The Rise of South African Wine – A Look at Cape Winelands’ Transformation

by Sandy Salle on May 10, 2013

South Africa’s spectacular Cape Winelands countryside is not just breathtaking in its beauty; it’s also one of the top wine-producing regions in the world (the eighth largest to be exact). Wine was first produced in this area in the mid 1600s, thanks to the Dutch East India Company, but didn’t gain popularity until recently. And because South African wines are considered fairly new to the world of wine (although they’ve have been being produced for centuries), they have not yet developed a strong identity.

The most recent setback for South African wine was the Apartheid legislature put forth in South Africa for most of the 20th century. But in the 1990s, when Apartheid legislation was abolished and Nelson Mandela became president of a democratic South Africa, South African wine began becoming internationally recognized once again. In fact, Nelson Mandela toasted his Nobel Peace Prize achievement in 1993 with a glass of Cape Winelands wine!

The most popularly used grape in South Africa is the Chenin Blanc grape, followed (in no particular order) by Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Shiraz, Colombard, and Chardonnay. Both the Chenin Blanc and Colombard grapes are also frequently used in brandy production (another popular alcoholic beverage produced in South Africa).

Some of our favorite wine regions within South Africa include Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek, Darling, and Cederberg. All of these areas can be visited today on a trip to South Africa. Visitors can enjoy private wine tasting tours on century-old estates, create their OWN wines, go on a horseback wine tasting safari, embark on a bicycle ride along the countryside, or enjoy a food and wine pairing picnic among the vines.

Below are some of our favorite Cape Winelands Accommodations:

  • La Residence
  • Le Quartier Francais
  • Babylonstoren
  • Cellars-Hohenort Hotel
  • Devon Valley Golf Estate

Below are some of our favorite Cape Winelands Wineries & Vineyards:

  • Glenwood, located in Franschhoek Valley (Situated off the beaten path, Glenwood offers its visitors and an eclectic tasting room – try their Chardonnay!)
  • Boekenhoutskloof, located in Franschhoek Valley (arguably the best wine in the area!)
  • Joostenberg Winery, located in the Paarl region (this super quaint winery is rustic and family-owned)
  • Fairview, located in the Paarl region (a larger wine estate, but EXCELLENT wines and a must visit for wine lovers!)


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