What springs to mind when you think of South Africa? We love its diversity - its geography, its biodiversity, its people. We also love its wine! A country that is close to our heart at Oh Grape, it has been making wine since the 1600s. However, South African wine has had its share of setbacks. It pretty much fell off the wine map during the 20th century with the World Wars, Prohibition, the Great Depression and Apartheid. Trade embargoes blocked export markets but with the end of Apartheid and the arrival of democracy in 1994, the doors of commerce swung open and the wine making industry transformed.
South Africa has several wine zones but most of the country is too hot to make good wine. The most important zone is the Western Cape, where the climate is Mediterranean and vineyards benefit from the cooling influence of ocean currents flowing up from the Atlantic and summer winds known as the Cape Doctor. Another big influence on the resulting styles of wine is the Cape’s mountain ranges which give a diverse range of aspects, altitudes and soils.
Wine making is dominated by white grape varieties, with Chenin Blanc accounting for nearly 20% of all plantings. Other key white grape varieties include Chardonnay, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc. For the reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cinsault and South Africa’s very own signature grape, Pinotage. As well as its single variety wines South Africa is also well known for its tasty blends, as well as sparkling, sweet and fortified wines. South Africa still produces large quantities of high-volume and inexpensive (but still delicious) wines, but there are a growing number of ambitious small private estates who are devoted to making small-batch, high-quality wine.
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