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Wines of South Africa

HISTORY OF SOUTH AFRICAN WINE

Compared to the 'old world' wine countries of Europe, South Africa is relatively young as a wine producing nation, with the first vineyards being planted when the Dutch settled in the country in the 1650s.

South Africa's wine industry grew steadily over the 17th Century, largely attributed to South Africa being a popular stopping point for traders moving goods between Europe and London.

The wine industry in South Africa continued to enjoy modest success throughout the 1700s and 1800s, with South Africa carving itself a niche for producing quality dessert wines for export to Europe.

The vine pest phylloxera destroyed a lot of South African vineyards in the late 19th Century, but the wine industry bounced back positively after replanting, with the South African government establishing a wine growing co-operative association (KWV) that helped implement better production processes and winemaking techniques.

South Africa's wine production was negatively impacted by the country's system of apartheid between 1948 and 1994, as the export market dried up due to boycotts of South African products and produce. After the system of apartheid ended, the export markets reopened, and South African wine producers realised they needed to upgrade and strengthen their wine making technology and processes to meeting the quality demands of the international markets.

There was significant investment int he South African wine industry from the 1990s onwards, and South Africa is currently the world’s 7th largest exporter of wine.

 

WHERE IS WINE PRODUCED ACROSS SOUTH AFRICA?

 

The majority of South African wines are produced in five main regions.

The Coastal Region is located in the Western Cape region of the country and is estimated to contain half of the vineyard acreage in South Africa. It has a Mediterranean climate, and it is arguably the most important wine region in South Africa as it is home to many of the most internationally recognised wine districts.

Key districts within the Coastal Region include Stellenbosch which is home to the Pinotage grape, world class Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot and Chenin Blanc.

The districts of Darling and Cape Town are also found in the Coastal Region. Darling is internationally recognised for producing amazing Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc.

Cape South Coast has a cool climate, and also has a large amount of rainfall. It is home to the renowned wine district of Walker Bay which is known for producing high quality white wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes.

Another wine district in the Cape South Coast is Elgin, which is separated from the Stellenbosch region by the Hottentots-Holland mountains, and is known for producing some amazing Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Chardonnay.

The Breede River Valley is one of the most important wine-producing regions in South Africa. The valley is located east of Cape Town and extends from Worcester in the north to Swellendam in the south. The climate is warm and dry, with plenty of sunshine. This makes the region ideal for grape cultivation. The wineries in this region are internationally acclaimed for their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Chenin Blanc.

Klein Karoo is located in the Western Cape province of South Africa and is known for its production of fortified wine using the grape varietal Touriga Nacional. The region has a semi-desert climate, with incredibly hot summers. Klein Karoo is also known for its production of Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscat.

The Olifants River Valley wine region offers a variety of different growing conditions - being relatively flat in the north, but hilly in the South. This makes it suitable for growing a wide variety of different grapes, with Chenin Blanc, Garnacha, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon all being grown in this area.

 

WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR STYLES OF WINE FROM SOUTH AFRICA?

 

South African red wines are popular with export markets, with international favourites of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot being produced across South Africa.

The signature grape of South Africa is the red grape Pinotage, which is grown in very few places outside of South Africa. The grape is the source of much debate amongst the wine industry, as Pinotage has a reputation for being difficult to cultivate without a lot of care and attention. Critics would use the fact that very few vineyards outside of South Africa have chosen to grow Pinotage as a sign that other varieties are stronger and more profitable. Other South African winemakers are set on reversing the reputation of Pinotage and establishing it as a premium signature wine of South Africa.

Pinotage is used in many 'Cape Blend' wines, which consists of 30-70% Pinotage and other red grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Syrah.

White wine grapes are also planted across South Africa, with Chenin Blanc being the most popular, covering over 20% of South African Vineyards - followed by Chardonnay. It's not uncommon for both Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay to be blended with other white grapes in South Africa winemaking, with Semillon and Viognier being the most popular varieties to produce rich blends.

OUR FAVOURITE WINES FROM SOUTH AFRICA

We stock a variety of different South African wine styles in our online store, including Pinotage, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Some of our favourites include:

Imbuko Iswithi Pinotage

This amazing Pinotage is from Wellington and is slightly more fruity and sweet compared to other Pinotage wines.

Cape Heights Chenin Blanc

From the Cape Heights winery in the Western Cape, this Chenin Blanc has citrus aromas and a crisp acidity, that is perfect for pairing with grilled fish and chicken.

Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon

An award winning Cabernet Sauvignon, which is incredibly rich, flavoursome and would pair nicely with Beef, Lamb or Chicken.

Van Zijl Chardonnay/Viognier

This blend of Chardonnay and Viognier is smooth and creamy, with tropical fruit flavours. A great wine to drink at any time, but especially good when paired with fish.