South Africa is a land of contrasts, be it demographically, or nature. Every winemaking area is quite unique, with the predominant factors being proximity to the ocean, the prevalence of mountains or low lying hills, soil types and composition, and rain fall.
The Darling wine of origin area has only existed since 2003. Before that, Darling was part of the Swartland wine of origin area. The producers in the Darling area felt that Darling offered something different to the greater Swartland producing area. Darling is very close to the Atlantic Ocean, with the closest vineyards in the Swartland area another 6 kilometres inland from the Darling Cellars site.
The Darling terroir thus makes for an interesting composition of low lying hills facing both North East and South West as well as sandy and loamy soils, with a close proximity to the ocean. The various vineyards where Darling Cellars source the fruit for their wines from lie between 6 and 30 kilometres from the ocean.
The predominant soil types are decomposed granite and Oakleaf soils. The relatively low clay content makes for well drained soils and although the water table is quite high in winter, the vineyards are never flooded.
Pockets of sandy soils in the flatlands in the eastern part of the producing area are great for white wine production, to get a bit of riper fruit, where the south western ocean facing slopes deliver more acidity, herbaceousness and green flavours.
Combining these two areas leads to wines that display great balance on the nose and palate with a lingering refreshing aftertaste.
The soils of the Western Cape are approximately 4 and a half million years old. These are extremely old compared to the relatively young soils of Europe. More nutrients are thus found in the lower levels of the soils in Darling, and with a nice deep root system, the bush vines work their way down and reach these to bring forward more fruit flavours in the grapes.
The cold Benguela current running the length of the West Coast, has a great cooling effect on the vineyards of the area. The average temperature as a result of this current is about 3-5 degrees Centigrade lower than that of the inland Swartland area. Cool mist/fog from this current coats the hills in the morning till about 11AM, leading to a cool climate effect, which works well for white varietals.
A cool Westerly breeze originating from the ocean, whiffs along the area and also cools down the midday temperatures. The great difference between day and night temperatures also leads to cold climate conditions and thus great cold climate varietal production, where the warmer inland influence suits the warmer climate varietals better.
The variation in topography gives Darling Cellars greater diversity to do site and varietal selection and this leads to not only greater diversity, but also better pairing of all these elements to make wines of exceptional character and natural balance.