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Since their introduction to the global wine market in the late 1990s, South African wines have burgeoned in popularity. While most plantings in South Africa comprise white wine grapes, the region also offers lovely red wine varieties. Below is a guide to the regions, grape varieties, and wine brands of South Africa.
The climate of South Africa fosters great wine
South Africa is a uniquely located at the convergence of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, with a mountain range that runs along the coastline. As such, there are various microclimates with South Africa. Overall, summer are hot and dry, while winters are rainy. With elevations of vineyards ranging from 50 to 600 metres, grapes receive varying levels of sunlight allowing for a range of varieties to grow in the region.
South African white wine varieties & producers
The warm climate of South Africa makes it a perfect place to grow large yields of delicious white wine grapes. Most plantings in South Africa comprise Chenin Blanc grapes, also known as “Steen.” Chenin Blanc wines tend to be fresh and fruity. Often, notes of passionfruit, pineapple, or even quince will appear on the nose. Some winemakers also opt to age their Chenin Blanc wines in oak, which offers nutty notes.
Another popular grape variety from South Africa is Colombar. It’s the second most planted grape variety in the region, largely due to its use in brandy, which has historically been popular in South Africa. However, it is also used to produce drinking table wine with tart, fruity flavors like green apple, guava and honey.
South African white wines are wonderful to sip during cocktail hour, but also pair well with lighter fare including poultry, fish and salads.
The best-known red wine grape from South Africa is Pinotage. Often, South Africa and Pinotage are synonymous with one another. Pinotage is a cross between Cinsaut (also know as Hermitage) and Pinot Noir. It’s unique to South Africa where it was cultivated. While Pinotage is one of the most famous red wine grape varieties from South Africa, nowadays it’s the third most planted red wine grape. Generally, Pinotage offers notes of strawberries, cocoa and smoke.
Due to popular demand, the plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah have increased significantly in the region over the years. These are now the most planted grape varieties, overtaking Cinsaut.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most-demanded red wine around the world. In South Africa, both fruity and restrained styles can be found.
Syrah – or Shiraz – is also highly planted in South Africa due to consumer demand. When labelled Shiraz, the winemakers tend to produce bold wines bursting with fruit. When labelled Syrah, winemakers mimic a more restrained French style with a greater presence of non-fruit aromas.
Merlot is also commonly found in South Africa, due to the influence of Bordeaux-style winemaking in the region.
The red wines of South Africa are made to be enjoyed alongside a delicious meal. From BBQ dishes to grilled steaks, these wines can hold up to the most decadent of meals.
Wine drinkers around the world are increasingly appreciative of South African wines. The region has much more to offer to consumers outside of Pinotage! From fresh and fruity wine to full-bodied, complex red wines, there’s a wine for everyone from South Africa.