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South African Wine

The overwhelming majority of South African quality wine production is centred on the Western Cape where the cool Atlantic Benguela current originating in the Antarctic waters brings a moderating influence to the vineyards by virtue of the prevailing westerly winds together with the rains that fall mainly during winter. The spectacular mountain ranges such as the Drakenberg help to deposit the heaviest rainfall thereby protecting the vineyards from receiving too much and also help to funnel the Cape Doctor, a south-easterly wind blowing from the Indian Ocean, which helps to prevent both powdery mildew and rot from ruining the harvests although when it occurs too early in the season it can have a devastating effect on young vines.

view of vineyards in south africa's western cape region

The Western Cape's geology is both ancient and conducive to growing excellent wine grapes, the granite, shale and Table Mountain sandstone serve to restrict vigorous growth and increase quality. Although the early Dutch settlers planted the first vineyards with some high-quality wine producing estates such as Klein Constantia still in existence the recrudescence of South African viticulture and viniculture owes everything to the ending of apartheid and the opening up of world trade after the long years of sanctions. The newly outward-looking wine-makers have continued to develop the Wine of Origin system first launched in 1973, its classification of wine regions, districts and wards with specific vineyards appearing on the wine labels since 2005. To qualify a single vineyard site must be no bigger than 6 ha. (15 acres) and registration is necessary. Much emphasis is placed on bio-diversity and sustainability in the new South African wine industry with vineyards being encouraged to introduce many of this country's rich botanical heritage as ground cover. In 2012 in excess of 90% of wines carrying the Wines of Origin label also have an officially awarded seal of sustainability.

Although the wine industry can trace its roots back more than three centuries South Africa is still considered a “New World” wine producer although its wines tend to fall somewhere between the riper, more opulent style such as those of e.g. Australia and the more restrained elegance of “Old World” wine producing countries exemplified by France. The grape varieties are familiar and include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Pinot Noir for red wines together with the ubiquitous Chardonnay as well as Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and, perhaps less widely-known and appreciated, Viognier for white wines. South Africa also boasts its very own Pinotage, a black grape that was the result of crossing Pinot Noir with the southern French Cinsault variety. It produces attractive fruity red wines with a certain gaminess which, in less adept hands, can veer towards “foxy”.

The major Wine of Origin districts are Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington, Darling, Swartland and Tulbagh in the Coastal Region; Elgin, Overberg, Walker Bay and Cape Agulhas in the Cape South Coast; Franschhoek, Worcester, Bredekloof and Robertson in the Breede River Valley; Langeberg-Garcia and Calitzdorp in Klein Karoo and, finally, Citrusdal Valley, Citrusdal Mountain and Lutzville Valley in the Olifants River region of the Northern Cape. With a new breed of young, adventurous wine-makers experimenting with cool climate vineyards the prospects for South African wine are looking very good indeed.

  1. Vriesenhof, Paradyskloof Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch, 2014

    Vriesenhof, Paradyskloof Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch, 2014

    The nose is complex and is typical of a Pinot Noir with earthy, forest floor scents, mushrooms and a mineral edge.

    Colour Red Wine
    Grape Variety Pinot Noir
    Country South Africa

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  2. Vriesenhof, Paradyskloof Chardonnay, 2014

    Vriesenhof, Paradyskloof Chardonnay, 2014

    An elegant Chardonnay with fresh aromas of lemon and lime and a touch of minerality.

    Colour White Wine
    Grape Variety Chardonnay
    Country South Africa


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