South African wine may not be able to claim the same history as its Old World counterparts, but the country is steadily gaining an international reputation for producing some of the best valued red and white wines in the world.
The wines of South Africa are generally grown in mountainous regions around the Western Cape, which provides a lavish yet rugged landscape of slopes with varying terroirs and a distinctly Mediterranean climate to promote vineyards producing a diversity of styles. South Africa wine is generally classified by geographical regions, with around 60 appellations under the country’s Wine of Origin system. The most recognised South Africa wine regions are: Stellenbosch, the country’s leading wine region; Franschhoek, regarded as the region’s culinary capital; Constantia, renowned for its eponymous sweet dessert wine; and Paarl, which has successfully turned its emphasis from white to red wines.
At Wine Paths, our local experts can organise exclusive tours, luxury stays and exciting activities in South African wine farms that can be tailor-made to meet your exact needs, ensuring every detail is taken care of – including sampling the best South African wines.
Although classed a New World region, many South African wines are evenly poised between New and Old World styles – often produced using modern techniques but having more in common stylistically with their traditional relations.
Viticultural advances have led to the country becoming one of the best producers of Cabernet Sauvignon worldwide.
The best South African white wines are:
Chenin Blanc, which is locally known as Steen, is the most widely planted grape variety in South Africa wine country, although brandy accounts for most of the yield. Its versatile peachy and floral tones are similar to that of an Alsation Pinot Gris.
Sauvignon Blanc carries a distinctive zesty taste with citrus overtones and is a popular grape grown in New World countries. Along with New Zealand, South Africa now produces some of the finest varieties in the world.
Chardonnay is also grown extensively and is a dry white wine that is easy to drink, with citrus fruit flavours and oaky notes courtesy of the barrels it is fermented in. Walker Bay is one of the few South African wine regions to have mastered the complex growing technique.
Other South African white wines include Semillion, Riesling and Viognier, which are often used for blending but can also be found in single-varietal bottles.
The best South African red wines are:
Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape, produced from a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsault that is almost exclusive to the region. However, there is a wide diversity between different wine-makers ranging in styles from young and fruity to dark and smoky.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a South African wine which straddles the old and new worlds – providing a rich, savoury taste without the grit of a French Bordeaux. Nonetheless, viticultural advances have led to the country becoming one of the best producers of Cabernet Sauvignon worldwide.
Shiraz, which is also known as Syrah, is a full bodied red wine with flavours of fruit, spice and peppery tones. Since it grows throughout South Africa it varies in style, with cooler climates producing more savoury wines while dry regions give more richly intense flavours.
Elsewhere, Merlot is widely used as a blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon – while the country’s cooler regions like Elgin and Walker Bay are producing decent single variety Pinot Noir.
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