Cape Town. Table Mountain. Safaris. Lush vegetation. Turquoise waters and blue skies. When we think of South Africa, most of us think of these words, but what about South African wine facts? How much do we really know about the wines of South Africa and its Winelands?
Did you know that nearly all the wines of South Africa grow in the “Cape Floral Kingdom”? This UNESCO-listed biodiversity hotspot is the smallest and richest of the six Floral Kingdoms of the world. 70% of the plants that grow in the Cape Floral are not found anywhere else on the planet, hence its ecological importance in terms of diversity, density and number of endemic species.
Another interesting South African wine fact you may not know about, is that over 95% of the South African wine industry follows sustainable wine-growing and winemaking principles. For the 2010 vintage, the country launched “The Seal”, a label that certifies that a wine has been produced sustainably, that it was bottled within the nation’s borders and that it is 100% South African.
The South African wine regions (also known as “winelands”) are some of the most breathtakingly beautiful in the world. Most of the Cape's 18 official wine routes -and two brandy routes- are within an hour’s drive from Cape Town, which makes them easily accessible to visitors who fly in or out from the country’s legislative capital city.
Contrary to other appellation systems (notably the French AOC) which regulate permitted varieties, trellising methods, irrigation and crop yields, among other things, the South African Wine of Origin program only legislates how wine regions of South Africa are defined and can appear on wine labels. When the term 'Wine of Origin' or the abbreviation 'W.O.' together with the name of a production area (such as Stellenbosch or Durbanville) appears on a label, it confirms that 100% of the grapes used to make that wine come from that specific area.
Did you know that during the 18th South African dessert wines were among the most famous and sought-after in the world? Constantia wines were as celebrated as Hungarian Tokaji or French Sauternes, but this all changed when the phylloxera epidemic spread throughout the South African vineyards in the late 19th century and decimated them. Even if its sweet wines never regained world-fame, South Africa continues to produce them with similar elaboration methods to Porto (and similar grapes too, like Syrah, Pinotage, Tinta Barroca and Touriga Nacional). A sherry-style wine that is made using the Spanish solera system, and a Muscat brandy locally known as Jerepigo are also part of the South African dessert wines’ portfolio.
Although the country’s flagship grape is red Pinotage, the most planted wine grape of South Africa is a white one, Chenin Blanc. Pinotage (a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut) only comes second after Cabernet Sauvignon as the most widely planted red grape variety in South Africa.
The South African wine regions (also known as “winelands”) are some of the most breathtakingly beautiful in the world. Most of the Cape's 18 official wine routes -and two brandy routes- are within an hour’s drive from Cape Town, which makes them easily accessible to visitors who fly in or out from the country’s legislative capital city. Get ready: the South African winelands are memorable -breathtaking landscapes, azure waters, wild flora and fauna, imposing mountain ranges and gorgeous vineyards and wineries await.
Stellenbosch is the country’s second oldest town and, undoubtedly, it is South Africa’s wine capital. The Stellenbosch winelands are less than 30 minutes away from the Cape Town International Airport, on the southern tip of the African continent: a vibrant region with acclaimed wines, mouth-watering food and world-class accommodation.
The Stellenbosch Wine Route was launched in 1971, which marks the start of wine tourism in the country. Nowadays, this South African wine region gives you the opportunity to admire some of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture, taste award winning olive oils and organic vinegars, enjoy some formidable blended red wines, visit historic estates as well as modern wineries… In short: visit Stellenbosch to immerse yourself in South African winemaking.
Constantia is the cradle of winemaking in the Cape, as it is where the once world-famous Constantia dessert wines originated in the 17th century.
This historic valley lies on the southern slopes of the Table Mountain range and its world-renowned Floral Kingdom. Its cool climate makes it ideal for the production of white wines, notably Sauvignon Blanc.
Only 45 minutes from Cape Town, the district of Franschhoek will surprise you with its French-named farms, Cape Dutch homesteads, imposing oaks and rolling vineyards. The country’s culinary capital, is a must-see South African wine region, with its wealth of culture and history and memorable dining experiences.
The South African winelands have plenty of fine wine, delicious world-class cuisine, historic homesteads, breath-taking natural reserves, and wild fauna and flora to amaze you with. Where will you stop first?
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