5 things you need to know about South African wines
Here at the ’fo, our team is tasked with scouring the world to find the wines that land right on your doorstep. They put their tastebuds on the line to sample some of the most quaffable wines out there, sniffing out small producers and unexpected regions in their quest to find the good stuff. It’s a tough job but, hey, someone’s got to do it. And while they were at it, they made a discovery; South Africa is producing some lekker wines. For too long our neighbours across the Indian Ocean have slipped under our wine radar, but they’re starting to get some long-overdue recognition. Here’s five reasons to do as our buyers did and stock up on South African wine.
1. It’s crazy good value
One of the perks of unearthing lesser-known wine regions before the rest of the crowd is the coin you’ll save on fine wines. Most people don’t realise how good value South African wines are, says Nadia Sadie, one half of acclaimed wine label David & Nadia. “South Africa has amazing quality wines available for relatively low prices, in a world context,” she says. Think a cabernet sauvignon at a Bordeaux standard without the wine-snob tax. Married couple David and Nadia are part of a brood of new-wave winemakers putting South Africa on the map. “One of the most exciting things about South Africa’s wine industry are the young generation winemakers taking chances to produce interesting and exciting wines,” Nadia says. Now’s your chance to discover them before everyone else does.
2. It has its own signature red wine
If you haven’t heard much about South African wines, then you are definitely yet to discover pinotage. The offspring of pinot noir and the more obscure cinsault, pinotage is a South African invention that came about last century when winemakers realised the heat-loving cinsault helped the notoriously delicate pinot noir cope with the African climate. Don’t let the pinot in the mix fool you though; in the glass pinotage plays more like a shiraz, with a sultry dark hue and subtle smokiness. It’s the perfect companion for your next braai (that’s South African for barbecue, a tradition they love almost as much as us Aussies).
3. It's owning one of the #hottest white wines of the moment
Are you a chenin blanc convert? Well, you soon will be, if this versatile grape continues that way is has been. An import from France’s Loire Valley, chenin blanc took to South Africa like a charm and has since become the country’s rock star white wine, known there as Steen. Chenin blanc is an easygoing, high-yielding grape – equally comfortable in warm and cool climates – which was once mostly used for bulk wine production. But South African winemakers have recently caught the wine world’s attention with old-vine chenin blancs that show off the grape’s underestimated complexity. If you’re trying to understand what South African winemakers can do, Nadia recommends getting your hands on a SA chenin blanc. The David & Nadia label has made its contribution with a trio of single-vineyard chenin blancs that show off the couple’s minimal intervention approach.
4. It should be top of your list for a wine holiday
South African wine country is as diverse and is it jaw dropping. There’s lush Stellenbosch, sandwiched between craggy mountains and the Eerste River; the historic wine farms of Constantia on the fringes of Capetown, where Napoleon Bonaparte used to source his wine of choice; and the golden wheat fields of Swartland; baked by the African sunshine. Rent a car and you can break up your visits to laid-back cellar doors and open-air winery restaurants with a casual safari here, bit of whale watching there and kilometres of white-sand beaches. Start planning. Until the borders open, pour a big old glass of chardonnay from Elgin or syrah from Swartland and dream of sipping it in the shade of Table Mountain.
5. South African winemakers need your help
The dumpster fire of 2020 took its toll on everyone. But South African winemakers also had the double whammy of a full-on lockdown and severe government restrictions on wine sales, with some having to pour perfectly good vintages down the sink. The best way you can show your support as they limp back to full strength is by treating yo’self to a few bottles of South African wine. After all, it’s in the name of a good cause mofos.
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