The historical town of Stellenbosch, which features some of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture, boasts a winemaking tradition which stretches back to the end of the 17th-century. The mountainous terrain, good rainfall, deep well-drained soils and diversity of terroirs make this a sought-after viticultural area. The rapidly increasing number of wine estates and producers (some 170) includes some of the most famous names in Cape wine. The district, with its mix of historic estates and contemporary wineries, produces excellent examples of almost all the noble grape varieties and is known for the quality of its blended reds.
Stellenbosch, the ‘town of oaks’, is also the educational and research centre of the winelands. Stellenbosch University is the only university in South Africa which offers a degree in viticulture and oenology, and it has many of the country’s most successful winemakers as alumni. The Elsenburg School of Agriculture is also near Stellenbosch, as is the Nietvoorbij Institute of Viticulture and Oenology. This organisation has one of the most modern experimental wineries in the world and, at its experimental farms (situated in several winegrowing districts), important research into new varietals, clones and rootstocks is undertaken.
The intensively farmed Stellenbosch district has been divided up into several smaller viticultural pockets including Banghoek, Bottelary, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch.