Savor The Wines Of South Africa

Savor The Wines Of South Africa

The Wines of South Africa Are Waiting To Be Explored

Have you experienced them yet?

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, read my disclosure here.

South African Wines are quickly gaining popularity, due to a variety of factors – their affordability, their unique style, and their approachability to name just a few.  However, the wines of South Africa have a rich history that dates back all the way to the 1600’s, so it is no wonder the country knows how to win over wine lovers.  Join me as we savor the different varieties and regions of this African wine growing nation.




South Africa



The wines of South Africa are classified by region under the system of Wines of Origin (WO).  The classification system is categorized into four parts, from broadest and most generic to smallest and most specific:

Geographical Units –> Regions –> Districts –> Wards.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll just outline the most popular areas in South Africa in this post.


  • Northern Cape
    • Northern Cape
      • Douglas (District)
      • Sutherland-Karoo (District)
      • Central Orange River (Ward)
  • Eastern Cape
    • Eastern Cape
      • St. Francis Bay (Ward)
  • Western Cape
    • Breede River Valley
      • Breedekloof (District)
      • Robertson (District)
      • Worcester (District)
    • Cape South Coast
      • Walker Bay (District)
    • Coastal Region
      • Franschhoek (District)
      • Paarl (District)
      • Stellenbosch (District)
      • Swartland (District)
      • Wellington (District & Ward)
      • Constantia (Ward)


[Source: Wine Folly]



According to South African Wine Industry Statistics for 2016, the number of wine grapevines planted was reported as 283, 701,405 over an area of 95,775 hectares of land for 3,145 grape producers.



South Africa grows a variety of well known grapes, in addition to some lesser-known cultivars that have earned nicknames with the local population:

  • Red
    • Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Shiraz
    • Pinotage
    • Pinot Noir
    • Roobertnet
    • Merlot
    • Durif
    • Muscadel
    • Carignan
    • Gamay
  • White
    • Chenin Blanc (Steen)
    • Colombard
    • Chardonnay
    • Sauvignon Blanc
    • Sémillon (Groendruif)
    • Muscat (Hanepoot)
    • Pinot Gris
    • Riesling
    • Palomino (White French)
    • Crouchen (Cape Riesling)


Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault.  It produces wines that are rich, juicy and dense, with dark fruit flavors and earthy and smoky qualities.  [Image: Rude Wines]



South Africa wine regions see a diverse range of climates, as grapevines are grown in all reaches of the country.

Constantia and Stellenbosch, for example, are located near Cape Town and see constant, mild summer temperatures in the high 60s that are regulated by the nearby ocean.  Rainfall is adequate, if not on the wet side.  These regions have a climate comparable to Bordeaux, France.

Other regions are significantly hotter and drier, and in some instances even arid or desert-like.  The Northern Cape and Eastern Cape are some of the most difficult areas to grow in due to harsh conditions.  However, planting hardy varieties such as Chardonnay and employing effective irrigation has allowed for successful cultivation.


There are several distinct soil types that contribute to the terroir of the wines of South Africa.  Chances are, if it is a soil type, you can find it in South African vineyards!

  • Granite
  • Sandstone
  • Limestone
  • Shale (mud, clay and minerals such as quartz)
  • Loam (sand and clay)
  • Alluvial (silt, sediment, sand, gravel, clay – really anything deposited and enriched by a body of water)
  • Sand

Clay is found in much of the soil throughout South Africa, which aids in water retention.  In the drier regions of the country, clay-based soil is vital to the health of the vines.


Groot Constantia is the oldest winery estate and vineyard in South Africa, established in the 1600s.  [Image: Uyaphi]



  • The first bottle of wine was produced in 1659 by the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, who was a Dutch surgeon.
  • Constantia is the oldest wine region in the country, established in 1685 by van Riebeeck’s successor, Simon van der Stel.  Groot Constantia was the estate purchased by the Governor, and is still in operation today.
  • Stellenbosch is the second-oldest region, established in 1679, and grows most of the grapes used for the wines of South Africa.
  • Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in the country, but Pinotage is perhaps the most popular.  A cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir, this red grape variety is entirely unique to South Africa.
  • Due to Apartheid in the 20th Century, boycotts on South African products contributed to the poor wine economy and provided no incentive to improve the industry.  After the practice ended, the South African wine market experienced a revitalization – leading to growing sales, improved farming techniques and cutting-edge wine making practices.
  • “Cape Port” and other fortified wines are a popular style that contain high levels of alcohol and are similar to Port wines from Portugal.  These wines are produced to last for a prolonged period of time, and contain grapes popular in both South Africa and Portugal.
  • South Africa also produces their own sparkling wines, using both the tank and traditional method.  Both white and red varieties are produced, often using Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinotage grapes.


Related Post:  The Science Behind Sparkling Wine




Bayten Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia $14.99

Black Pearl The Mischief Maker Shiraz, Paarl $19.99

Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block Red Blend, Franschhoek and Swartland $26.99

Indaba Chenin Blanc, Western Cape $10.99 (a portion of the sale proceeds are donated to help assist in the education of area youth through teacher training, materials, and school infrastructure)

Kanonkop Estate Pinotage, Stellenbosch $41.99

Mulderbosch Rosé, Stellenbosch $11.99


Have you tried any wines from South Africa yet?  Leave a comment!



Get to know the wines of South Africa with this handy guide from

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