South African Wine Grape Varieties
South Africa is the world’s eighth largest wine-producing country, with a greater variety and diversity of South African wine grape varieties (or cultivars) than most other wine-growing countries. South Africa, which is three times the size of California and surrounded on either side by two distinct oceans and the climates that they bring, is home to a diverse range of distinct and different landscapes. One of the world’s most intriguing and beautiful wine-producing countries. Even though South Africa is a newcomer to the international wine market, the first South African wine harvest was recorded in 1659.
Wine is a beloved beverage enjoyed all over the world, and South Africa is no exception. Home to a wide range of grape varieties, this country has a long and fascinating history with wine that dates back centuries. From Sauvignon Blanc to Pinotage and beyond, here is an introduction to some of the most popular South African wine grape varieties grown in the country.
Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most widely planted grape varieties in South Africa, accounting for over 32% of white grapes grown in the country. It produces wines that are light-bodied with vibrant acidity and intensely aromatic notes of citrus, grass, pineapple, and passion fruit. These varietal wines are best enjoyed young and can be paired nicely with seafood dishes or goat cheese salads.
Another popular white grape which makes up about 13% of vineyard plantings in the country is Chardonnay. Producing wines that are crisper than its French counterparts due to the higher acidity levels found in South African terroir, this variety typically presents aromas of citrus zest, apple and pear as well as floral nuances like jasmine or honeysuckle. Oak-aged Chardonnays tend to have additional notes such as almond or brioche while still retaining their crisp characteristics.
Chenin Blanc is another important white variety in South Africa that has been growing since 1655 when it was first introduced by Jan Van Riebeeck at The Cape Of Good Hope. This versatile variety produces wines across a wide range spectrum from bone-dry styles to dessert-like late harvests! It offers bright aromas of ripe pears, apples and honeycomb as well as flavours like lemon tart or quince when aged in oak barrels. This grape also pairs perfectly with fuller-flavoured dishes like pork or duck confit due to its high acidity levels.
On the red side, there is Pinotage which was first developed by crossing Cinsault with Pinot Noir in 1925 by Professor Perold at Stellenbosch University near Cape Town. This varietal produces full-bodied reds with rich dark fruit characters such as blackberry along with smoky cigar box notes on both nose and palate when aged in oak barrels. Its signature smoky taste makes it an ideal match for barbecued meats while its slight sweetness will balance out spicier dishes featuring chilli peppers or other strong spices.
Lastly, we have Cabernet Sauvignon which accounts for 15% of South African vines planted today. It creates deeply coloured reds that feature aromas of cassis, blackberry, bell pepper, and eucalyptus leaf along with hints of mint or sage depending on how savoury they turn out during the ageing process; these varietal wines offer firm tannins and intense structure so they pair wonderfully well with beef-based entrees such as steak or short ribs cooked low & slow! If you’re looking for something special then try Cabernet Franc which has similar characteristics but brighter fruit profiles including cranberry & raspberry instead of just dark fruits like black cherry & plum making them incredibly food-friendly options too.