To say that the South African wine industry has undergone a quality revolution in the last decade is no exaggeration. Current economic challenges due partly to the pandemic aside, it’s a very exciting time to explore South African wine.
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Much of the progress can be attributed to a collective focus on world-class viticulture and winemaking research and exchange. Long-standing plant improvement and innovation have steered the industry, translating this wealth of knowledge towards innovation in both the vineyard and cellar.
An increase in quality
The collective drive towards quality has included a greater focus on terroir, or the specific natural influences on the vine, with the aim to ensure a balanced vine. It has also seen a shift to cooler vineyard sites, either with a coastal influence or at altitude.
This important trend in vineyard selection has enabled longer growing seasons, yielding grapes with higher natural acidity and lower pH.
The result? Traits that have become synonymous with South Africa’s top wines – elegance, ageability, mouthfeel, exceptional balance and a definite sense of place. The award winning Boschendal Elgin Chardonnay, is the perfect example of this trend.
The appreciation for old vines
A concerted appreciation for old vines have resulted in the protection of these special vineyards. They reflect the decades of growing in one place, in the unyielding sun, the cold winter rain, the storms and winds, on a mountain, on a plain somewhere and then producing these delicate yet powerful wines.
The Last Elephant by Franschhoek Cellar is a stellar example of this.
Exploring South African red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines
The past decade has chiselled the way to a truly unique South African wine identity with its wines now testifying to its coming of age.
A stylistic shift shows white wines with a focus on fruit purity, with oak playing a supporting role rather than defining a wine’s identity. Red wines are now achieving phenolic ripeness and soft tannins without excessive alcohol percentages, and rosé wines are characterised by a pale colour, a dry palate and exceptional elegance. The wines by Franschhoek Cellar, as well as Boschendal’s Nicolas are perfect examples.
Cap Classique, South Africa’s very own and unique bottle fermented sparkling wine, is confidently taking its place on the world stage, celebrating its 50th birthday in 2021.
South Africa’s sustainable wine farming
When it comes to farming in harmony with nature, local wine producers can boast a performance on par with the Springboks at the last Rugby World Cup.
45 Cape wine farms are currently WWF Conservation Champions, following strict environment and sustainable guidelines, which has to date preserved a combined 22,000 hectares of pristine indigenous Fynbos vegetation between them. Boschendal proudly holds this accreditation.
The Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme further ensures that South Africa is a world leader, which allows the voluntary Wine & Spirit Board Integrity and Sustainability seal, now in its 10th year, to be applied to bottles as the mark of the commitment to the environment and its sacred natural resources.
A bottle that displays the Integrity and Sustainability Seal comes with a guarantee of environmentally responsible grape and wine production, traceability and quality for every customer.
This can be seen on the back label of the Oude Kaap wines, boasting additional credentials: extra lightweight bottles, being vegan and vegetarian friendly, sustainably and ethically sourced and reduced carbon emissions.
South Africa’s biodiversity
South Africa is a water-scarce country, which could explain its producers’ innate understanding of biodiversity.
Following a long recent drought in the winelands, more attention is being given to optimising this precious resource with a focus on varieties best suited to specific terroirs with a changing climate in mind.
The Roxton is a fantastic example, with Petit Verdot, and Malbec supporting the Shiraz in this three-way red blend.
Tim Atkin, Master of Wine, is a renowned and awarded journalist, who has done exhaustive research for his annual South Africa Special Report. In the latest 2020 edition, he writes:
“South Africa is making the best wines in its history. Over the decade I’ve been writing these reports, it has been a delight to see the general improvements in quality and the tentative emergence of a South African fine wine sector, with bottles that are discussed, cellared, coveted, shared and sold at auction.”
All these indications point to the fact that South Africa’s vinous treasures have come of age, and the purple patch is set to continue. But don’t settle for the consensus!
Shop our South African wines
Stock up on these new, brilliant examples from Franschhoek Cellar, Boschendal, Roxton and Oude Kaap, carefully selected by our team and see for yourself!
Especially if you find yourself increasingly cooking and experimenting in your own kitchen – South Africa’s wines offer the perfect match to your plated creations as well as exceptional value.
Want to discover some of South Africa’s finest?
Shop our range of South African wines here.