A Guide to South African Wine

The Octavian Vaults blog has become one of the UK’s favourite destinations for those looking to learn about wine, especially over the last year or so.

As well as having some of the finest facilities in the country when it comes to wine storage and cellarage, our team of specialists have enjoyed creating our ever-impressive wine guide in recent times and today’s instalment of our blog looks at a quite fascinating topic; South African wine.

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The History of South African Wine

Like many aspects of South Africa’s history, the region’s legacy in terms of its wine making doesn’t really start until the mid-nineties and the end of the apartheid era. And, although this makes the area quite fascinating and clearly a New World wine nation, it can make sourcing the best South Africa has to offer quite an arduous task. 

So, which grapes are the South Africans most famous for nurturing into truly excellent wines? In this wine guide, we look to show you exactly what to look out for and why.

Strong French Roots

Unsurprisingly, due to the colonial roots of the country, South African wine has strong French roots and the two grapes that have won this part of the world the most accolades are white Chenin blanc and Pinotage.  

Chenins

Although more famous from their old world counterpart, the South African versions are quite different being far drier by proxy, but ripe and jam packed with flavour. 

Pinotage

Despite sounding quite French, Pinotage is actually a South African creation and splits opinion across the globe, most definitely being a love it or hate it grape. Many wine experts are dubious about the grape but in recent times, South African Pinotage have cleaned up at awards and can be found being served at some of the finest restaurants in the world. 

South African Blends 

When reading our wine guide to learn about the finest wines, a big part of building up this knowledge is learning about your blends and this is a big part of South African wine. More prevalent in this part of the world than any of the other New World locations such as Chile or New Zealand.

This is a sign that the industry in South Africa is really maturing and it also makes the quality and taste of many wines harder to predict, making things a lot more interesting for wine critics. 

South African Wine Regions

So, now you have a bit of history to South African wine and the types of grape and flavour one can expect, it is important to brush up on your regions. This is no different from familiarising yourself with your French and Italian wine making districts, as it can have a profound impact on the taste and quality of your wine.

Stellenbosch

Perhaps the most famous of South Africa’s wine making regions, Stellenbosch the equivalent of Bordeaux in France. Red wine flows out of this region which is famed for its stunning mountains and landscapes but all sorts of variations are now being produced. 

Wines such as Meerlust’s Rubicon, Warwick’s Trilogy and Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer all emanate from this part of the country and have won awards from a wide range of critics and publications.

Paarl

This part of South Africa is perhaps less reputable than Stellenbosch, but this is trend that is changing due to the quality of the red wines being produced there.

The town of Franschoek attracts many visitors due to the five star French style restaurants and designer shops you can find there, and this is complemented superbly by some of the best wine the country is currently producing.

Swartland 

Great wine is being made all around South Africa, but we only have space for our top three regions in this guide to the best wines in this emerging part of the world. Our third beat off stiff competition from the likes of The Cape and Elgin and is the warm region of Swartland.

Firmly at the forefront of the development of the Rhone varietals in the county, the aforementioned Chenin Blanc’s made in South Africa are highly likely to come from Swartland, especially the higher quality ones.

As you will see, South Africa is a New World wine making region that is making real strides and is quickly becoming one of the best emerging markets one can find. The quality of their merchandise, especially their reds cannot be argued with and if current trends are to continue then there is no reason why more and more South African wines won’t be firmly at the top of the leader boards when it comes to the finest reds and Chenin Blancs being made anywhere.

For more articles, just like this guide to South African wine, take a good look around the rest of the Octavian Vaults blog. We have features on everything from wine investment, optimal cellarage and even the best places to travel to around the world to enjoy the finest wines.