By John ~ February 3rd, 2009.
You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you that the wine industry in South Africa dates back to 1659, but it’s true. In fact, South African wine celebrated its 350th birthday yesterday. During the 1700’s one of the most expensive and sought after wines in the world was Vin de Constance, or “Constantia,” a sweet Muscat wine from the Western Cape of South Africa. Over the past 100 years, the wine industry, like the rest of South Africa, has ridden a rollercoaster of political and economic highs and lows as apartheid caused most of the developed world to boycott all forms of trade with South Africa. (Photo from Fairview)
After apartheid ended in 1994, South Africa re-emerged onto the world scene, but it has taken time for its wine industry to replant, rebuild, and rebound. Today, South Africa is again becoming a factor in the world of wine. With favorable exchange rates to the dollar, South African wines are generally reasonably priced. Our mission over the next month is to assess the quality in relation to price and see how South African wines stack up.
As you read this post, LaGayle and I are on our way to Cape Town to visit the major winelands (as they call them) of the Western Cape and taste as many of their wines as we can that are available in the United States. While Steen (Chenin Blanc) and Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) have historically been the big two varietals in South Africa, major replanting in recent years has focused on the big five international varieties, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
We’ll be reporting our findings in coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Filed under: South African Wine, Wine Travel