South African Wines.
The wine producing areas of the cape have a mediterranean climate that, combined with mountains and valleys make for ideal vine growing conditions. There are over 100000 hectares of vines, producing over 900 million litres of wine every year.
South Africa's wine region classification is a bit odd at first glance. The largest "area" is a Region, which may then be subdivided into Districts which can again be divided into Wards. However, some regions have wards but no districts, and some districts do not form part of any region. Yes, well I didn't invent it...
So, for starters, here are those regions, districts and wards.
Breede River Valley Region.
Aan de Doorns.
Boberg Region (fortified wines).
Olifants River (only contains wards).
Self Contained Districts.
Self Contained Wards.
This variety is becoming more common. Although often unremarkable when young, it develops black currant and herb qualities upon ageing. As in many other countries, particularly Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon is sometimes blended with Merlot grapes.
This variety is the most common variety in South Africa. It ripens early, producing average but perfectly drinkable wines.
Another relatively early ripening variety, it is particularly found in Stellenbosch and Paarl. It has enough character to be a single varietal in its own right, but is also combined with Cabernet Sauvignon to add subtelty and softness.
This variety is known to be difficult to grow to good standards outside of Burgundy. However, new modern techniques are enabling decent attempts and wines to emerge from the cooler producing areas of South Africa.
This variety, exclusive to South Africa, was created in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (then known as Hermitage). The combination takes advantage of the distinct, vegetal qualities of the Pinot Noir and combines them with the more reliable Cinsaut. Perfectly drinkable when young, these wines however can mature into excellent, complex fruity wines.
A different variety from Weisser Riesling or Rhine Riesling. It dry, fruity wine with aromas of straw and grass.
Another native of Burgundy, experimentation with fermentation techniques and oak ageing is starting to produce excellent wines.
Also known as Steen, this is the most common white grape variety. It is extremely versatile, being used for fortified and sparkling wines as well as a variety of still sweet and dry wines.
This is particularly suited to warmer districts, such as Breede River Valley. It produces wines which are light, fresh and fruity.
Also known as Hannepoot, it is thought to have been introduced to South Africa in the 1600s from Spain. It is normally used to make sweet dessert wines.
Gaining again in popularity, this variety produces wines with a distinctive grassy or peppery character.
Rather surprisingly, this variety has adapted well to the South African climate, producing wines with a spicy, honey aroma and flowery sweetness.