A new era. A new beginning.
Even though South Africa planted its first vines as long ago as 1654, it grew indigenous varieties and produced sweet wine (at one point Vin de Constance was one the greatest wines in the world!), and exported grape concentrate. It is only now that it is emerging as an exciting and ‘New World’ country.
Pioneering wine producers diversifying into well-known, international grape varieties, blending and fine wine production; privatisation of the all powerful and dominating cooperative that fixed prices and trade- KWV; and black empowerment schemes and fair-trade. All of these reasons show such exciting promise for the future of an outstandingly beautiful country.
After visiting South Africa, it wasn’t just the stunning scenery that remained in my memory, but the people of South Africa. They oozed so much enthusiasm and determination to cement themselves onto the world stage of quality wine production.
Yes, South Africa still has many social problems, but over the last 25 years, especially since the collapse of the apartheid regime in 1994, South African producers are throwing their efforts into dry red and white wine production.
As wine laws have now been relaxed, they have imported International grape variety vines. Competition has increased as prices are no longer fixed (the more competition, the better the quality).
Money has been invested into the development of incentivising schemes and they are also focussing on higher quality single estate wines, rather than mass produced, blended, regional ones e.g. Western Cape (very much like the South Eastern Australian, super zone concept).
South Africa’s wine production areas are divided into Regions, then Districts, then Wards, then Estates (single vineyards). This is called the Wine of Origin Scheme.
All the main vineyards are concentrated around the Cape Town area, protected by the magnificent Table Mountain. Cooling winds around the Cape of Good Hope allow the production of Bordeaux style blends and many other grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc.
Please check out some of the smaller Estate wines and you will be in for a treat! Just driving around we stumbled across some treasures! Also blending some of these International varieties with Pinotage, (South Africa’s very own grape variety), has produced some superb and rather ‘distinctive’ wines.
I love Pinotage. It is a red fruit flavoured grape variety, full bodied and heavy with a strange array of flavours and aromas…bananas, rubbery, with hints of toasted marshmallows. Plus many more strange ones I have heard people express!
The main wine producing regions are:
- The Coastal Region (Stellenbosch and Paarl)
- Overberg (Walker Bay)
- The Breede River Valley (Robertson and Worcester).
Note, there are many different grape varieties and blends made in South Africa, so there is a huge range of different styles produced.
- Bordeaux style, fine reds to fruity, spicy and banana flavoured blends with Pinotage.
- Fresh aromatic whites to creamy, ripe and rich styles
- Sweet dessert wines, e.g. Vin de Constance
- Pinotage (SA’s indigenous red grape)
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Chenin Blanc
- Kanonkopf’s Single Estate blends
- Ernie Els’ Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon Blends (yes, he has his very own vineyard- incredible and well worth a visit!)
- Fairview Estate Shiraz
- Walker Bay Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
- Constantia Sauvignon Blanc