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The south-western Cape has a cooler climate than its position 35' south of the equator would suggest. The Atlantic and Indian oceans and the cold Benguela current flow north up the coast from Antarctica, acting as a moderating influence, so the climate is generally Mediterranean. Annual rainfall, which varies from 25cm. (10 inches) inland to 100cm (39 inches) around the coast, falls mainly between May and August. Summers are generally warm, though they can be quite hot in central areas, while winters are mild with little frost. These generally benevolent conditions are perfectly suited to viticulture. Grapes in some of the Cape's hotter areas are likely to suffer from heat stress or ripen too quickly, but if the correct amount of water is available at the correct time, any potential problem can be averted. Irrigation is vital and legitimate.

Years of research and experimentation have established the suitability of different vineyard micro-climates for specific grape varieties from South Africa's rich viticultural heritage (Steen, Hanepoot, Shiraz). Work is still being done on more recently imported varieties.

Similarly, experimentation is taking place, as in other New World countries, to discover the best soils, sites and aspects. There are great variations between soils, not just within the south-western Cape but also between different vineyards in the same region. Generally, soils on the coastal plains range from Table Mountain sandstone in the west to granite compounds in the east. Shales predominate in the Karoo while in the valleys, where most of the vineyards are situated, the hillsides have stony soils and the floors have sand and gravel.

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