Wines from South Africa

by Arnaldo Alcón Cánovas

The first production of wine in South Africa is from February 1659. The beginnings were not easy, since the Dutch settlers had almost any knowledge of grape growing and winemaking. The salvation came from the north: between 1680 and 1690 a group of French refugees reached the Cape, the Huguenots, who brought the tradition of French wine with them, they had to get adapted to the conditions of the region. The great variety of climates and soils of the Cape was the first obstacle to overcome, together with the lack of export markets for wine. This last point was solved by itself. The British occupation in the first half of the nineteenth century opened the most important market for South Africa: The English.

Many climate fluctuations, economic and political changes occurred, including phylloxera, but throughout this century the South African wine industry has been consolidating, improving the quality of their products and producing some of the most famous wines in the world.

South African wine varieties

In South Africa we can find the most common grape varieties in the world, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ugni Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and other varieties not so common, including some varieties created in this region.The rarer varieties:


Cape Riesling, one of the best varieties of South Africa, identified as the French Crouchen Blanc. Chenel, local cross between Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc.
Chenin Blanc, also known as Steen, gives fresh wine, fruity, easy drinking.
Clairette Blanche, one of the favorite varieties of South African products, which gives wines low alcohol content and low acidity. Although it is hardly used to develop varietal wines, it is a fundamental constituent of many wines.
There are also Bukettraube, originary from Germany, Colombard, Emerald Riesling, Muscat of Alexandria, which is called Hanepoot, Muscadel, Palomino, Rhine Riesling.


Cinsaut, a versatile range variety formerly known as the Hermitage, but whose growing area decreases day by day.Pinotage, local cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Hermitage), which gives full-bodied, fruity wine that needs 2 or 3 years to reach its fullness.
Souzao, originary from Portugal that gives an excellent color saturation.
Other red varieties: Gamay Noir, Red Muscadel, Red Barocca , Zinfandel.

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