The climate conditions in South Africa are primarily Mediterranean. Although the South Africa summers are very hot, the icy Benguela Current from the South Atlantic Ocean cools down the Cape, and allows vineyards to develop on both sides of the Cape of Good Hope.
Grape varieties in South Africa are predominantly white, accounting for 55% of the total production. Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted wine grape variety in the Cape, with increasing quality of both dry and sweet styles. Other major white varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier.
As demand for quality red wines arise in the market, there has been a sharp increase of red grape planting. Cabernet Sauvignon is now the most widely planted red variety in South Africa, producing Bordeaux-style reds together with Merlot.
South Africa is also home to the world’s largest planting of Pinotage — a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Pinotage is considered the country’s signature grape variety, producing full-bodied wines with strong flavours of berry, spice, and wild fruits. It is sometimes blended with other varieties to make a “Cape Blend”, while its own complexity and potential are also attracting more attention.
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