Today, South Africa has a forward-looking
and vibrant wine industry that's making up for lost time, fast! Despite
the fact that wine has been made in South Africa since 1659, it's only
over the past decade or so that its strengths and potential have been
discovered. South Africa's best-known vine and wine is Pinotage, bred by
crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
On paper, South Africa has everything to
create great wines: a favorable climate, soil and an energetic band of
talented winemakers. It's easy to find young winemakers who have
traveled and worked in other wine-producing countries throughout the
world, gaining valuable experience along the way.
The Cape and surrounding areas are cooled
by the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean and the Benguela current from
Antartica. The vineyards are mostly set in regions that enjoy some of
the most spectacular scenery in the world. The varied topography creates
diverse growing conditions and terroir, with some of the top wines
expressing a true sense of place.
The best-known regions include Constantia,
Paarl, Stellenbosch, Robertson, Swartland, and Malmesbury, Walker Bay,
and Elgin. The cool, coastal setting of Constantia produces some
top-quality dry and sweet white wines and Merlot shows great potential.
Paarl includes the sub-region of Franschhoek, where Sauvignon and
Sémillon perform particularly well. Paarl itself, is home to ripe,
full-bodied and well-rounded wines.
Stellenbosch is the source of some of
South Africa's finest red wines, from vineyards set in moutain
foothills. Like the Napa Valley in California, you will find many good
restaurants here too. Robertson, 'The Valley of Vines and Roses', is set
inland. A hot area irrigated from the Breede River, stony, lime-rich
soils and cool evenings and nights help produce surprisingly good
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. This is very much an up-and-coming
Swartland and Malmesbury, with its coastal
location, is the source of some superbly balanced red wines. Walker Bay
and Elgin meanwhile, is a cool and humid area southeast of Cape Town.
Look out for some aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling from Elgin, and
classy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Walker Bay.