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South Africa Hits Its Stride

The wines of South Africa are some of the most exciting yet under-appreciated in the world. Vineyards in South Africa are located in a variety of climates and in regions that have such diverse types of land that the best South African wine can compete with the greatest on earth. South African wine is becoming an increasingly important part of the culinary culture, with consumers buying more and more domestically, and producers exporting an increasing volume to countries around the world. When wine lovers think of Chenin Blanc, South Africa is likely one of the first places that comes to mind, and with good reason: it’s delicious. South African Chardonnay has also taken on an ever-larger role in recent years. And the reds are often show-stoppers.

What is South African wine?

South African wine is any wine that’s produced inside the borders of the country and from grapes that have been grown there. It’s near impossible to discuss the nation’s wine production in broad stylistic terms because there’s such a beautiful mosaic of them. Your best bet is to explore the category yourself, and what’s great is, you don’t have to spend a fortune to do so.

Where does South African wine come from?

The most well-known wine regions in South Africa are found in and around the Western Cape. This is the area within a few hours of Cape Town. Because of the presence of mountains, as well as diverse influences from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the wine regions of this part of South Africa are tremendously varied. Stellenbosch is the most famous, and the Chenin Blanc there is among the best in the world. Franschhoek is making a name for itself with varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, as well as Shiraz. Newer regions like Swartland are having huge success with grapes like Shiraz and Grenache, in addition to Pinot Noir. Paarl is increasingly respected for its Viognier. Constantia is home to some of the most renowned Sauvignon Blanc South Africa grows.

What are popular wine styles from South Africa?

Because of the range of styles that South Africa excels at producing, it’s difficult to pin down just one or two popular styles. However, rich and spicy reds like the Pinotage is one type of wine that South Africa produces in very high quality, as well as Shiraz-based blends that pair so perfectly with barbecue, and are finding a growing market around the world. Fresh, lively white wines from Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc are of great importance, too. And Méthode Cap Classique, also often referred to as South African Champagne, is phenomenal. A Sparkling wine to rival the best anywhere. South African Chardonnay is worth checking out, too.

What are popular vineyards in South Africa?

Because of how close to Cape Town vineyards can be found, visiting the best of them is relatively easy for tourists in the country. Among the most popular are Holden Manz, Delaire Graff, Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, and Babylonstoren.

What is the most popular wine in South Africa?

Pinotage used to be the wine most widely associated with South Africa, but these days, the most popular ones are likely Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay among white wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir among reds.

What is the most expensive wine in South Africa?

South Africa is known for its stunning wines that don’t tend to cost a fortune. However, there are several ones whose prices are definitely at the higher end of the spectrum. Near the top of the price pyramid is a wine called “The Cabernet Franc,” which runs close to $350 per bottle.

What is the highest rated wine from South Africa?

It depends on whose ratings you’re looking at, but according to Wine Spectator, several wines have earned prestigious 96-point scores, including the Sadie Family ’T Voetpad Swartland 2016, Sadie Family Kokerboom Olifants River 2016, De Trafford Syrah Stellenbosch 393 2011, and the Sadie Family Palladius Coastal Region 2014.

What wine is South Africa known for?

South Africa used to be most famous for Pinotage, which is a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, but it was always a fairly controversial wine, although excellent ones are being made today. Right now, South Africa is more famous for its Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay as well as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, and Pinot Noir.

Is South Africa New World wine?

Since it’s not located in Europe, which is traditionally where Old World wine is produced, it’s often considered to be New World. However, wine has been produced in South Africa for centuries—since the mid-1600s. In that regard, it could be considered Old World. From a stylistic standpoint, some producers work in a New World mode, focusing on fruit and the use of more new oak barrels, but some are more Old World in philosophy, placing a greater importance on the land and the non-fruit characteristics of their wines.

What’s the difference between New World and Old World wine?

Old World wine is generally produced in Europe and tends to place a focus on the land itself, as opposed to on the expression of ripe fruit and winemaking techniques like the use of new oak barrels, which is more New World in philosophy and practice.

What countries are Old World?

In general, the classic wine-producing countries of Europe are part of the Old World, with France, Italy, Germany, and Spain chief among them.

Browse our full selection of South African wine online or check out our selection of highly-rated South African wine for a great new wine to try this week!

Want to learn more about South African wine?

Visit our Guide to South African wine to learn more about wine crafted in South Africa.