In April 1652, a Dutch commander named Jan van Riebeeck started the process of colonizing South Africa and founded Cape Town. Three years later, in 1655, the first vineyards were planted in Cape Town, starting winemaking in the country. However, it was only in the year 1659 that the grapes were pressed for the first time, producing the first South African wine.
Over time, plantations have been spread to other regions of the country; Constantia was the main one, producing wines of great quality and making South African production famous. As early as the 19th century, production began to decline, especially with the plagues in the vineyards and because of the wars that took place at that time. At the beginning of the 20th century, there was a resumption of viticulture, with measures whose effects persist until today, such as the creation of associations and cooperatives that helped to reinvigorate the production of wines in the country.
It is a country located at the southern tip of the African continent, between the Atlantic and Indian oceans, with 2798 kilometers of coastline. The country is known for its biodiversity and the wide variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs.
South Africa is one of the founding members of the African Union, the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). It also has the best infrastructure and the second largest economy on the continent.
Image: Rhino Africa Blog
South African Terroir
The climate in South Africa is temperate, with pleasant summers and cold winters; rains are between May and August. It also has winds coming from the Atlantic Ocean, cooled by the Benguela current, which end up alleviating the summer heat. In addition, cold winds from the southeast, called “Cape Doctor”, lower temperatures in the interior of the country.
South African Wine Regions
The country has five wine regions: Constantia, Franschhoek, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Swartland.
Constantia: it was the first region that dedicated itself to the cultivation of grapes. Today it is divided into five properties: Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg. The vineyards in this region are among the oldest in the country and have a good reputation for producing great Sauvignon Blanc.
Franschhoek: it is a beautiful and narrow valley to the east of Stellenbosch, a hub of South African haute cuisine. Founded by Huguenots, Frenchmen who came to the Cape around 1688 after religious persecution in France. Here are many high quality vineyards.
Paarl: the historic city of Paarl is in the fertile valley of the Berg River at the foot of the Paarl Mountains. All wines are internationally recognized for their quality. The city suffers low influence from cold sea currents and temperatures tend to be high in the summer, however, lower temperatures are observed at night. It also has a wide variety of altitudes and types of soil.
Stellenbosch: founded in 1679 by Governor Simon van der Stel. It is the region with the largest number of producers (300), among them the most famous, being responsible for about 14% of the country's annual wine production. It is considered the region that makes the best wines in South Africa, with emphasis on reds, especially with regard to “blends”.
Swartland: in the past it was a region for growing maize and its success as a wine region is recent. Located north of Cape Town, Swartland used to be known as a region producing only cheap wines. Currently, some of the best Syrah and Chenin Blanc from ancient vineyards come from this location.
South African Wine Types
South Africa is a country that only uses practically international grape varieties to produce its wines, so we can find any type of wine in this country. From fresh white wines with great texture and aromas of tropical fruits, to full-bodied, intense red wines with good acidity.
Image: Mala de Aventuras
South African grape varieties
The country plants above all European grape varieties, as it does not have indigenous varieties. However, he developed some very successful crosses: Pinotage and White Nouvelle.
The Pinotage red variety was created in 1925 by Professor Abraham Perold from Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Hermitage). It produces elegant, intense wines, with moderate body and soft and velvety texture.
Nouvelle was created in 1964 by Professor Chris Orffer, from Stellenbosch University, from (Crouchen Blanc) and Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano). It is known for its herbaceous and peppery flavor.
The main international varieties grown are white, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Blanc and Viognier; and in paints, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah.