A trip to South Africa would not be complete without sampling the many varieties of wine that this region has to offer. From crisp, cool-climate white wine to bold, rich red wine and everything in between, South African winemakers have become renowned for producing some of the world’s best wines.
With a unique combination of soil and climate conditions across various wine regions, South African vintners are able to craft complex flavors through carefully crafted blends or single varietal wines.
History of wine making in South Africa
South Africa has a long and distinguished history of winemaking, with its roots dating back hundreds of years. The first official winery established by dutch traders in South Africa was Constantia, which was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1685. Since then, wine making has become an integral part of South African culture and heritage.
The Constantia estate is particularly renowned as the birthplace of South African wine-making – producing some of the country’s first wines crafted from imported European grapes.
Since then, South Africa has become one of the world’s leading producers and consumers of wine. From its earliest days, the country’s viticulture industry has been heavily regulated by the state-run KWV organization. Established in 1918, this organization was responsible for ensuring quality control and setting price limits on all wines produced within South Africa.
In 2016 KWV was acquired by the Vasari group based in London. Vasari group focusses on wine and other branded goods.
Winemaking during apartheid
In the 1900s, South African winemakers faced a crisis due to overproduction caused by changing market demands around the world. In response to this issue, KWV (Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika) implemented several measures such as introducing new methods for controlling yields and limiting production levels to ensure long-term sustainability within viticulture sector.
The KWV encouraged production of fortified wines and spirits to reduce an overproduction of wines in the early 20th century. 70 % of grapes were used for spirit and 30 % for wine. This has changed in favor of the wine production to 70 % of grapes being fermented to wine.
During apartheid South Africa was isolated from external influence which also impacted the wine industry. With the abolishment of aprtheid by the south african government in the early 1990ies an influx of young and creative wine makers from all over the world gave a boost to the South African wine industry.
South African Grape Varietals
South Africa is home to some of the most important grape varietals in the world. While there are dozens of varietals, each with its own unique characteristics and flavor profile, a few stand out from the rest due to their importance in South African wine production.
Based on the surface of grape varietal South Africa is a white wine country with Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc being the major grapevines. Colombard is an offspring of Chenin Blanc and Gouais Blanc. Chardonnay plays a less important role for wine making.
The Chenin Blanc grape is one of the oldest and most widely planted white varieties in South Africa. This multi-talented grape produces wines with a wide variety of styles. They range from light and crisp wine to full-bodied and oak aged wine. It is known for its distinctive aromas of honeyed apples and pears, as well as its pleasant acidity.
Sauvignon Blanc has become synonymous with South African wines over recent years. This versatile varietal creates fresh, vibrant white wine that offer an array of tropical fruit flavors.
Red grapes only come in at 4th to 6th place with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Shiraz and Pinotage. Other red wine grape varietals are Merlot, Ruby Cabernet and Cinsault by order of importance.
Pinot Noir is only getting more interest in recent years as the cooler climate of the South African wine regions provides perfect growing conditions for this grape.
Climate of South African Wine Regions
South Africa is a country known for its beautiful landscapes, diverse cultures, and – of course – wine. With renowned regions like Cape Town along the Indian Ocean and Stellenbosch near the Atlantic, South African wine has become a world-renowned commodity. But what is it about the climate of these regions that makes them so special?
The unique combination of influences from both oceans makes South African climates distinct from many other wine-producing countries. A Cape Town region vineyard may experience higher temperatures due to the Indian Ocean’s close proximity while more inland vineyards closer to Stellenbosch are cooled down by strong winds coming off the cold Atlantic waters.
These temperature fluctuations create optimum growing conditions for grapevines producing some of the world’s most exquisite wines!
The South African coastal wine region is a premier destination for wine lovers from all across the globe. This region is known for its beautiful scenery and perfect climate, conditions that are ideal for producing some of the finest wines in the world. With its plethora of vineyards and wineries, the area has become a major hub for those who want to sample an array of wines that can only be found in this part of South Africa.
The coastal region’s diverse soils allow each vineyard to produce distinct wines with unique character and flavor. From crisp Sauvignon Blancs to robust Shiraz, there’s something here to please every palate. Many of these wines have won awards both locally and internationally due to their superior quality and taste.
The coastal wine region covers the regions of Stellenbosch, Constantia, Cape Point near Cape town, Franschhoek and Swartland.
Stellenbosch wine is one of the most popular and highly sought after wines in the world. With a history dating back to 1679, Stellenbosch has been consistently producing some of South Africa’s best wines for centuries. The region is known for its unique blend of grape varietals, climate, and ground conditions that make it ideal for cultivating some of the finest grapes in the world.
Terroir and flavor of Stellenbosch wines
The climate in Stellenbosch creates an optimal environment for growing grapes with winter rainfall giving way to dry summer months which provide plenty of sunshine and warmth essential to developing intense flavor and complexity in the resulting wines. The area’s soil composition also plays an important role as it ranges from clay-based soils on granite slopes, to sandy soils near streams.
Red wines from Stellenbosch
The most important grape varietals for the Stellenbosch wine region are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to create Bordeaux style blends. Pinotage is grown here as Stellenbosch is the birthplace of this grape. You can also find some Shiraz.
White wines from Stellenbosch
Grape varietals for white wines play a minor role in the Stellenbosch region. The most common ones are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier. Part of the wine produced from the Viognier grape is used for blending with Shiraz similar to the Côte-Rotie region in the Northern Rhône Valley in France.
Wines from Constantia
Wines from Constantia, South Africa are some of the most sought-after wines in the world. Located near Cape Town, Constantia is known for its warm climate which provides ideal conditions for growing grapes that make quality wines.
History of wines from Constantia
Tragedy struck in Constania in the 1860s when the entire grape plantations were wiped out by phylloxera and powdery mildew. The vineyards were forgotten until the 1980s when new grapes were planted.
Grapes grown at Constantia
The region produces a variety of grape varietals including Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon. While these popular varieties are widely available around the world, true aficionados seek out bottles from this legendary winemaking region to experience their unique flavors and aromas.
Terroir at Constantia
Constantia’s terroir adds an extra dimension to its wines with subtle notes of soil, herbs and spices depending on the area where they are grown. The vineyards here can produce both cool climate styles as well as more full-bodied ones due to the different microclimates found in this small region. The unique microclimate is caused by being on the shores of the atlantic ocean as well as close to the indian ocean.
The area’s warm climate and diverse terroir creates a unique set of conditions that helps to produce outstanding vintages. A combination of hot days and cool nights, along with varying soil types, gives rise to many different grape varietals which lend their own distinct character to the wines.
The Franschhoek Valley is home to both small boutique wineries as well as larger producers. All of whom are dedicated to crafting high quality wines from local grapes. There are over 80 grape varietals grown in this region. This includes Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage – a unique red wine blend created by crossing Cinsault with Pinot Noir grapes.
Paarl, South Africa is home to some of the world’s finest wines. The region has long been known for its rich terroir, and the quality of grapes that come from this area. This diverse landscape produces a wide range of grape varietals, all with their own distinct flavors and aromas.
The Paarl Valley is particularly noted for its red wines, which are renowned for their intense flavor and complexity. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage are two popular varieties grown in the region. Both are known for their deep purple hue and robust character. Chardonnay is also grown here, with a slightly lighter hue but still packing plenty of fruity flavor from the sunny climate.
These excellent wines have earned Paarl an international reputation as one of South Africa’s best wine regions.
Breede River Valley
Wines from Breede River Valley South Africa have long been prized for their excellent quality and distinctive local characteristics. Located in the Western Cape province of the country, this region has been producing wine since the 1600s and is known for its wide range of grape varietals and terroir.
Premium wines can be found in wineries on the hillside slopes whereas the rich soils on the river banks yield consumer friendly sweet wine.
Terroir of the Breede River Valley
The variety of soils found in this valley produces wines with distinct nuances that are specific to each location. It ranges from granite soils which add a hint of minerality to loam soils that give wines a creamier texture. The Breede River Valley covers the wine growing regions of Breedekloof, Worcester and RObertson
Some of the most popular grape varietals grown in Breede River Valley include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah/Shiraz and Pinotage.
Cape South Coast
The Cape South Coast wine region is a stunning area of the Western Cape and one of the most impressive wine producing regions in the country. Located between Elgin, Overberg, Walker Bay and Cape Agulhas, this spectacular region produces some of South Africa’s best wines.
It offers visitors a unique combination of cool climate viticulture with its rolling hillsides, picturesque vineyards and breathtaking views. With an ideal terroir for producing world-class wines from classic grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir to more modern varietals like Syrah and Chardonnay. This idyllic corner of the Western Cape will not disappoint any palate!
Overberg wine region
Overberg, South Africa is home to some of the most exquisite wines in the world. The region’s unique terroir and excellent climate make it an ideal environment for grapes to flourish and create high-quality wines with complex flavors.
The area lies within a biome of mixed fynbos shrubland. It has hills that provide an ample mix of soil types which is perfect for growing diverse grapes. The Mediterranean climate with wet winters and hot dry summers, allow the grapes to grow at a slower rate than other parts of South Africa. This gives them more time on the vine resulting in fuller flavor development.
Wines from Overberg
The Overberg region of South Africa is known for producing some of the finest wines in the world. This area is home to a number of vineyards offering an array of varietals. You can find classic whites such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier to bold reds like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The warm climate and diverse landscape provide an ideal environment for cultivating grapes with intense flavor and character.
The region has long been renowned for its Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier varieties. They boast complex aromas that range from tropical fruits to citrus notes.
Klein “Little” Karoo Wines
The Little Karoo region of South Africa is home to some of the most exquisite wines in the world. This semi-arid area produces both dessert wines and table wines, each with its own unique flavor profile. With its dry climate, Little Karoo serves as an ideal terroir for grapevines. They flourish and produce a variety of reds, whites, and rosés.
The Klein Karoo wine region covers Klein Karoo, Langeborg-Garcia, Calitzdorp.
South Africa’s Little Karoo is a semi-desert region in the western part of the country and one of its best kept secrets. This area provides ideal wine-growing conditions, with rocky soils and hot days followed by cool nights. It produces some of South Africa’s most exceptional wines, including Ruby Cabernet, Shiraz, Chenin Blanc, and Colombard.
Ruby Cabernet is a cross between two classic grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan. The grapes produce an intense ruby colour with lots of spices on the palate, such as pepper, cinnamon and nutmeg. Shiraz offers full body aromas with hints of blackberry jam, licorice and mocha on the palate.
Olifants River wine Region
The Olifants River Wine region is a viticultural area in South Africa. It stretches along the banks of the Olifants River. Grapes have been cultivated there for centuries and today the region boasts a thriving wine industry.
The soil in the region is ideal for growing high-quality grapes. Many wineries are making use of traditional methods to cultivate their crop. The Olifants River wine region is known for sweet large volume wines. This changed in past years with vintners producing more fine flavor oriented wines.
Main grapes in the Oligfants River wine region are Shiraz, Pinotage, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
Orange River wine region
Namibia’s Orange River wine region is becoming increasingly renowned for its unique terroir and high-quality grape varieties. Located in the upper reaches of the Orange River, this small winemaking area has been producing distinctive wines since the late 19th century. Now it is a major producer of grapes for South Africa’s wine industry. With its vast open spaces, warm temperatures, abundant sunshine and wide range of soil types, it creates an ideal environment for producing some of the finest wines in Namibia.
The Orange River Wine Region is home to numerous vineyards that are known for their production of complex red wines. You can also find full-bodied white wines such as Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.
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