In response to the COVID pandemic, the South African government imposed one of the strictest lockdowns of the world which almost crippled the South African wine industry, bringing many growers close to the brink of collapse. The solution is a great one and simple; drink more South African wine! There is so much quality, diversity and potential in South Africa’s wine industry that we don’t think this should be a problem! Each sale of South African wine will help to keep the talented winemakers in business. Look out for the #saveSAwine campaign which is still as relevant now as during 2020 when the movement started.
Most of the quality production of South African wine is concentrated to the coastal areas where you can find a Mediterranean climate with slopes and cooling influences such as the aptly named Cape Doctor wind which blows up from Antarctica. This wind moderates the temperature allowing for higher quality fruit by preserving more natural acidity and slowing ripening in the grapes which creates more concentrated quality fruit flavours in the wines.
South Africa is geographically controlled by the Wine of Origin Scheme and divides the winelands into units, regions, districts and wards. Within the units only the Western Cape has a significant wine focus on quality, though an emerging unit to watch is the Eastern Cape which was only created in 2009. At EWWines we concentrate on the Western Cape which is where we will focus here. The Western Cape is divided into 5 regions: Breede River Valley, Cape South Coast, Coastal Region, Klein Karon and Olifants River. These regions have 29 small diverse districts (such as Walker Bay and Stellenbosch). These are then sub divided into 95 smaller wards (such as Cederberg and Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley).
Probably South Africa’s most famous wine district, the historic town is a sought-after area. Mountainous terrain, good rainfall and warm Mediterranean climate offering incredible potential for high quality wine with many excellent examples of the noble grape varieties; most notably its Bordeaux style blends such as The Reyneke Cornerstone. This wine is a real favourite of ours. It is certified organic with profits being invested in the farm workers' housing and education and an absolute quality focus in the bottle.
The cool Mediterranean climate here is the sought-after attribute where vineyards benefit from the persistent cooling winds from the nearby ocean (the Cape Doctor). The soils – predominantly weathered shales – and terroir are also ideal for cool-climate loving varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but also popular for South Africa’s signature Pinotage, which is a Pinot Noir x Cinsault cross able to produce interesting and complex wines or drink youthful where you will enjoy bright red fruits and some spice. Hamilton Russell’s Southern Right Pinotage is packed with complex berry fruit, beautiful tannins and subtle wood spice is classically styled and totally delicious!
Within Walker Bay, one ward to mention is the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. Translated as 'Heaven on Earth', divided into 3 wards largely by soil, the Upper Hemel-en-Arde is home to some of the countries finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs due to the cooling influence and poor quality Bokkeveld shale which restricts vigour brilliantly creating wines of great concentration and depth. We list wines from pioneers Newton Johnson and Hamilton Russell and are a must try.
A final ward to highlight is Cederberg. About 250km north of Cape Town this area is of rugged mountainous terrain, the highest in the Western Cape. This altitude creates the cooling influence here essential for quality wine production and acidity retention. The Cederberg Chenin Private Reserve combines crisp, fresh fruit (melon, green apple, grapefruit and white pear) and a creamy texture (five months lees contact) makes for excellent balance and is a standout Chenin Blanc of great value.
Browse EWWines full South African range HERE
Wines of South Africa
Wines of South Africa (WoSA) is a fully inclusive not-for-profit organisation and totally independent with a mission to promote the export of all South African wine. They do a fantastic job promoting the industry in all markets. Want to learn more? WoSA have an online course which is 6 short modules with multiple choice quiz after each covering a variety of topics relating to the South African wine industry which we would highly recommend, the link is HERE