The world-famous South African wines are made from grapes grown in the lowland wine region of South Africa. This is an area with a favorable temperate climate, close to the Mediterranean: a long summer with an abundance of sun, contributing to the accumulation of a sufficient amount of sugar in the grapes; cool sea breezes softening the effect of summer heat on the vineyards; wet warm winters (average temperature 0-10 degrees Celsius) – all this creates ideal conditions for viticulture in the region. According to DIRECTORYAAH, the following events contributed to the revival of the wine industry in South Africa in recent decades and the increase in the quality of wines and their international recognition:
- The introduction of the process of cold fermentation of wines into the practice of winemaking in the 50s led to the emergence of fresh, aromatic dry wines.
- In 1973, the government introduced a system for determining the origin of wines (Wine of Origin) – an analogue of the French system for controlling the origin of wines. Since then, consumers have begun to prefer officially certified wines, with a confirmed place of origin, grape variety and type of wine.
- Organization of the State Committee for the Export of Wines, which controls the quality of wines supplied for export. Each bottle of wine from South Africa bears a Committee certificate confirming the quality of the product, its origin and the conformity of the grape variety.
- In 1985, the first barrel-fermented wine was produced – it was the Chardonnay of the Backsberg Estate, located in the Paarl region. Today, South Africa’s finest winemakers use French and American oak barrels to produce their red and white wines.
- Yield restrictions in the vineyards of the best producers since the late 1980s have made it possible to obtain higher quality grapes, and, accordingly, more expressive, full-bodied, rich wines.
Using a favorable combination of fertile soil and climate, more than 5,000 farms today cultivate vineyards on an area of more than 100,000 hectares of land. Winemaking is served by 53,000 agricultural workers, and about 300,000 people are employed in related industries. About 950 million liters of wine are produced annually.
The main types of wine producers in South Africa are:
- private estates, or Estates, which produce wine only from grapes harvested from their own vineyards (there are a total of 82 such estates). Wines with the designation Estate are the South African equivalent of French wines from Chateau or Domaine. Wines from private estates are the elite of South African winemaking and make up only about 10% of the total wine production in South Africa.
- cooperatives that produce wine from grapes that are grown in the vineyards of farmers-members of this cooperative (today there are about 70 cooperatives in South Africa).
According to the system of origin of wines, 13 wine regions are distinguished in South Africa. The most prestigious and famous South African wines in the world are produced in the regions of Stellenbosch and Paarl.
Last year, gross investment in South Africa’s wine industry was R5,000 million (about $740 million), with wine making about 30% of horticultural production.
During the 1980s, international sanctions prohibited the supply of South African wine to foreign markets. After the embargo was lifted in the early 90s, despite such problems as inflation, the high cost of imported equipment and oak barrels, South African winemakers were able to harmoniously fit into the global wine industry. By 1993, South Africa was supplying the UK with more wine than New Zealand and Chile.
In world wine production, of course, France leads (22% of world wine production), followed by Italy (20%), Spain (13.6%) and then South Africa (5%).
Varieties of wines
The main criterion for the quality and type of South African wines is the variety of grapes from which the wine was made.
White wines make up about 80% of all production. The white variety Chenin Blanc occupies about 30% of all vineyards. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay occupy 6% of all vineyards. Other varieties of white grapes: Colombard, Cape Riesling, Semillon, Rhine Riesling, as well as various Muscats. White and red muscatel remain an important raw material for fortified wines. The most popular red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Shiraz and Pinot Noir. A special red variety that is not found anywhere else in the world is Pinotage, which has become a symbol of South African winemaking. Pinotage was bred here in 1926 by crossing two French varieties – Pinot Noir and Cinsault.
The most common South African fortified wines are Muscadeli, Porto, and the unique fortified sweet wine, Jerepigo.
Sufficiently developed in South Africa and the industry of strong alcoholic beverages. A striking example of success are some varieties of South African brandy (the most famous brandy is Sydney Back), which have earned wide international recognition.