Trying to learn more about the world of wine that’s not France, Italy, or California? Explore this guide to South African wines—you’ll be impressed!
We all know it—the wine world provides a lot to explore. But very often, we’re pinned down to the favorites: France, Napa, Italy, just to name a few. What we forget is that the world of wine has expanded way farther past the iconic few—one of those being South Africa.
South Africa is one of the most dynamic wine regions in the world, and it’s often stepped over for some of its more “basic” counterparts. We know, France isn’t actually basic, but if you’ve done it before, so why not try somewhere else? Want to learn more about this exciting wine country? Continue reading and explore our ultimate guide to South African wines. You’ll want this region in your wine rack!
What’s the Climate?
Wondering what sort of climate you’ll get if you visit, and what their grapes thrive on? With any dynamic wine realm, there’s a mix of cool and hot. In South Africa, there’s a cool coastal climate and a hot inland. This works well for the production of a slew of grape varieties. However, the country’s dealt with some yearly droughts in the past, making a massive impact on the success of grapevines.
Important Grape Varieties
That diverse landscape and climate allow for different grape varieties. Below we’ll discuss some of the main players in the South African wine world!
Good old Chenin Blanc. Truly. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is the country’s most-produced wine variety. It’s different than the grape you’ll find in Loire Valley—this is drier, yet richer. However, it’s still incredibly versatile, made into sparklings, sweet desserts, and the classic dry whites.
Not well-known in most areas, Colombard is a French grape (typically seen as Colombar). However, South Africa is this grape’s top producer. Though you may know of it more for its use in Brandy, it has transformed to be a main helper in some semi-dry bottles.
Vines of these grapes have been around in South Africa since around the 18th century. While European countries ruled the wine world at that time, South Africa experienced a resurgence in the late 1900s, leading to more vineyards and a plethora of spectacular whites to try.
Another variety you may not have heard of that’s prominent in South Africa is Pinotage. A cross between the beloved Pinot Noir and the stable Cinsault, Pinotage is a staple in any red blend from the country.
Now, of course—the reliable Cabernet Sauvignon. Though it’s one of the most planted red grape varieties around the world, this grape plays a major role in the South African wine world. You’ll find their Cabernet Sauvignon bottles are some of the most prestigious wines in the country!
More often seen as Syrah in Europe, Shiraz is South African winemakers’ go-to term to describe this versatile, yet elegant, grape. You’ll see it in a lot of blends, but also in quite a few single varietals that some of the wineries below are known for.
Key South African Wine Regions
The next stop on our ultimate guide to South African wines has to deal with the wine regions they come from. Learn more about the key three players below, as well as about some wonderful wineries within!
Let’s start with the Paarl District. Here you’ll find a ton of vineyards, but the district is actually much smaller in size than some of the other regions in the country. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in holding down the fort with Chenin Blanc creation.
This wine region is one of the hotter options in the country—vines will see long, hot summers, and rainy winters. Because of this variation, you’ll see quite a few different growing grapes. When it comes to location, Paarl isn’t far from Cape Town. In fact, this region is actually home to Western Cape’s most-known vineyards and wineries. Here are some of our favorites:
- Nederburg: One of the most popular in the region.
- Mellasat Vineyards: Home to a white Pinotage.
- Laborie: They’ve produced wine for over 300 years!
Sweet Insight: If you just want to try some wine from the area—search for Vilafonté wines. They have two distinctive styles: soft, fleshy, and fruit-driven, and bold, powerful, and structured. Series C and Series M are wines you don’t want to miss.
Stellenbosch is the heart of the South African wine world. Located near Paarl and about an hour from Cape Town, this district is much larger in size. As such, wineries get the cool coastal breeze and the hotter inland temperatures. Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc thrive at these wineries!
There are more than 150 wineries in this region, with vineyards sprawling all along the way. Want to have a tasting experience? Try out these ones:
- Peter Falke Wines: Breathtaking wine, views, and environment.
- Ken Forrester Wines: Known as the “Home of Chenin.”
- L’Avenir Wine Estate: The future of South African wine.
- Thelema Mountain Vineyards: Part of the Simonsberg mountains, and one of WTSO’s favorites!
Cape South Coast
If you’re looking for excitement, then the Cape South Coast region may be the best place for you. Quite young to the South African wine world, this region is full of cooler climates. Wineries in this region work hard to create unique wines, which is why you’ll hardly ever find a “bulk” winery. Boutique spots are the place to be—and they’re full of flavor!
This region includes two districts—Elgin and Walker Bay Districts. You’ll find some of the following wineries in this realm:
- Seven Springs Vineyard: Terroir-driven wines with class.
- Ataraxia Wins: Mountain views and fresh wine sips.
- La Vierge Wines: Whale watching and wine? Yes, please!
South African Wines and WTSO
There you have it—a look at South African wines and all the country has to offer. Our tip for trying out wine from this realm? Stick to the varieties you know, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and then just look for ones from South Africa. You’ll notice some richer flavors, some drier mouthfeels, and some stunning berry flavors! Step out of your comfort zone with classic varieties from a highly versatile and dynamic region.
Partner with Wines ‘Til Sold Out, and you’ll find South African wines with a click of a button. We actually have a 2016 Stellenbosch Shiraz available that you don’t want to miss. Stay updated with our Weekly Tastings and Premium Selections to find more. And then you can try it out and notice different flavors and characteristics with our at-home wine-tasting set. Don’t miss out on stellar wine from a company that cares about you!