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A beginner’s guide to South African wine

Beau Constantia Vineyards

Individuals come from everywhere in the world to pattern South African wine, for good cause. Most of the greatest wines on the earth are made proper right here in Cape City. In the event you haven’t achieved numerous wine tasting earlier than, it may be just a little daunting to discover the South African wine scene. For those who want a bit intro to get you going, look no additional than this useful guide. Take a couple of minutes to learn this text and no one would ever guess that you simply’re a newbie!

Get your palms on a Metropolis Cross free of charge tastings and excursions at a few of Cape City’s prime wine estates

Beau Constantia Vineyards

Beau Constantia Vineyards

Your tasting vocabulary

Earlier than we get into a substantial amount of element, here’s a useful little cheat sheet. Study these few phrases and what they imply, and also you’re about midway to understanding wine tasting. It’ll additionally make wine tasting extra pleasurable for you, since you’ll perceive what the employees are speaking about when introducing the wines. Keep in mind that the employees at wine estates are there to make it easier to, and they’re nicely accustomed to guiding everybody—from rookie to veteran—via the wine tasting expertise. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! They’re there to assist you to study and have an excellent time.


The phrase “varietal” merely refers to the kind of grape used to make the wine.


“Tannins” are a compound that happens in wine. They’re chargeable for the dry style of pink wines. It’s the identical type of style that you simply’ll discover in robust tea. The phrase is usually solely used to describe the dry mouth-feel of a pink wine: most white wines don’t have noticeable tannins on the palate.


Some wine is matured in oak barrels. In white wines, that is liable for a richer flavour, and can convey out caramel, vanilla, straw, and buttery flavours. It additionally makes the wine a deeper yellow color. Not all white wines are matured in wooden, however virtually all purple wines are matured in barrels. The longer the wine is wooded for, the extra complicated the flavour: you’ll detect spice, smoke, and different wealthy, deep notes. South African wine is matured in French oak.

Terroir and local weather

Wines are affected by the sort of local weather the vines develop in. Rainfall and temperature could make an enormous distinction. “Terroir” refers to all of the environmental elements that go into the grape, together with the soil sort, geological elements, local weather, elevation, and even what different organisms are rising close by.


Concentrate to the color of the wine: it could actually inform you numerous. In purple wines, it’s a clear indication of age. Youthful reds are a vibrant pink or purple, whereas aged reds tackle a brownish hue. In whites, it may point out whether or not the wine was matured in wooden or not. The wooden provides white wine a yellower color. Rosé wine color is affected by how lengthy the skins of the pink grape are left on earlier than the liquid is separated. A delicate, pale pink may solely have had beneath an hour of pores and skin contact, whereas a deeper pink signifies an extended pores and skin contact time.


The “nose” of a wine refers to the scent you’ll be able to decide up – florals, spices, wooden, and another parts. When you refine your nostril, it’ll inform you numerous about what you’re consuming earlier than you even take a sip.

What to anticipate once you go wine-tasting

Wine-tasting is usually a nice expertise for seasoned connoisseurs and complete newcomers alike. Many wine estates supply different actions, like picnics, youngsters’ playgrounds, superb eating places, cellar excursions, pairings, and rather more. Most are situated in beautiful surrounds, and lots of (like Groot Constantia) include lovely examples of the distinctive Cape Dutch structure. Relying the place you go, you’ll discover beautiful white-washed manor homes, unimaginable views, native paintings, and a wealthy historical past. Even for those who’re not an enormous wine drinker, or have youngsters in tow, there’s one thing for everybody on a day exploring Cape City’s wine farms.Analysis the wine route you desire to to go to, and plan your day to embrace an excellent lunch and different actions. You’re probably to drink a little bit of wine in your outing, so it’s a good suggestion to organize transport. The Metropolis Sightseeing bus connects to each the Franschhoek Wine Tram and Constantia wine route, and is a cushty and handy choice.

Wine tasting often occurs within the property’s tasting room. Right here, you’ll discover educated employees to guide you thru the method, telling you all you want to know concerning the wines you’re consuming. There’s often a small tasting charge, though many estates waive it if you are going to buy wines from them. A lot of estates ship internationally, so you’ll be able to simply place an order and your wine will meet you at residence. The one candy wines you’ll discover are dessert wines, that are scrumptious however too heavy for informal consuming, and higher stored to pair with a dessert. In case you want candy wines, consider this as a chance to department out and discover a top quality, world-class dry wine that you simply like.

Constantia wine route

Klein Constantia

Kinds of South African wine

Pink wines

There are various sorts of purple grape grown in Cape City, and also you may discover some extra uncommon varietals on some estates. Purple wines are most frequently (however not all the time) matured in oak barrels, and the skins are left on. The result’s a stunning pink colouring from the pores and skin, and a richness from the wooden. Listed here are a few of the purple wines you’re almost definitely to come throughout in your wine tasting adventures.

  • Pinotage: Pinotage holds a particular place in native hearts, as a result of it’s the solely grape that’s distinctive to South Africa. It was invented at Stellenbosch College in 1925. It’s a hybrid of pinot noir and cinsault. Pinotage is a daring and sophisticated wine with a deep pink color. Relying on the age of the wine, chances are you’ll style notes of pink berries, spice, and chocolate or espresso.
  • Cabernet sauvignon: Many estates in Cape City make nice cab sav. It’s a darker, deeper pink than pinotage and sometimes has a extra complicated flavour. It has daring tannins, and also you’ll typically decide up black fruits, together with peppery notes and even a tobacco flavour.
  • Merlot: This can be a little softer on the palate than cab sav. It has mild tannins, and a great deal of scrumptious fruity flavours. It used to be principally utilized in blends, however you’ll discover straight merlot at plenty of estates nowadays.
  • Shiraz/syrah: Most South African producers name this wine shiraz, however it’s the identical factor as syrah. It’s fairly a flexible grape, so the wines range from place to place. It’s a wealthy, deep wine with a definite spiciness, and sometimes a pleasant chocolate/espresso end.
  • Cape Mix: That is, because the identify dictates, a mix of several types of grape. It’s native to the Western Cape area. It has to have at the least 30% pinotage to be a Cape Mix. Different grapes used embrace merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, shiraz, or different much less widespread varietals.

Wine in Cape Town

White wines

White wines are fermented in chrome steel tanks, however some are later matured in wooden barrels. One of the notable variations between white wines is the woodiness. Wooded whites are often yellower and wealthy, whereas these bottled straight out of metal tanks are extra clear, with a crisp end. Listed here are a couple of of the white wines you’ll discover most frequently.

  • Sauvignon blanc: South African sauvignon blanc is world well-known. It’s mild and crisp, with that particular summery acidity that makes it the right drink on a sunny day.
  • Chardonnay: Chardonnay is often (however once more, not all the time) wooded. It’s often wealthy, yellow, and has notes of caramel, vanilla, and butter. Many estates lately produce unwooded chardonnays, which have a lighter color and flavour.
  • Chenin blanc: Chenin is one other nice wine to sip on a sunny day. It often has some wooden contact, giving it extra complexity than a sauv blanc, however it isn’t as wealthy as a chardonnay. It’s typically an amazing meals wine.
  • White blends: Don’t skip the South African white wine blends! They’re extremely numerous, however virtually all the time scrumptious.


Bubbles are a vital component of any celebration. MCC stands for Méthode Cap Classique, and it’s the South African equal of champagne. Glowing wines are carbonated, whereas MCC develops its personal bubbles within the bottle naturally. MCC is often just a little extra expensive, however it’s properly value it for the smooth bubbly texture and sophisticated flavour palate.


Many estates produce unbelievable rosé, though it isn’t as widespread as purple and white wine. It’s typically cheap, and makes for nice summertime consuming.

Dessert Wines

Dessert wines are the one top quality candy wines you’ll style whereas exploring the vineyards of Cape City and its surrounds. There are a number of strategies of manufacturing. Late harvest wines are made by permitting the grapes to develop into virtually raisin-like on the vines earlier than they’re picked. The grapes produce tiny quantities of juice, however the little bit they do supply is honey-sweet. One other technique is noble late harvest. This refers to “noble rot”: the presence of a fungus referred to as botritys, which infects grapes in moist circumstances. The ripe grapes are uncovered to the fungus, which causes them to grow to be raisin-like and produce a really candy nectar. Straw wine is one other sort, which includes drying the grapes as soon as already picked, sometimes on straw mats. Whichever the tactic, these wines are scrumptious and pair superbly with desserts.

In truth, it was a really particular dessert wine made proper right here in Cape City that first made South African wines well-known. Groot Constantia‘s Grande Constance is the oldest wine within the nation, and it was famously served to Napoleon Bonaparte whereas exiled in St Helena. Add a style of Grande Constance to your bucket listing!

Grand Constance at Groot Constantia

The place to style wine

The most effective South African wine is made proper right here in Cape City. There are 5 most important wine routes in or shut to Cape City: Constantia, Durbanville, Helderberg, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch. Your only option is to select a route that’s handy for you, and choose 4 or 5 estates that tickle your fancy.

Learn concerning the Cape wine routes and plan your journey

How to style wine

So, after you have a glass of wine in your hand, what subsequent? Right here’s your step-by-step guide to getting probably the most out of your sip. First, swirl it round to launch the aromas, and try the color. Then, take a deep sniff, and see what flavours you decide up on the nostril. Lastly, the second you’ve been ready for: take a sip. To be sure to get the complete impression and all of the flavours, attempt swishing it round in your mouth. After which, the ultimate query: spit or swallow? Should you’d choose to tempo your alcohol consumption, otherwise you’re driving, little buckets are often obtainable to spit into. It’s fairly extensively acceptable (as is chucking the remainder of the tasting glass after a small sip). Do no matter fits you greatest: an important factor is to have a good time.

Historical past of South African wine

South African wine has a posh and interesting historical past. Take a couple of minutes to discover the historical past and your wine tasting expertise shall be all of the extra fascinating. If you need to discover out about how South African wine originated and the way it received to be so well-known, learn this text.


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