South African Wine

 Here’s something of interest from HotelInteractive

“The South African grape growing region is The Western Cape, including the first Dutch colony, and later the first British colony, that would become the city of Cape Town. Special to the Cape Peninsula is the intersection of weather systems from the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean currents with a more than generous contribution from the Antarctic that acts to drastically temper humidity.

All this, in addition to some very extraneous mountains, valleys and flat lands, amounts to hot, dry, sunlight heavy summer seasons lasting from November to April, similar to the Mediterranean. However, certain appellations – ‘wards’ as they are locally termed – experience sizable milder and wetter year round conditions, especially those closest to the coast. This unique terroir has created many sundry micro-climates, and thus, many diverse cultivars.

One part climate, another part topography and a third part colonization, to this day the Western Cape is where the vast majority of South Africa’s viticultural activity transpires. The Dutch East India Company was the first to instigate this development, importing grapevines and harvesting the fruit for sailors to fend off scurvy during the passage from Europe to India and Southeast Asia. As you know, wherever there are fecund grapevines, there will soon be winemaking. Indeed, by 1659, a vineyard was established at Constantia just north of Cape Town.

Once the colony was folded into the British Empire, production sharply increased throughout the 19th century as a means to countervail the dominant French on the international market. With the bulk of South African wines exported to Great Britain, the nation’s industry declined towards the end of the century following the dissolution of the preferential tariffs that precluded French vintages. For most of the 20th century, vintners suffered tremendously under Apartheid as worldwide boycotts thwarted overseas commerce and knowledge exchange.

But with the collapse of this racial segregation system in 1994, South Africa’s wine making quickly rebounded and is now the eighth largest worldwide producer and exporter. Adhering to the purview of the internal Wine of Origin administration, there are now roughly 60 active wards with most of the harvest controlled by several large cooperatives. Alongside this resurgence has come a renewed focus on international prospects as many vineyards shift towards the noble varietals of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.

However, the reopening of trade routes has also allowed for a revival of South Africa’s own cultivars and styles. Most pronounced are the fortified wines designed under the ‘Cape Port’ marker. Heavily influenced by Portuguese seafarers migrating through the Cape Colony, these spirits cover a wide range of varietals, both white and red, as well as wine making techniques, comprising a narrow assortment of strict vintage classifications.

Three more atypical grape pedigrees nearing the top of South Africa’s production list are Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Pinotage. Chenin Blanc, also called Steen, is originally from the Loire Valley in northwestern France and has been adapted mainly for dry dessert wines and sparkling whites as well as those in the Cape Port vein. Colombard, an offspring of Chenin Blanc, is a sweeter white used mainly for the Cape Port wines. Lastly, Pinotage, a deep red cross of Pinot Noir, was first crafted in the Western Cape and is now a required constituent in blends produced in the region.”