While once associated with inexpensive, simple wines, South African wine has gone through a renaissance in the past few decades. As well as grand, iconic producers, boutique outfits with smaller volumes are also flexing their muscles, to mention nothing of the burgeoning fine wine scene. Here are four reasons that we should all be buying more South African wine.
South Africa’s fine wines are exceptional (and great value)
Currently, around 45% of our South African wine offering is under £15, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t fine wine gems to be found, and not for as much money as you’d think. Top estates such as Kanonkop and Boekenhoutskloof have fine wines starting from £15, lavished with the same care and attention (and critic scores) as some other fine wines three times the price. You don’t need to break the bank to enjoy South African fine wine.
A misconception many have about South African wine is that it’s all designed for quick drinking, destined for our fridge doors rather than our cellars. This could not be further from the truth. We hold many fine wine releases throughout the year, offering mature South African wines up to 20 years old to our members, but most are available to buy with their best years ahead of them. ‘It’s a region I’ve loved for a very long time for this exact reason,’ recalls Shaun Kiernan, our fine wine manager. ‘I’ve bought en primeur going back to 2013, and even when you open these wines that are more than a decade old, they taste like they were made last year. So fresh and utterly remarkable.’
South Africa offers incredible variety
At one time, South African wine was totally synonymous with pinotage: a crossing of pinot noir and cinsault that many wine snobs today still sniff at. But, as you’ll find, there’s so much more to South Africa. In terms of other reds, syrah, cinsault, grenache, cabernets sauvignon and franc, and carignan thrive here, but the famously finickity pinot noir can also produce fragrant, cool-climate-style winesin its coastal areas. Plus, pinotage itself has come a long way, swapping the burnt rubber for succulent, plummy notes.
For the whites, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay do well, whether as varietal wines or as part of a blend. But as a still wine, chenin blanc has found its second home here, as something altogether riper, rounder with ample stone fruit.
Chenin blanc is a truly brilliant grape
In fact, it would be remiss to not dedicate a whole section to South African chenin blanc. Shaun explains what makes it so special: ‘South African chenin produces some stunning wines with beautiful poise and sense of place. They are unique, offering class and value at the same time. For example, our Exhibition Chenin Blanc is made by fine wine wizard Chris Alheit, but it’s only £15. It’s simply fantastic.’
There are myriad reasons to buy from South Africa – value, ageability – but, above all, what this wine making country offers is variety. You can browse our selection safe in the knowledge that there’s something there for everyone.