The South African Summer Wine industry is booming! Some American Wine, Italian Wine, French Wine or even German Wine drinkers are perplexed by this statement and cannot believe it. However, wine has been made all over the African continent for decades. But it is in South Africa, down in the Cape, where the climatic and topographic conditions are perfect for producing some of the best wines in the world. South African wine competes with the top wines in the world, but in the “easy-drinking” category South Africa wins hands down!
“Today, praise the Lord, wine was pressed from Cape grapes for the first time.”
This was the famous report written by Commander Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company in 1659. It was in 1655, three years after his arrival in Table Bay, that he planted the first vines. After him it was Governor van der Stel who firmly established the wine industry in South Africa. It was he who founded the town of Stellenbosch and built the farm Constantia. Both focal points in the winemaking industry today still.
South Africa’s wine regions stretch from the tip of Africa, where the two oceans meet at Cape Agulhas, to the desert-like Karoo and Free State. The vineyards cover over 100 000 hectares of land.
Wine tourism is one of South Africa’s growing industries, as it is said that the Cape Winelands are the most scenic in the world. You can find 15 well organised Wine Route Associations, and all information needed about accommodation, eateries, visits to cellars and farms, is readily available through mediums such as booklets, travel agents and of course the World Wide Web.
According to statistics, just over 21% of wine grapevines is chenin blanc, which is still the country’s most widely planted variety.
Next is Sultana, at just over 11%. Sultana is also used for non-alcohol purposes. These are followed by colombard and chardonnay. White varieties still represent the majority of Cape vineyard plantings. Cabernet sauvignon, at a mere 8.36%, presently comprises the majority of red varieties. This is followed by pinotage and shiraz.
As in any other place, South Africa is influenced by world trends, and currently the fad is shiraz. This is as far as red wine goes. In the white wine category chardonnay is making way for a sauvignon blanc of better quality and a modern chenin blanc.
What wine you drink is still completely dependent on your taste, but a visit to any of the many South African wine routes will have you finding it hard to choose which one to take home.