South African White Wines

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Introduction to South African White Wine

South Africa's winemakers and producers have produced a wide range of quality wines from across a wide range of grape varieties. As of 2022, South Africa is 8th in the world for international wine production, accounting for 3.9%. Despite its long history of winemaking, South Africa is considered to be part of the New World due to drinkers just starting to discover its rich great wine and white blends.

Introduction to South African White Wine

South Africa's winemakers and producers have produced a wide range of quality wines from across a wide range of grape varieties. As of 2022, South Africa is 8th in the world for international wine production, accounting for 3.9%. Despite its long history of winemaking, South Africa is considered to be part of the New World due to drinkers just starting to discover its rich great wine and white blends.

History of South African White Wine

South Africa's long history of winemaking first started in 1659 when Jan Van Riebeeck, a Dutch surgeon, was given the task of managing the station and planting vineyards to produce wine and grapes.

South African wines received little attention globally for most of the 20th century due to the boycotts of South African products in protest of the country's Apartheid system.

After Apartheid, many producers have adopted new viticultural and winemaking technologies. They have also focused on well-known varieties including Chardonnay due to the international influences from flying winemakers abroad.

South African vineyards were once dominated by white grape varieties before new red grape plantings shifted the numbers. In the last 6 years, however, producers have started to plant more white grape varieties, which is a reversal of the 10-year trend of planting more red grape varieties.

In 2019, 55.5% of the plantings in South Africa were white wine grapes. While there are other grape varieties in South Africa, Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted variety, accounting for more than 18% of the vineyards. The other white wine varieties include Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Chardonnay.

Today, South Africa's predominant Mediterranean climate has led to the creation of unique wines with reach regions specialising in particular grapes that suit their area. Regions with a cool climate are ideal for South African white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

What is Chardonnay

Paired perfectly with almond biscotti, Chardonnay is a white grape variety that's present in every major winemaking country. In South Africa, it has gained popularity since the 1980s due to its ability to grow well in a wide range of soils.

Chardonnay can be produced in different styles and expresses a range of flavours depending on the terroir-influenced elements. This is why Chardonnay often expresses the terroir where the wine was made and the winemaker can manipulate it to their wish or style.

Robertson in the Western Cape is one of the top appellations for Chardonnay in South Africa as the conditions in the region result in a slow and steady ripening of the grape.

South African Chardonnay produces a range of flavours including toffee apple, golden apple, and white grapefruit with spicy and woody notes and crisp acidity.

What is Chenin Blanc

While the Loire Valley is the birthplace of Chenin Blanc, the grape has found another home in South Africa as the most widely planted grape in the country, representing more than 18% of the total vineyards.

Chenin Blanch is known in the country for its local name Steen and can be used in sweet dessert wines to dry white wine, and was previously known as a workhorse grape due to its high yields.

South African Chenin Blanc produces a range of flavours including baked apple, green plum, lemon curd tropical fruit and clementine with lifting acidity. It is sometimes blended with other white wines to make a richer wine.

What is Viognier

Viognier is a white wine grape that came from northern Rhône. It was first imported to South Africa in 1989 with the first Viognier-labelled wine released in the 1990s. Viognier accounts for 0.8% of the total vineyards in South Africa.

Though it represents a small portion of the total area in wine production in the country, Viognier is planted in all the wine regions. South African Viognier produces a range of flavours including orange blossoms, peaches, tropical fruit and exotic spices.