JUST THE FACT
South Africa is one of the most prominent wine-producing countries in the Southern Hemisphere. In 2016, South Africa was the seventh largest producer of wine in the world in terms of overall volume, responsible for 3.9 percent of global wine output. More than 300,000 people are employed in the industry.
With more than 300 years of winemaking history, it is often described as bridging the gap between the Old World and New. Vines were first planted in South Africa by Dutch settlers in the 1650s, although wine production did not really begin to take off until French Huguenots arrived with viticultural skills and knowledge in the 1680s.
CLIMATE & SOIL
Because of the generally warm climate, South Africa’s red grapes in particular get very ripe and produce full, high alcohol wines. But especially in the Western Cape, the cool ocean breezes help the wines retain the bright acidity that keeps things fresh and food-friendly.
Pinotage is the most popular red grape, along with Shiraz (Syrah), Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Merlot. Chenin Blanc is the most popular white varietal, along with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
South African wines straddle Old World and New: the wines often smell of ripe, silky fruit, but showcase earthy flavors and finish with restraint.
Source: Wine Searcher, Seriouseats, Radford Dale