Little does the casual Portland wine drinker know about this extremely diverse and unique country. South Africa’s wine country is so picturesque and inviting that you could never forget your stay there. Their wines encompass a broad-spectrum of tasting notes; from smooth to crisp, smoky or balanced, big and tannic. The grape varietals are plentiful, but a couple truly reflect the charm and character of its land. Pinotage and Chenin Blanc, also known as Steen, are regionally the most common grape varietals, and thanks to some master winemakers many of them turn out to be world class.
- First wine was planted in Constantia just outside of Cape Town in the 17th
They planted Chenin Blanc, Muscat and Semillon and was suppose to help prevent diseases for sailors who stocked up at the Cape.
- By 1900 most of South African’s wines were low quality and mainly used for brandy, table wines or discharged
- After 1994 (the end of Apartheid) the country was finally able to export and due to the support of innovation and creativity high quality wines were created.
This internationally known grape varietal doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. Born in the Loire Valley in northern France this grape found its way to South Africa but also across the Atlantic Sea to California.
Today Chenin blanc is being produces both bone dry and off dry.
The grape that represents South Africa the most, is hands down Pinotage.
Created in 1925 out of a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsault this grape was supposed to taste similar like a Pinot but easier to grow and able to survive under the countries condition.
The result was a bigger and more tannic red wine with a dark color.
Due to is rigid tannins this early ripening grape doesn’t see to much skin contact during fermentation to prevent it from being to hard and aggressive.
South Africa’s famous Bush wines
The heart of the countries wine region (Stellenbosch and Paarl) used to have about 60% of bush wines back in the 70s. Over the years that style is slowly dying off and more modern techniques are being used to get a higher production volume.
This scenario is very unfortunate for the true wine lover who can appreciate old bush wines with small and few berries that make some of the most concentrated and complex wines the world has to offer.
The challenge is therefore to find value for such wines in the markets. Only then will the iconic bush vine be able to remain a sustainable part of our vineyard landscape.
10 years South Africa’s wines barely made it to the bottom of the grocery shelf’s but today the story is changing. This vibrant and attractive corner of the world offers some of the best valued red and white wines with the highest quality. Vinery are up to date, filled with passionate employees and people from all over the world travel to this beautiful and mountainous wine country in the most southern part of Africa.
Be one of them and don’t let the unknown hold you back. Explore South African wines.