In the Western Cape's green and fertile Franschhoek valley, where the towering Groot Drakenstein mountains stand sentinel over vineyards that climb their gentle slopes, lies Bellingham - a hospitable wine farm with a 300-year wine making heritage. Set in one of the most beautiful wine-growing areas in South Africa, the farm is rooted in history.

Originally known as Bellinchamp (pretty fields), the land was granted in 1693 to Gerrit Janz van Vuuren, who was married to a French Huguenot, one of the refugees who fled religious persecution in France during the 17 th century.

Settling in scenic Franschhoek (French Corner), these immigrants to South Africa brought French wine making skills to the Cape and began planting vines. From Bellingham came South Africa's first Ros in 1949, the first Premier Grand Cru in 1951, the first Shiraz in 1956 and one of the first local semi-sweet blends, Bellingham Johannesberger in 1957.

Mountain slopes and a variety of soils provide the ideal teroir for producing premium grapes and hence fine wines. Vines are trelliesed and irrigation is on a supplementary basis to alleviate stress.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and South Africa's indigenous Pinotage are among the prime cultivars that thrive in the warm summers, cooled by south-easterly winds.

Grapes are harvested by hand with each batch vinified separately. White wines, known for their refreshingly crisp and fruity character, are cold-fermented in the style best suited to the cultivar.

Reds are matured in small French oak to produce fruity, balanced wines, their soft tannins backed by a firm structure, drinkable within 18 months of harvest, but with an ageing potential of up to 10 years.

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