South African Wine Regions

When you think of famous wine regions, France, Italy, and Portugal most likely pop into your head. But did you know South Africa is home to a thriving wine industry containing varietals you won't find anywhere else?

Dating back to the 1600s, South Africa is a significant player in the world of international wine. 

We're taking you through all you need to know about spectacular South African viticulture. By the end of this article, you'll be eager to visit the country's famous wineries and breathtaking coastal scenery. 

South African wine regions

Wine Regions of South Africa

With three major regions and several subregions, let's explore South Africa's famous wine industry. 

1. Northern Cape

Despite South Africa's wine history dating back hundreds of years, the Northern Cape is one of the newest players in the wine industry, first implemented in the 1960s. The climate in this region is hot and dry, which has made it challenging to grow vines historically. 

Thankfully, one particular area benefits viticulture by providing water and some relief from the heat.

Orange River

The Orange River is one of the longest rivers in South Africa, stretching over 2,000 miles, 400 of which run through the inland wine-producing region of the Northern Cape. With the hot and dry climate, viticulture benefits immensely from the moist soils along the river.

White wine is most prevalent here, including Chenin Blanc, Muscat of Alexandria, and Colombard. The last mentioned is a French white grape variety and may be an offspring of Chenin Blanc, though winemakers aren't entirely sure.

A few red varietals are grown here as well, including bold and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Pinotage, a South African native grape variety that crosses between Cinsault and Pinot Noir, first cultivated by Abraham Izak Perold in 1924. 

2. Eastern Cape

If you love safari, you might see a lion or elephant when visiting South Africa's Eastern Cape. Touching the Orange River, the landscape is wild with spectacular natural scenery and is home to Whittlesea, the first wine estate in the province. 

Visit the famous hot springs in this region and take in the wildlife as you sip the wine of origin, Pinotage, along with other fruity varietals like Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc.

3. Western Cape

The largest and most famous wine region in South Africa, the climate here is Meditteranean, with hot summers and cold, wet winters, which protects the viticulture from the sun during the hotter seasons. 

Read more about the many diverse subregions this area has to offer. 

South African vineyard

 Olifants River

One of the northernmost regions of the Western Cape, the Olifants River spans over 100 miles north and south. It borders the Coastal Region and is known for having the warmest summer months of all the other wine regions. 

The terroir around the Olifants River is characterized by sandy soils, which foster herbaceous grape varietals like Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Colombard. Red wines in this region include juicy Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, and Pinotage.

Cool breezes from the Atlantic Ocean water vines that are somewhat shaded by the surrounding mountains. You'll enjoy green landscapes and lots of sunshine in this region.

Coastal Region

Just south of the Olifants River is one of the oldest-growing regions of South Africa's wine industry. It's home to the beautiful maritime climates of Walker Bay, False Bay, and Cape Town, the oldest city and legislative capital. 

Cape Town is also home to the renowned wine estate Klein Constantia, which produces one of the world's best natural dessert wines, Vin de Constance. This area is also famous for several variations of Sauvignon Blanc, ranging from herbal and aromatic to fruity.

The most famous subregion in the Coastal Region is Stellenbosch, a major player in the international wine industry and the birthplace of Pinotage. In fact, Abraham Izak Parold was the first professor at the renowned Stellenbosch University.

Regarding wine selection in this region, you'll find robust red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Malbec. For white wine, you'll enjoy intensely fruity varietals like tropical Sauvignon Blanc

South African wine regions

Cape South Coast 

Southeast of the Coastal Region and below Breede River Valley, Cape South Coast's balanced and breezy coastal climate is perfect for thriving viticulture. Because the weather is so moderate, lighter varietals like Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are always in supply.

Here you'll enjoy refreshing, thirst-quenching wines as you take in breathtaking mountainous and ocean views hundreds of feet above sea level.

The largest wine producer of the Western Cape Province, Breede River Valley is also one of the most sheltered subregions, home to mountain ranges on three sides. The terroir comprises sandstone, limestone, gravel, and chalky mineral soils. Rocky soils are abundant the higher up into the mountains you travel.

With many microclimates and diverse terroir, almost half of South Africa's total vines are planted here. There is no shortage of variety, including everything from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, and more! 

Breede River Valley is the perfect place for wine lovers to sample as much variety in one area as possible.

Klein Karoo

On the border of Cape South Coast and Breede River Valley is the hot, arid climate of Klein Karoo, best known for producing South Africa's fortified wines. The intense, rugged terrain of the Cape Fold Mountains is tough to climb, with elevations 2,000 feet above sea level. But not to worry, as the hot days are relieved by the cool breezes of the southern coast in the evening. This benefits the growth of wines with balanced fruity notes and acidity.

Sweet Muscat Blanc and other well-known South African varietals like Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon are prevalent here.

Klein Karoo is a treasure trove of dessert wine if you're up for adventure and don't mind the warm weather. 

Here are some of the best wines you must try when visiting South Africa.

Best South African Wines

South Africa is home to a vast array of red and white wines, including well-known table wines and rare varietals like Pinotage and Colombard, which are native to the country.

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinotage
  • Colombard
  • Syrah
  • Chardonnay
  • Merlot
      Best South African wine

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