Calitzdorp: South Africa’s Port Wine Capital
Situated on Route 62, in the western region of the Klein Karoo, Calitzdorp is a superb example of a typical Karoo town, where preservation of culture and warm hospitality are paramount. Referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Garden Route’ and ‘Port Wine Capital’ of South Africa, Calitzdorp offers an ideal stopover point from which to explore the area. With spectacular mountains rising up on three sides – Rooiberge to the south, Huisrivier Pass to the west, and Swartberg to the north – the area around Calitzdorp offers a treasure trove of nature to enjoy, with bird-watching, hiking, fishing, horse-riding and 4×4 driving being some of the popular activities.
The town itself is known for its beautiful gardens, with splashes of colour from bougainvillea seen everywhere and architectural styles going back to the early 19th century. As with many Karoo towns, the Dutch Reformed Church stands sentinel over the town, and has done since being built in 1857. The Calitzdorp Museum offers insight into the history and culture of the town and surrounding areas and an art gallery and studio displays and sells works by local artists. Local wine cellars – Boplaas Wine Cellar, De Krans Wine Cellar and Calitzdorp Wine Cellar – are renowned for their production of port wines. The hot, dry climate and well-drained soil of the region are perfect for growing the Portuguese red wine grape varieties of Tinta Barroca and Touriga Nacional which are used to produce top quality port-wine. In fact, the climate and soil types of Calitzdorp are quite similar to Douro valley, Portugal’s top port-wine producing area.
The weather in Calitzdorp can be extreme, with dry heat reaching 40°C during the day in the summer months, but cooling off in the evenings, and snow covered mountains bringing a chill to winter nights, while winter days can be sunny and relatively warm. The area is well known for its diversity of indigenous flora, including more than 500 species of succulents, approximately 200 of which are endemic to the area. Spectacular sunsets and crystal-clear star-studded night skies complete the pleasure of a visit to Calitzdorp.