South Africa is about dynamic, world class, highly rated wines, and here are the ones available in India worth trying. South Africa conjures up images of the Table Mountain, stunning beauty, and a checkered history. And while we do know they produce wine, we often do not realise just how important wine is to the […]
South Africa is about dynamic, world class, highly rated wines, and here are the ones available in India worth trying.
South Africa conjures up images of the Table Mountain, stunning beauty, and a checkered history. And while we do know they produce wine, we often do not realise just how important wine is to the South Africans, or, frankly, how good it is.
I must admit, I thought I knew South African wines. I thought I knew them based on what I had had in India, and on what I had tasted at the competitions that I judged globally. I must further admit that not once had I ever travelled to another part of the world, and ordered a bottle of South African wine. Why would I, when wines from the whole wide world are available in any place you travel to?
My perception of South African wines took a dramatic U turn when, on my fortieth, I was taken by my wife to South Africa to celebrate the wineries it has in the region. This place is beautiful, to say the least, and the wines, a staggering lot of them, were absolutely stunning. I think, perhaps, you do have to come here to realise just how good they are to see the full spectrum of what they produce. The town itself is quaint and beautiful, and worth a good few days to have as a base when winery hopping.
One thing I notice is that drinking really high quality South African wine offers far more value than any other wine region I have come across. The wines are so good and offer more value than they really should. That is what South Africa is about — dynamic, world class, highly rated wines that could sit alongside some of the very best, but at a fraction of the price.
Wine has been made here for over 350 years, with over a few hundred wine estates producing wines from the more famous global grape varieties like Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay for white wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, and Pinot Noir in the reds. And there is still much more.
They also make wine from Pinotage, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. If there were a unique grape variety that has a South African identity, Pinotage would be it.
Chenin Blanc is perhaps South Africa’s most planted white wine grape, and I was thrilled to find incredibly complex wines made from this humble grape variety known for creating fresh, simple, and clean wines. This is thanks to bush vines that are surprisingly old, in the case of the bottle I had, the vines were some hundred years old. What a find.
The Dutch East India Co. had started a colony, which is what we now know as South Africa, as a resting and restocking point for ships having to go round the African continent to India. They planted fields to grow produce, and brought with them vines to set up vineyards. As time went on, many made it their home, and built industry as well as the now famous wineries and vineyards known as wine farms. The vineyards and wineries here flourished, and their wines seem to now retain the cool freshness that is induced via the influence of the cool breeze that comes directly and unobstructed from Antarctica.
The Stellenbosch wine region is arguably the country’s most famous wine region, and is responsible for some of the more famous wineries coming out of South Africa. Other regions, not too far away, can be reached via an incredibly scenic short drive are the high quality wine producing regions of Elgin, Paarl, and Franschhoek to name a few, with previously relatively unknown regions like Swartland beginning to prove their metal as well.
In India, you have a good and growing range of wines available from South Africa, and some that you should get your hands on are:
On a side note, the pandemic has been brutal all around in the wine world, but perhaps a little harder on the wineries from South Africa who are unfairly forced to stop selling their wine even through retail or through exports during this troubling period. So next time you see a bottle of South African wine on a retail shelf, give it a try. Not only will it most likely be delicious and offer value, but you will be giving them a helping hand as well.