Widely recognized as the cradle of mankind, South Africa has been making wine for over 360 years. Known as the South African Winelands the impressive Cape mountain ranges form a dramatic backdrop to one of the most beautiful wine-producing areas of the world. With the perfect blend of old and new, natural beauty, exquisite farm-to-table cuisine and fascinating wine and wine tourism, this region will touch your heart, spirit and your palate like no other. Keep reading to find out five reasons you should reach for a bottle of South African wine the next time you’re looking to try something new.
Why you need to try South African wine
South African wine is a cradle of biodiversity
In the South African Winelands, you’ll find some of the oldest and most ancient viticultural soils in the world, traceable back to the first supercontinent some 1 000 million years ago. Located in the Cape Floral Kingdom – a World Heritage Site – is one of six such plant kingdoms in the world. One of 36 recognized biodiversity hotspots, 70% of the plants found here are not found anywhere else on Earth. The Winelands Floral Kingdom is home to more than 9 600 unique plant species – which is more than are found in the whole of the northern hemisphere!
Table Mountain is at the heart of the Cape mountain ranges, and that area alone has more floral species than the entire United Kingdom. Most vineyards lie on the valley sides and mountain foothills, benefiting from the many different microclimates offered by the mountainous terrain and diverse terroir.
Wonderful white wines come from South Africa
If you’re a white wine lover, South Africa is a region you simply must get to know. In the last few years, winegrowers have started planting more whites than reds, a reversal of the 10-year trend of planting more reds. From captivating Sauvignon Blanc to excellent Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc winemakers here are producing bottles that overperform for their price point and in various different styles.
Chenin Blanc – the superstar grape of South Africa is not only the most widely cultivated local grape in the region, but local plantings represent more than those established anywhere else in the world combined. An old-world grape variety hailing from the Loire region in France, South Africa has adopted it as their signature white variety and it impresses every enthusiast and critic around the globe. Many bottles are made from older bush vines, hand-tended and hand-picked. Winemakers craft their Chenin Blanc to truly blow wine lovers away with their aromatic makeup, textural balance and precise and lovable flavour profile.
‘Cap Classique’ is the term used for South African Sparkling wines and they are taking the world by storm. Made in the traditional method with second fermentation occurring in the bottle and quality standards that declare minimum time on the lees (nine months) these wines are stealing the hearts of many fine wine lovers. From sparkling Chenin Blanc to the classic sparkling grapes, South Africa is earning itself a place on the world stage for sparkling wines. Other whites like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also on-trend. Winemakers are creating premium-tasting wines for prices that offer consumers incredible value. World-class winemakers are
Sustainable Wine South Africa (SWSA) is the alliance between the Wine and Spirit Board (WSB), the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme and Wines of South Africa (WoSA). As of 2021, 94.3% of certified wines were qualified to carry the new ‘Sustainability Seal’. To use this seal on bottles, 100% of the fruit must be IPW accredited. This includes each link in the production chain, from the cellar to the bottling plant. A certification seal appears on each bottle of wine or estate brandy which has been certified by the Wine and Spirit Board. This seal is a guarantee of origin, vintage and variety as stated on the wine label. To verify information, enter the two unique numbers on the seal. These two numbers track the wine all the way to the vineyard(s) from which it originated. Simply go to www.sawis.co.za/sealsearch.php and enter the numbers on your seal to learn more.
The Rare climate in South Africa
In South Africa, most viticulture takes place at a latitude of 27-34° south in an area with a rare Mediterranean climate. Most of the Cape’s winegrowing regions are influenced by one of the two mighty oceans – the Atlantic and Indian – which meet at this southernmost tip of Africa.
This unique wine-growing area combines fascinating weather patterns to create truly unforgettable wines. With beneficial maritime influences such as regular coastal fog and cooling sea breezes, a moderate Mediterranean climate, the ideal amount of sunshine and useful wind patterns, the region has the ideal conditions in which to create wines of unique character and complexity. Traditional winegrowing areas along the coastal zone are seldom more than 50 km from the ocean and experience beneficial coastal conditions, especially cool sea breezes that help to temper the heat of the sunshine for a more even growing season for the grapes.
The ‘Cape Doctor’ is a legendary and sometimes ferocious southeasterly wind that blows across the southwestern Cape during the spring and summer months. Living up to its name, this natural vineyard ‘doctor’ inhibits the development of disease in the vines by sweeping the vineyards to disperse insects and pests, naturally leaving the grapes to ripen in peace and offering a sustainable solution to mother nature’s sometimes annoying prospects that can interrupt a fine vintage.
South Africa’s wine tourism
Wineries around the Cape Winelands have developed exceptional hospitality resorts and accommodations for visitors unlike anywhere in the world. From ultra-premium wine farms offering markets, art galleries, wedding venues, tasting rooms and restaurants one can take time out of a busy schedule and reconnect with nature. Plan a picnic in the sun at Boschendal, visit the incredible Spier wine farm or stay at Babylonstoren. For real pleasure seekers, visit Hemel-en-Arde and the Hermanus wine route – you may never come home again.
Franschhoek is known as the Wine & Gourmet Capital of South Africa and is home to many talented chefs several of who have been awarded the highest national and international culinary honours as well as unforgettable wineries and sights to be seen. Take the Wine Tram around the region and spend the day tasting and touring around on a hop-on-hop-of vineyard tour.