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South African Wines

During your time in the South African Cape Winelands, join Tsiba Tsiba Wine Tours on a wine tour to experience many of these fantastic wine varieties and decide which you prefer!

South Africa has many fantastic varieties of wine but can claim her own grape variety in the Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsault). Pinotage first came about in 1925 by Dr. Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch!

South Africa is also notable as the second home of Chenin Blanc. About 55% of SA vineyards are planted for white varieties. Other notable grapes include Riesling, Sémillon (Groendruif) and Muscat (Hanepoot).

South African White Wines

The bulk of South Africa’s experience with wine rests on the shoulders of white wine grapes and South African vineyards have been dominated by white grape varieties in the past. The latest trend is towards a more market-driven balance between white and red, but white varieties still represent more than eighty percent of the total.

South Africa is widely planted with a broad range of the ubiquitous “international” varieties. South African wines fall somewhere between the archetypal new world and old world styles.

White wine varieties include:

  • Chardonnay : Very versatile and almost always dry wine; may be wooded or unwooded. Also used in some of the base wines, from which South Africa’s version of Champagne is made
  • Chenin Blanc : Made either in dry, semi-sweet or dessert wine style. Easy drinking fruity style. Known locally as Steen.
  • Muscat d’Alexandrie – the first grape variety to reach South African shores.
  • Sauvignon Blanc : Light to medium-bodied and dry with racy refreshing palate. One of South Africa’s most successful varieties.
  • Gewürztraminer : Made in dry, off-dry, semi-sweet or dessert style. Very floral, fragrant character.
  • Riesling : Styles range, dry through to Noble Late Harvest wines. Mostly off dry in SA. Fragrant aromas and flavours.

While South Africa’s bias towards white grapes reaches all the way back to the first vines that were transplanted here from France it is today attempting to bring more balance.

South African Red Wines

Pinotage has become one of South Africa’s most famous varietals. The first Pinotage was released in 1961, and gives the country a unique viticultural product. Unique to South Africa, it can produce complex and fruity wines with age but is also often very drinkable when young.

About 60 wines are bottled under the Pinotage label. The list of top Pinotage growing estates in South Africa includes Kanonkop, Simonsig , Warwick, Clos Malverne, Aventuur, L’Avenir, Uiterwyk and Middlevlei.

Other red wine varieties include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon : Full bodied, robust red wine nearly always wooded. Higher tannins offer good aging potential. The most planted red grape variety in the Cape.
  • Shiraz/Syrah : Rich medium to full-bodied wines that are generally well oaked. Shiraz is made in several different styles in South Africa.
  • Merlot : Elegant medium to full-bodied wines offering a velvety feel with soft integrated tannins. Traditionally used as a blending partner to add softness and breadth to Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Pinot Noir : Light to medium-bodied depending on wood maturation. A fruity, lively red wine. Not widely planted, but it produces excellent wines in the cooler viticultural areas of South Africa.