SPOTLIGHT ON SOUTH AFRICA
Here at Grog we are huge fans of South African wines and have over the years forged close links with some of our favourites. As many of you know our own Handmade Wines were created on a pretty epic trip over a decade ago in partnership with Danie Steytler (extremely talented Fourth Generation wine maker, tip top host – 209 Braais so far this year - and legendary ex Grog van driver) from Kaapzicht Estate.
Many years of drought, a troubled government and now Covid bringing about a ban on domestic sales of alcohol (which for a short while included exports) has brought the industry to its knees. As many as 80 wineries are expected to close along with the loss of over 18,000 jobs. It’s a dire situation.
So, this month we have decided to shine a light on some of our star producers – the best thing we can do to support this industry is to buy their wine! (That’s our excuse anyway!)
South Africa in many ways considers itself ‘Old World’ as it has been making wines for over three centuries when in 1652 the Dutch East India Co set up a stopping point in Cape Town. The first wine was produced in 1659 and despite some troubled periods along the way it has been making wine ever since. The Dutch were not wine makers by trade and it took the arrival of the Huguenots in the late 1600s to start to make real progress in quality.
Economic conditions, Phylloxera, wars, and even a shortage of oak barrels have all played a part in generating problems over the years. The creation of the government-backed KWV in 1918 which fixed grape prices, encouraged improvements in viticulture and vinification techniques as well as limited yields led to a huge increase in quality of wine and by the 1950s it was streets ahead of its ‘New World’ counterparts.
For most of the 20th Century these wines weren’t seen outside the country with the exception of “Port” and “sherry” styles, and only when export bans were lifted when the end of Apartheid came did they begin to enter the world stage. Having said that, a secret contact in the wine trade once told us that all the great value, flavour-packed Bulgarian wine we drank in the 80s actually came from a little further away, shall we say!
You can read more about the history of the SA wine trade HERE
South Africa’s most planed white variety is Chenin Blanc. Originally from the Loire valley in France it suits the climate here brilliantly and can produce anything from easy going daily gluggers to serious, intense, textured wines made from old vines.
Although the most planted red variety in SA in Cabernet Sauvignon it is Pinotage that is its signature grape. Created specifically for the climate it is a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault (traditionally called Hermitage in South Africa) in 1925 by a chap named Abraham Perold. The result wasn’t quite what he expected. Rather than a light, juicy wine it produced a grape that was deep and intense with big tannins it was also a highly prolific. This led to over-production for many years making its name synonymous with low quality, dull wines that quite often were reminiscent of nail polish. A focus on low yields and careful wine making has increased quality over the last couple of decades mean you can now find some stunning examples that are intense and bold with flavours of plum, liquorice, chocolate, tobacco, smoke and roiboos with well-integrated tannins.
Some of our favourite producers are:
Browse our South African Range HERE