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A Vineyard in the Fynbos

Stephen Watson (1954 –2011), one of South Africa’s greatest poets, wrote this poem in 2005 to celebrate the introduction of Wines of South Africa’s Biodiversity and Wine Initiative – an initiative that would result in over 140 000 hectares of land on wine farms being put into conservation to safeguard the heritage of the incredible natural biodiversity of the Cape. I found it amongst some old papers that I was tidying and thought it was so beautiful that it deserves reproducing. I love the idea of the vineyards and fynbos uniting in our wine.

Most of Stephen Watson’s poetry is about the city of Cape Town, where he lived most of his life. He was a professor of English at the University of Cape Town and the Director of the Writing Centre there, and one of the founders of the Creative Writing Program.

In his poetry, he was best known as a lyrical chronicler of the Cape’s natural beauty, documenting the response of the soul when surrounded by it. (

These valleys with their vineyards farms,
Home of merlot, chenin blanc or pinotage;
Above them, the fold mountains always,
realm of proteas, ericas, our reed grasses:-

No other Cape could give you this,
This floral kingdom all its own.
The soils that multiplied its flowers in thousands
Have made our wines as various.

Through the length of summers here,
shaped by trade-winds hard and dry;
through winters with their clouds
themselves as dark as grapes,

The slopes above, the world of fynbos*,
have fed the farms, the world below;
and these two worlds, so long adjacent,
are in our wines made one.

Preserve this, keep it always in mind.
Drinking of these grapes you drink
what other Capes would dream of giving:
The vineyard in the realm of fynbos,

The wines of the Cape floral kingdom.

Stephen Watson.

(*fynbos, the natural vegetation of the Cape winelands largely makes up the tiniest floral kingdom in the world.)


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