On the global wine production map, South Africa is often overlooked. Our European friends rich in their self-importance don't raise an eyebrow at the regions. And even the US and our own little continent downunder get more mindshare. But the thing is. South Africa has been producing European-styled wines in an Australian-style climate for over 80 years. And they are bloody good at it. The world is starting to finally take notice.
The majority of their fine wine regions are relatively close to the coast, making full use of the cooling seas breezes to moderate the warm climate and produce balanced wines of great freshness and texture. Here we wanted to break down some of the main regions, so that you know a bit more about where these delicious drops are coming from as they increasinly pop-up on shelves and wine lists.
Coastal. Due east of Cape Town.
One of South Africa’s pre-eminent wine regions, if not the most famous! Grapes have been planted here since the late 1600s, and the region is renowned for its even climate and high quality grapes.
The university here is the main education hub for viticulture and winemaking in the country, and was the residence of pre-eminent wine professor (what a job!) Abraham Perold, who created the now-famous grape variety Pinotage.
Inland. Due east of Cape Town.
Home to the Nederburg Wine Auction, the biggest and most famous auction to be held in the country for fine wine, where participants can purchase aged South African wines direct from the cellars
Sits to the north of Stellenbosch, and has an equally big reputation when it comes to wine production. Has a greater variety of sub-regions, with many different styles and varieties produced. Main grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz and Chardonnay.
Coastal. Due north of Cape Town, on the western coast.
A large region, with huge potential, home to some of the most exciting producers in the whole country.The soils here are littered with decomposed granite and shale, and these geological features add to the sense of freshness and minerality in the wines.
Swartland (Dutch for 'black land') is named for the native renosterbos (‘Rhinoceros Bush’) that turns black after the rain. Chenin Blanc and Shiraz are the most important grapes here.
Mostly inland, south-east of Cape Town.
Cool climate, and as such, a great place to grow aromatic varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
the wines are characterised by pure, expressive fruit characters and cool acid.
Intensely complex and well balanced, this is definitely a region to watch in the coming years. Somewhat similar to the Yarra Valley in Victoria, it is also well-known as South Africa’s home of apple growing, and a few small cider producers have sprung up lately.
Inland. North-east of Cape Town.
A warm inland region that is kept cool by Antarctic winds and the effects of nearby mountain ranges. Considered one of South Africa’s most important wine-growing regions, it is home to a wide range of grape varieties.
Picturesque, it is a place of of rolling hills and valleys, with many subregions highly suitable for fine wine. It also houses South Africa’s most iportant whisky distillery – James Sedgwick.
Take our fun palate profile quiz here and we’ll recommend three bottles that we think you'll love according to your results and get you started.