South Africa’s wine industry is one of the most progressive, and vibrant of all in the country.
After the apartheid policies were abolished and democracy established, all countries that had established trade embargos lifted their sanctions and all industries started to concentrate in quality exports.
The population of South Africa consumes a limited amount of wine due to tradition and ethnic mix. Presently the average per capita wine consumption is approximately eight liters.
During difficult sanction years South African wine exporters were limited to the United Kingdom market, and British Columbia which defied Ottawa’s recommendations not to import anything from that country.
This difficult period was wisely used to refine legislature, change the mix of grape varieties in the vineyards and purchase new equipment.
Presently, the most popular white grape varieties planted are chenin blanc, sultana, colombard, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay for white wines, and for red shiraz, pinotage, merlot, cinsault, cabernet sauvignon and a few experimental varieties.
Since 1992 wine exports grew from 25 million liters to 240 million in 2003, almost a tenfold increase that indicates how popular this country’s wine have become, because they are competently and carefully made, flavourful, and represent good value.
There are 110 000 hectares under vines in 60 official appellation, of which the most important are: Constantia, Durbanville, Little Karoo, Olifants River, Paarl, Stellenbosh, Robertson, Worcester, and Tulbah.
wines in general are more acid-driven than fruit-driven and taste close to European wines than new World wines with overwhelming fruit and super high alcohol levels.
South African sauvignon blanc wines
offer typical gooseberry and herbal flavours, chardonnays are fruity, and creamy, rieslings minerally and delicious.
When it comes to red wine, South African wineries excel in shiraz (aka syrah), merlot, pinotage (a cross between pinot noir and cinsault created by professor Perold of Stellensbosh University early in the 20th century).
Their cabernet sauvignon is fine, but not widely spread. South African red wines are robust, dark in colour, well extracted and balanced to provide maximum pleasure at reasonable cost.
The best quality comes from family owned and operated vineyards, on the other hand best values come form co-operative wineries. Durbanville Hills winery is a co-operative that started with seven members and now offers a range of wines all produced in a most modern winery.
Most South African wines are meant for everyday consumption and the two described below represent excellent values.
Sauvignon Blanc, Durbanville Hills is a clear brilliant wine with flashes of green, exuding gooseberry, green pepper and asparagus aromas. In the mouth it tastes fresh with a slight grassiness and lingering, pleasant aftertaste. You can enjoy it on its own as an aperitif, or serve it with pizzas, seafood pastas, and appetizers a la Italiana. Excellent value.
Shiraz, Durbanville Hills has a dark red brilliant colour emanating toasty, smoky, spicy and nutmeg aromas. It smooth, full-bodied, well balanced, and flavourful with a long pleasant aftertaste.
Enjoy it with medium-rare grilled steaks, roast rib of beef, game stews, game pates, or simply between meals to contemplate.
Both wines are available through the general list of most L.C.B.O. stores across Ontario, and many other provinces.