South Africa: Where Old World Meets New World

South Africa’s skillful mixing of New and Old World winemaking is unmatched anywhere in the wine world. Scroll down for an introduction to South African wine, or check out our full selection now!

Blessed with a climate in which daytime temperatures rarely exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, South Africa produces wines that have all the ripeness typical of the New World, along with all the structure and brightness of the Old World. No other winemaking region has South Africa’s amazing soil diversity, abundant hillside locations, and temperate weather; this long list of assets gives the region’s wines astounding clarity and impeccable balance.

Pinotage plays rather a minor role in South African wine these days. This red grape is still used to great effect in blends, and occasionally in varietal wines. Six Hats Pinotage is an intense yet well-balanced red wine with delightful cherry and spice flavors.

Sauvignon Blanc has been planted quite successfully in the region. Generally made in a crisp, refreshing style, South African Sauvignon Blanc has substantial depth and varietal character. Our favorites tend to be light on their feet, with plenty of acidity to balance out the fruit. Oracle Sauvignon Blanc is a perfect example: clean, unoaked, citrusy, and refreshing.

Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape variety in the Cape region, where many vineyards were historically used for the production of simple, innocuous table wines. These ancient vineyards have been rehabilitated in recent years, and are now producing wines in a variety of styles. Chenin Blancs from the Cape region range from dry to sweet, and are now ably competing with the best in the world (such as Vouvray and Savenni√®res from the Loire Valley). Taking a sip of Simonsig Chenin Blanc is a bit like eating fresh fruit salad on a picnic: it’s full of gorgeous tropical flavors and floral aromas.

Shiraz (or Syrah) from South Africa is worlds apart from Australian Shiraz. Once a second-tier grape in South Africa, Shiraz now leads the way in the country’s viticultural revolution, from the cooler climes of Paarl to the warmer and more recently cultivated stretches of the Swartland. These wines offer classic Old World aromas of black olive, smoke, and blackberry in a fleshy, supple style. Try Excelsior Syrah, a dark, smoky, crowd-pleasing red wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grow quite successfully in this region. Many South African wines made from these classic Bordeaux varieties exhibit a uniquely smoky, cocoa-tinged character that works well with the rich, plummy fruit of ripe Merlot grapes. We especially love Mulderbosch Faithful Hound, a Bordeaux-style blend, for its full body and big berry flavors.

Chardonnay is another South African success story. In fact, this ubiquitous and beloved grape helped fuel the South African wine renaissance. Chardonnay’s gigantic popularity in the 1980s coincided with South Africa’s wine revolution, and plantings soared. For a reminder of why everybody fell so hard for this grape, try Cape Indaba Chardonnay: it’s citrusy, fresh, and it goes with just about anything.

See our full South African sale selection here!