Wines of South Africa
The Wines of South Africa
Although considered “New World,” South Africa has been producing wine for over 350 years, establishing a thriving wine industry well before winemaking was even a thought in California. 1659 marked the Cape’s first recorded vintage when French Huguenots and Dutch settlers brought vines from their homelands and established vineyards to provide wine to the Dutch East India Company merchant ships. Simon van der Stel became the first Governor of the Dutch colony in 1679 and founded the Constantia district.
The wine industry endured challenges through the following centuries that inhibited its growth in production and reputation. From British invasion to the KWV’s monopoly, to global trade sanctions, South African wine was not able to build an international presence until the fall of apartheid in the early 1990s. Small producers began bottling wine and without the industry’s previous focus on bulk production (payments based on tonnage regardless of what was being delivered), wineries were able to focus on quality over quantity. The quality revolution that swept the Cape wine industry in the past two decades has been nothing short of astounding. South Africa produces outstanding wine of exceptional value and has been called “a region worth knowing” by James Molesworth of Wine Spectator.
Located at the tip of the African continent, South Africa’s winelands are nestled between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The Cape’s mild Mediterranean climate, tempered by cooling ocean breezes, is ideal for wine production. The area is dotted with breathtaking mountains which create an array of diverse microclimates and the soils are some of the oldest, most complex and most varied found in any winegrowing area of the world.
South Africa produces all of the well-known global varietals, including Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. Native to South Africa is the Pinotage grape, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Although Pinotage is South Africa’s only native varietal, Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape, and has some of the country’s oldest vines still in production.
South Africa is largely considered to be the greenest wine region in the world due to its focus on environmental sustainability and production integrity. Over 90% of South Africa’s wine is produced in the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of six such plant kingdoms in the world. The Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest but the most diverse, with 70% of the plants grown here, not found anywhere else on earth. The Cape is also a biodiversity hot spot, one of only 25 in existence.
We have listed several South African Selections in our Featured Wine Section
Special thanks to Cape Classics, a leading Importer of South African Wines