The Ever Changing Facets Of South African Wine

Monday, 11 March, 2019
Forbes, Tom Mullen
In the 17th century, vineyards were planted in what is now the nation of South Africa when a Dutch surgeon stationed along the Cape of Good Hope included grape vines on his farm.

The country of South Africa today is roughly the same size as that of the combined U.S. states of Texas, California and Virginia (or slightly smaller than the combined areas of mainland France and Spain, together with Portugal and Austria). According to the 2019 edition of Platter’s South African Wine Guide, this land includes a wine grape acreage of approximately 235,000 acres (95,000 hectares). That is approximately equivalent to 40% of the wine grape vine coverage within California.

The number of grape varieties planted in South Africa has increased from approximately 80 to 100 since the turn of this century. Some 65% of wine grape production is white—primarily Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Sauvignon Blanc—with the balance of reds dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinotage and Merlot.

Half of bottled wine is South Africa is sold at less than the equivalent of $3 per bottle and the ‘ultra-premium’ category (defined, according to Platter’s Guide, by industry analyst Nielsen) represents wines sold above about $9.00 per bottle for reds, or above about $7.00 for whites. One result of this pricing is that many top quality South African wines—even at marked up U.S. retail prices—can be of notable value.

The wine scene constantly changes in this country, and trends today differ from those of a decade or even five years ago. Consider the following aspects when discovering South African vintages.

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