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The Grapes and Vines of South Africa
South Africa is fortunate to have some wonderful heritage vineyards. Despite producing some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the New World, there is much excitement surrounding new wave Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Cinsault.
Dry grown, gnarled old-vines, particularly prevalent in the Western Cape, are being brought back into production and championed on the international scene. Similarly revered throughout other wine producing countries, old-vines tend toward lower yields of highly concentrated grapes, and transmit a vivid sense of place.
South Africa’s Old Vine Project is an initiative that was conceived in 2002, and formally launched in 2016 to champion this old vine heritage. In South Africa, vineyards over 35 years qualify as old, thankfully making me feel relatively young.
“The OVP wants to focus the minds of winegrowers, winemakers and all wine drinkers on the benefits that come with age in vines. We want to create a culture of caring for vines at all ages, from young to old.”
An extremely high potential quality variety, historically producing long-lived wines, dry to sweet, in the Loire Valley of France. Traditionally South African examples tended to veer toward the tropical spectrum due to the climate. Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted variety in South Africa, and works tremendously well as both a varietal wine or blending component. Wines to look out for include the Mullineux Old Vine Blend and the Force Celeste Chenin Blanc.
A hybrid variety, developed from Pinot Noir and Cinsault to survive in the hot, dry climate. Historically much of this went into bulk production, and the quality was less than great. Nowadays there are many producers championing this uniquely South African variety, with wines ranging from light and fresh, through to structured and textural depending on region and wine making. Producers throw around the term Burgundian when describing the best Pinotage wines, and this is certainly not far from the truth, with a distinct pinosity emerging in many wines. Try our Kraal Bay Pinotage for a look at what this variety can offer at a cracking price.
A variety of huge historic significance in South Africa, and was once thee most planted variety., and was used for producing a huge range of styles. Like its Southern French counterpart Grenache, Cinsault has the ability to produce ethereal wines when treated carefully. Our current favourite is the Natte Valleij Cinsault, a blend of old vine fruit from throughout the Western Cape. It is resplendent with red berry, savoury spice and herbal flavours, light and fresh, and can be chilled down during summer!