South African Wines & Vines to Explore

To the novice wine taster, South African wines are easy to overlook. Not many of us understand all that this unique country has to offer the world of wine. In recent years, South Africa has reared its head in the wine industry, impressing wine connoisseurs and average consumers alike.

A Unique Country with Unique Wines

The Cape of South Africa is a continent with small, concentrated areas of wineries to explore. Here, you will find delicious hidden gems. South Africa produces several different grape varietals with an emphasis on red wine. However, there are a few select white grape varietals that should not be overlooked.

South Africa’s white wines to note include the Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Some areas plant the Chardonnay, Riesling and Viognier. Red grapes mostly include Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and Merlot. However, their signature grape of origin is called the Pinotage, a cross between the Pinot Noir and Samso grapes. Keep reading for an excellent Pinotage recommendation!

We refer to South Africa as a “New World” country for wines, which means the wines are made outside of the “Old World” countries of Europe. Don’t be misled by the term “New World”, as some vines date back to the 1600’s when the Dutch settlers came with vine cuttings from Europe. They planted them in South Africa to start the vines we know today, and to cultivate this new soil.

barista pinotage south african winesAnd How About That Climate?

Despite its African location, the cape’s wine lands enjoy a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. This is because the country is situated at the southern-most tip of Africa, bordered by two different oceans. This makes for ideal growing conditions for many of the grapes South Africa grows. The mountain slopes and valleys form the perfect habitat for the wine grape, Vitis Vinifera. Furthermore, the sea breezes from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans cool the vineyards during the warm Summer afternoons. The breezes slow the ripening process and create the intense fruit flavors that are so common in South African wines.

If you get the chance to travel to South Africa, you have several areas to explore for great wines. Stellenbosch is the most well-known and famous region for wine production. Then there is Paarl, Robertson, Tulbagh, Walker Bay, and Wellington, which are among the best known for superb wines.

The Facts about  South AfricaN Wines

  • With each new year, I continue to be amazed by South Africa and the wines they produce. For example, South Africa exports around 450 million liters of wine each year. and there are over 100,000 hectares of vineyard throughout the country. This makes the country the ninth largest producer of wine in the world. Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape variety in South Africa.
  • I am inspired by the fact that South Africa is also committed to sustainable wine farming. To date, over 95% of the South African wine industry has committed to following sustainable wine-growing and winemaking principles. Winemakers place a seal on all bottles of wine that follow these principles. Because the seal is brand new, it will take a couple of years for all South African wines to be certified as sustainable. Older vintages will not have the new seal. Wine is produced in a sustainable way, with an earth-friendly approach. Every consumer can trave the wine all the way from the vine to the bottle, which is simply not the standard in the wine industry yet. Finally, that seal guarantees that the wine was bottled in South Africa and is 100% South African!
  • Our Favorites from South AfricaMischief-maker-south african wines

My wife and I enjoy several South African wines, whites and reds alike. The Blind Dog Chenin Blanc and the Mischief Maker, made by one of the first female winemakers, Mary Lou Nelson. The Mischief Maker is a blend of Shiraz and Grenache with a slight smoke aroma with blackberry, cedar, tobacco and hints of spice. But, I must say that my favorite right now is the signature grape Pinotage, made by the winery Barista. This rich, red wine has flavors of chocolate and mocha with hints of vanilla and very soft tannins.

Now, for some food pairing recommendations! I recommend pairing these wines with an assorted cheese tray, roasted red peppers or baked brie. Pair the red wines with an apricot-glazed roast pork with raisins and figs. Serve with sweet potato fries and a crisp salad of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, and olives with simple dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 

I hope that you have learned a thing or two about South African wines. Maybe you’re even interested in trying one! Tune into our Facebook page every Wednesday at 6:00pm for Charlie’s Corner. You will learn about a new wine every week. A couple South African wines are coming up!

Cheers, my friends!

Charles Visalli