This page is dedicated to my South African wine tasting notes. I was so fascinated by the diversity of wines produced in SA, according to my reading, that I want a whole page I can refer back to and add additional tasting experiences as I go along. As I first mentioned, I was intrigued to study South Africa next because of my recent fascination with Chenin Blanc and was eager to compare the country’s expression from that of the classics from Loire. But during a tasting class, there was an overtly herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc that the majority of my classmates swore up and down weas from New Zealand—nope: South Africa. Listening to a recent podcast, I learned that sommeliers are particularly excited about Cab Francs out of SA. And then when I got to my reading about Elgin and how Burgundian the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs are…
Anyway, as you can see there’s a long list of SA wines I’m dying to try. This list (as of October 6, 2020) is what I have tasted thus far. I am hoping through the course of my studies to continue to add to this list.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy my tasting notes and assessments…
Our last stop in our tour of South African wine regions takes us to the Cape South Coast Region and its associated districts and wards as well as a quick look at the Klein Karoo Region. If you haven’t read through the South Africa Overview yet, definitely do so before diving in here, as there are a lot of key terms defined that will be integral to your understanding of the specific regions. Also make sure to check out information on South Africa‘s Coastal Region, Breede River Valley and Olifant River Regions as well.
“Cooler climates beckon winemakers around the world. It is hardly surprising that Africa’s southern tip, with its cool Antarctic influence has been colonized by the vine.” (The World Atlas of Wine, 8th edition)
I hope you’re finding the exploration of South Africa as fascinating as I am. Never before have I found the need to utilize detailed mapping as I have during this course. If you haven’t read through the South Africa Overview yet, definitely do so before diving in here, as there are a lot of key terms defined that will be integral to your understanding of the specific regions. My last post toured the Coastal Region. Today, we’re diving into the Breede River Valley Region and the associated districts and wards within. We’ll also make a brief pitstop into the Olifant River Region.
We begin our tour of South Africa in the Coastal Region—the birthplace of the South African wine industry. On April 6, 1652, Dutch-born Jan van Riebeeck, South Africa‘s first European settler wrote, “Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape Grapes.” The region continued to be a focal point for European wine drinkers, enthralled as they were with the Muscat-based sweet wines being produced, often preferring the luscious wine—simply called “Constantia”—to Tokaji, Madeira, or even Yquem.
Indeed the drink became the stuff of literature: Charles Dickens tells of “…the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a home-made biscuit” in Edwin Drood; Jane Austen speaks of Constantia’s “… healing powers on a disappointed heart.”
Though the grapes grown and wine produced are much different than those described by our poets, the Coastal Region is arguably still one of the most popular regions South Africa has to offer. It contains the tourist town, Cape Town—a now shared name with wine district Cape Town District (once Cape Peninsula District)—as well as other well-known districts and wards such as Swartland, Tulbagh, Wellington, and of course Constantia.
I’m not going to lie, one of the reasons that I jumped into the Loire Valley (Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, Central Vineyards) was because I’ve experienced a recent fascination with Chenin Blanc. I’ve come across a few great expressions from here at home in California. I dare say it is Clarksburg’s heritage grape. (Read Yolo County: Little grape-growing region that could page 1 and page 2). But that love for local got me thinking—where are the actual benchmark regions for Chenin Blanc? Well, the Loire Valley obviously. But I also always hear about it in reference to South Africa. So that is where my studies are taking me next.