Despite the relative proximity of the Cape’s wine regions — many of the better-known appellations are little more than an hour’s drive from each other, and not much further from the Mother City — it is clear that regionality and varietal specificity is not a wine writer’s fiction. Paarl is warmer than Stellenbosch, Elgin is cooler, has more rain and higher levels of humidity in summer. Growing conditions determine which cultivars are likely to perform optimally: you could risk cabernet in Elgin (and some growers do), but you’ll never quite escape the unfashionable herbal notes. Since cabernet is a late ripening variety, the chances of the crop being compromised by early winter rains (admittedly more regular in the past than lately) would be high. But early ripening cool climate cultivars do well there — hence the high percentage of Elgin sauvignon, pinot and chardonnay. Inevitably regional marketing associations try to trade off an appellation’s perceived strengths. Hemel-en-Aarde h...

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