Two hundred years ago New World wine industries in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and South Africa were hobbled by a lack of technology. They produced market worthy wine, but the long boat ride to Europe would usually ruin the wine before it arrived. Once fortification was discovered, the process of adding spirits to wine to stabilize it, these areas were able to sell their fortified wines to Europe. South Africa, in particular, was very successful in the European market. One of Napoleon's favorite libations was a sweet fortified wine from South Africa called Constantia.
Like many New World producers, South Africa had its share of set backs in the twentieth century including phylloxera and war. These particular events led to the formation of cooperatives, the most famous of which is KWV. Under these powerful cooperatives, South African wine was sold to Europe in bulk for decades. Even though newer technology now enabled South Africa to ship its wine without the risk of spoilage, much of the wine produced was inexpensive fortified wine.
Political resistance to racial apartheid also prevented South African wines from success in many places including the United States. Now that apartheid has been abolished, you will be seeing more and more South African wines on our shelves.
South Africa's maritime climate is ideal for many different varieties of grapes. It is the only grape growing region in the world that enjoys coastal breezes from two different oceans, the Atlantic Ocean from the west and the Indian Ocean from the east. These coastal breezes keep the vineyards cool, while the ample sun ripens the grapes in New World style.
A majority of their production has been white wine, but red varieties are gaining in popularity. Many French varieties are grown in South Africa including chardonnay, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, syrah, and cabernet sauvignon. Pinotagé, South Africa's signature grape, is a cross between pinot noir and cinsault.
South African wines can have an elegant Old World style like wines from France, or be jammy like those from the New World. Their prices are very reasonable and selections are growing to meet the demands of the savvy wine drinker here in the United States.
Articles are property of Brenda Francis and are not to be reproduced in any way without written consent from Brenda Francis.