Today the wine farms in Stellenbosch offer more than just wine; they are centres of wellness, relaxation, luxury accommodation and fine food. Stellenbosch wine farm accommodation is some of the best in the country and the setting is pure magic. The rich history of Stellenbosch is deeply rooted in farming and in particular wine farming, named for the then governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, it has, for centuries, been the wine farming capital of South Africa and today lies on one of the most famous wine routes in the world.
Apart from its wine, Stellenbosch today is famous for its many oak trees, known to some as Eikestad, literally city of oak in Afrikaans. Its real name is a literal translation of (van der) Stel’s forest, as it was his initiative that saw the planting of all the oak trees to compliment the farmsteads and town roads. By 1682 only three years after the settlement was founded, it had grown so quickly that it had become an independent municipal authority. This goes to show that the Stellenbosch hospitality that can be seen today at Stellenbosch accommodation and wine farms is historically embedded in their culture. Stellenbosch is home to the country’s oldest girl’s school, so although it is a traditional town of great historical significance there was time when it was more progressive than the rest of the country.
The early Dutch settlers used their engineering knowledge to construct a series of canals to divert water from the EersteRivier to the Mill in the middle of town. The arrival of French Huguenots in Stellenbosch changed the town’s reputation for future generations forever. They bought with them the art of viticulture and winemaking. In 1690 the first vineyards were planted in the fertile valleys surrounding the town and Stellenbosch started its journey to becoming one of the centres of world class wine production. It is this combination of ideal climate, fertile soil and ancient knowledge passed down through the generations that have made Stellenbosch what it is today. The town is synonymous with quality wine production, historical wine farms and hospitable, luxurious accommodation. Simon van der Stel was an expert wine maker himself and was the original founder of the Groot Constantia wine farm which is today a world renowned wine producer and the oldest wine farm in South Africa. It was granted to him by the Dutch East India Company and he would have no doubt seen the potential for viticulture when he first settled the area of Stellenbosch. It would have been a natural decision to offer agricultural land around Stellenbosch to the Huguenot refugees.
Simon van der Stel, despite been a despotic, slave owning, capitalist was a visionary. He used personal knowledge and instinct to turn an unused patch of land into one of the greatest wine producing regions in the world. He created an industry that still to this day the South African economy relies on, if not through actual production then through tourism. wine tours from portland oregon