Wines of South Africa
South Africa is a wine region with a long history (first planting in 1655) for a region apart of the New World. In the mid 17th century, lusciously sweet desert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European upper class. However, beyond this, it never really garnered attention on the global stage until more recent times after apartheid ended in the 1990s and the export market opened up. During this time, the region went through a renaissance with many producers adopting new wine making methods and technologies.
The region is quite hot naturally, but most of the vineyards are situated near the coastline. The ocean breezes help keep temperatures moderate so grapes can steadily ripen. Some higher-elevation vineyards also offer similar growing conditions.
Although the country has some defined wine regions, wine styles are more differentiated by grape variety. Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah are the most planted red grapes however, the country’s signature grape is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, called Pinotage created at Stellenbosch University in 1925. Wines made from this grape are spicy, earthy, and red fruit driven. When seen in a blend with varietals such as Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is often labelled a “Cape Blend”. In whites, South Africa is known to make top quality Chenin Blanc’s (locally known as Steen) which is the most planted grape in the country. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also widely planted.