The town of Somerset West, named after the British Governor Lord Charles Somerset, lies at the foot of the Helderberg mountain, part of the Hottentots-Holland range, and is some 30km east of Cape Town. The town itself is fairly young, having been founded only in 1822, but on the outskirts of Somerset West one finds the historic wine estate of Vergelegen (from the Dutch for “situated far away”, because when the then Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel established the estate in 1700, it took three days by ox wagon from Cape Town).
Six years after he had established the estate, Van der Stel had already planted half a million vines, and thus started the history of wine making at Vergelegen. The estate passed from hand to hand over the centuries, but nowadays it belongs to the Anglo-American group of companies and the quality of the wines produced here now is exceptional. Today there are 24 vineyards covering 107ha (264 acres).
The estate is also popular just before Christmas, when thousands of people attend the annual carols by candlelight held on the main lawn in front of the old manor house.