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Eager to explore a wider range of wines using grapes grown in optimal conditions, Charles Back abandoned the estate wine concept in the 1980s, choosing rather to “go where the terroir is”. Today, we are one of the few farms that proudly own all our own vineyards, with land in Paarl, Darling, Swartland and Stellenbosch. Charles has also always been an advocate of social development in the Cape. Under Apartheid, he was one of a number of producers who campaigned for and implemented better conditions for farm workers and in 1997, he established the Fair Valley Worker’s Association, which gave his employees a chance to farm their own land.
The vineyards at the home of Fairview are planted on well-drained decomposed granite soils on the southwestern slopes of Paarl mountain, below Paarl Rock. Starting in 2006, a replanting programme was undertaken to introduce new varieties and vineyard practices. Fairview purchased an adjacent farm, and the majority of the premium vineyards were planted on the favourable soils on the slopes of the mountain, as opposed to the sandier valley floor. With the area’s average summer temperature of 24℃, warmer climate varieties were preferred. These include Shiraz, Pinotage, Petite Sirah, Viognier and Grenache. Aside from a block of old bushvine Pinotage, most of the vineyards are trellised, and receive supplementary drip irrigation during the warm summer months.
Known for its maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean, Darling is situated on the western hills of the coast. With deep red oakleaf soils and summer temperatures averaging in the low twenties, Darling is perfectly suited to premium dryland Sauvignon Blanc production. While Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 60 hectares of our vineyards, Semillon, Chenin Blanc and Riesling are also planted, and show real promise. There are also small pockets of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are producing exceptional grapes.
Always one to take a risk with new projects, Charles Back was also the man who pioneered what has subsequently become known as the Swartland Revolution, rediscovering an area that is now one of the hippest and most exciting in the Cape. Today, Fairview’s 155 hectares of Swartland bushvine vineyards have unique pockets of soil, and care has been taken in selecting the best suited varieties for the sites. Fairview’s Swartland vineyards are dominated by deep, ferric oakleaf soils, with high water retention properties vital in sustaining the vineyards through the summer months (the farm is not irrigated). There are also pockets of shale and koffieklip (ferricrete) soils. The vineyards are mostly untrellised bushvines (bosstok). Varietals planted at the Swartland farm include the red varietals Shiraz, Carignan, Grenache, Tannat, Mourvèdre and Petite Sirah, as well as the white grapes Viognier and Chenin Blanc.
The home of Bordeaux varietals in the Cape, Fairview’s trellised Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vineyards are on the western side of the Helderberg Mountains. The farm is called Houmoed, and the soils are predominantly Koffieklip (literally translated as ‘coffee stone’, descriptive of their appearance). These soils are also known as ferricrete, and are a combination of clay- and iron-rich soils that give Koffieklip its characteristic colour.