In this article I will briefly introduce the most popular red varieties grown in South Africa.
In the past decade there has been somewhat of a renaissance in the South African wine industry, with many new plantings and a new generation of enthusiastic winemakers producing wines which are winning international accolades.
Because of this international demand, the production of red wine has increased dramatically in recent years to 45% of the national output, with white wine varieties accounting for the remaining 55%.
This noble grape is grown in almost all the regions of the Cape but most extensively in Stellenbosch and Paarl. It has become the most widely planted red variety and accounts for over a quarter of the acreage of all the red wine grapes in the country.
Traditionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is now increasingly bottled on its own. This fruity, rich variety is found in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Worcester as well as along the West Coast.
Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut) and is unique to South Africa. It is reknown worldwide for the distinctively rich and spicy wines it produces.
Although not grown extensively in South Africa, some outstanding wines have been produced, particularly in the cooler Walker Bay and Elgin areas.
This grape is ideally suited to the Cape where intense smoky and spicy wines are being produced. Almost 20% of red wine vineyards are are given over to Shiraz.
Other red wine varieties
Cinsaut is widely planted and used mainly for blending. Cabernet Franc, Mourvèdre, Malbec, Grenache and Petit Verdot are more recent introductions with small plantings at the moment.
In the next article, I will take a look at the most popular white wine varieties.