The Story of Wine Varieties in South Africa

Wine Varieties

Wine Varieties

In keeping with the spirit of renewal in the South African wine industry, in recent years over 40% of the vineyards were replanted as the industry has realigned its product to compete globally, moving from volume production to noble cultivars and quality wines. South African vineyards were once dominated by white grape varieties but the almost all new plantings is red varieties. In the last two years, winegrowers have started planting more whites than reds, a reversal of the 10-year trend to planting more reds.

Noble varieties which have been cultivated increasingly in the past few years include Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, which produce top-class white wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. A significant proportion of our red wine vineyards are currently very young – 76,8% are under 10 years old.

Although most of the vine varieties cultivated here today were originally imported, up to now six local crossings have been released. The best known of these is a red variety, Pinotage, a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut), which more recently is cultivated locally on a fairly large scale.

The Worcester Region has the most vineyard plantings (21% of all vines), followed by Paarl and Stellenbosch (18%), Robertson (15%), Malmesbury (13 %), Olifants River (9%), and Orange River and Little Karoo (3%).

The Worcester Region also produces the most wine (24%), followed by Olifants River (17%), Robertson (14%), Paarl and Orange River (12%), Stellenbosch and Malmesbury (9%), and Little Karoo (3%).

Red-wine varieties grown in South Africa

Cabernet Franc – Related to Cabernet Sauvignon, this variety is usually softer, has a lower sugar content and contains less alcohol. Used as a component in classic, Bordeaux-style blends but also for varietal wines. Small but increasing vineyard area. Unless specified, ‘Cabernet’ refers to the Sauvignon and not the Franc variety.

Cabernet Sauvignon – An increasingly significant variety at the Cape, it’s the foremost variety of the Bordeaux region of France. Cabernet Sauvignon produces top-class wines that develop well with age into spicy, full, complex wines. As in Bordeaux, it may be blended with Merlot or its relative, Cabernet Franc. many more…

White-wine varieties grown in South Africa

Bukettraube – Developed in Germany, produces quality wines with a distinctive Muscat bouquet. South Africa is one of the few wine-producing countries worldwide to bottle Bukettraube as a single varietal wine.

Cape Riesling (Crouchen Blanc) – The variety was wrongly regarded for many years as Weisser Riesling (Rhine Riesling) but was later identified as the Crouchen Blanc of France. A shy bearer which can produce quality white wines with a delicate yet fruity bouquet and sharp grassy aroma if growth and ripening conditions are ideal. many more…

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Gerald Crawford

I was born in Johannersburg South Africa. I live in Stellenbosch and love my country. - Paid my dues at the The University of Life - If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me. My E-mail Address is

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