredible Cape Fold Mountains. The deep valleys and steep gorges of the reserve are fed by three rivers. In the Anysberg Nature Reserve guests can observe an incredible range of mountain fynbos plants. Visitors to the reserve can enjoy sightings of antelope, jackal, zebra and the endangered riverine rabbit. Although they are seldom seen, wild leopards do still roam the mountains. This World Heritage Site is a must-visit for all who have the pleasure of travelling to the Klein Karoo.
Swartberg Nature Reserve – A natural feast for the senses
The Swartberg Nature Reserve stretches of 121 000 ha of land and is a World Heritage site in the Klein Karoo. This beautiful nature reserve is home to the remove Gankaskloof Valley which is also known as Die Hel. This valley as a rich cultural, ecological and archaeological history and is a must-see for all visitors. For those wanting to spend time exploring the Swartberg Nature Reserve, there is accommodation inside the reserve.
TIP! Don’t miss a visit to the Peter Bayly winery located in the Klein Karoo hamlet of Calitzdrop. This area is famous worldwide for its wines. You will enjoy your wines in beautiful natural setting, sorrounded by picturesque Groenfontein Valley and gentle hillsides.
What to Eat in Klein Karoo
Good food and good wine in a great location is ones of life’s most wonderful pleasures
Eating and drinking in the Klein Karoo wine region is an experience that is not to be missed. The large size of the Karoo and number of towns in this region, mean that there is a wide range of food offerings to suit every palate. The Klein Karoo region is best known for its famous Karoo Lamb. This lamb is extremely flavoursome and succulent thanks to the food provided by the dry and arid land. Other foods that must be tried in the Klein Karoo are ostrich meat, potjiekos, bredie, bobotie, biltong, roosterkoek, koeksusters and rusks.
Waterblommetjie Bredie – The magical taste of the Karoo water flowers
Waterblommetjie bredie is a traditional South African stew made with the indigenous waterblommetjie. The waterblommetjie is a small water-based flower that is harvested from the dams and marshes of the Klein Karoo during the months of July and August. These tasty flowers and then stewed together with lamb to make a waterblommetjie bredie. The texture of the flower is somewhat similar to an artichoke leaf, but the taste is more like that of a green bean with a hint of lemon flavours. The secret to an excellent waterblommetjie bredie is in the simplicity of the recipe. All that is added are the waterblommetjies, lamb, salt, white pepper and onions. This delicious winter treat is best served with plain white rice.
Boerewors – The national food of South Africa
Boerewors is the name given to traditional South African sausage. The name boerewors is a Afrikaans word that directly translates to farmer sausage.
To classify a sausage as boerewors, it must be 90% meat and always contain beef as well as lamb, pork, or a mixture of the two. The remaining 10% of the boerewors is made of spices and other ingredients. These spices usually include coriander seeds, nutmeg, black pepper, cloves and allspice. What gives boerewors its unique flavour is the addition of fat, salt and vinegar to the sausage recipe. Traditionally, boerewors is prepared on the braai or the barbeque. If a fire is not on hand, this delicious meal can also be cooked on the grill or in the oven. Experience true Karoo living with a relaxing evening of boerewors and beer.
Melkkos – The dish that brings back memories of home and loved ones
The name Melkkos is an Afrikaans word that in English means milk food. Melkkos is a South African heritage dish that conjures memories of family dinners and the taste of home. This comfort food dish is creamy, with flavours of milk and cinnamon – the perfect dessert for a winter evening in the Klein Karoo.