South Africa: A Country of Many Wines
A recent trip to South Africa to judge its top 100 wines made me realise just how far the country has come in the 20 years since its return to the global winemaking stage. It seems that no matter where you look, there’s another region establishing itself as the ‘one to watch’.
While the spiritual home of South African wine, Stellenbosch, sits in the Western Cape and produces a wide range of world class cabernet-based blends, a more recent area of interest has stemmed from the revival of the Swartland. This hot, dry province to the north of Stellenbosch was already established as a region for solid, if unremarkable, table wine. However, the Swartland has now developed beyond this and is currently home to some of South Africa’s most innovative new wines, which are produced on old, dry-farmed vineyards and feature unusual blends.
Further south, we’re seeing Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends from around Constantia, an area close to Cape Town and Table Mountain, which are truly breath taking and could rival the best from Bordeaux. In addition, cooler climates around Hermanus and Elgin, also on the Western Cape, are producing wonderfully fragrant Pinot Noir.
Overall, South African wines are providing a wonderful balance of styles between the ripe fruit characters of the southern hemisphere and the more savoury structures of Europe. Following the recent weakness in the Rand, South Africa is making some of the most exciting and best value for money wine in the world, and there is no doubt that the image, quality and range of South African wine available in the UK will continue to rise.
Justin Knock, winemaking consultant at Encirc Wines