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South Africa

When South Africa emerged from apartheid so did its wines. Since 1990 it has become the eighth largest producer in the world and its wines are improving all the time. 

When South Africa emerged from apartheid so did its wines. Since 1990 it has become the eighth largest producer in the world and its wines are improving all the time. 

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Chenin Blanc, known in South Africa as Steen, is widely planted and eminently drinkable and has been joined by Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc as the key white varieties.  Red vines are being more widely planted and international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz have all found places within the varied climate to thrive. It is the indigenous Pinotage, however, that flies the flag and gives South Africa an important grape of its own.

History

Apartheid may have been something of a watershed, but South Africa has been producing and exporting wine to great acclaim since the late seventeenth century.  The Dutch East India Company introduced the vine, and the making of wine, in the belief that it combated scurvy, and the industry has never died out.  It has, however, suffered many a setback.  The collapse of the 19th-century export market to Britain, phylloxera, war, overproduction and the rise of an all-powerful, government-backed cooperative (the KWV) all dented quality and demand and it is only since 1990 that the wines of South Africa have become competitive and desirable once more.

The Classification System

In common with much of the New World, South Africa operates a classification system that is simpler, less revealing and more flexible than the major wine-producing nations of Europe.  It is the Wine of Origin system and it was introduced in 1973.  There are four regions - Coastal, Breede River Valley, Klein Karoo and Olifants River - that are divided into districts that are sub-divided into wards.  In a country where the climate and conditions are so varied, a geographical system such as this makes sound sense and the different classifications are not entirely arbitrary.  In addition, 85 percent of the grape variety and vintage must be that which is stated on the label.

Climate and Conditions

Diversity of climate, a new breed of winemaker, acceptance of international grape varieties and a willingness to persevere with their own established heritage means that South Africa today has a host of exciting and ever improving wines.  Favourite international grapes may be achieving the most immediate results, but Pinotage and Chenin Blanc are producing good wines that in the right hands may even aspire to greatness.

 

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  1. Crocodile's Lair Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson

    Crocodile's Lair Chardonnay, Bouchard Finlayson, 2013 75cl

    A superb Chardonnay with tropical fruit aromas and a hint of vanilla. The plate is full and generous with finish showing good length with the toasty oak influences shining through.

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    £16.32
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    £18.35
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    £13.60
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    £15.29
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  2. The Den Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region

    Den Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, 2016 75cl

    A lively South African white with the classic punchy fruit flavour we've come to expect from the Chenin made here. Very well textured on the palate, creamy apple flavour dominates with a hint of citrus too on a crisp finish.

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    £9.84
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    £10.94
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    £8.20
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    £9.12
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  3. Freedom Cross, Chenin Blanc, Paarl

    Freedom Cross, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, 2016 75cl

    Pale gold with a distinctive green hue and a well-balanced sweet nose of tropical fruit and honey. The palate offers citrus flavours with a hint of peach.

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    £6.48
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    £6.85
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    £5.40
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    £5.71
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  4. Freedom Cross Chardonnay, Paarl

    Freedom Cross Chardonnay, Western Cape, 2015 75cl

    An elegant and full-bodied wine with good balance and tropical citrus flavours. Rich and buttery on the palate, with a firm structure.

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    £6.72
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    £7.75
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    £5.60
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    £6.46
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  5. Freedom Cross Sauvignon Blanc, Paarl

    Freedom Cross Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, 2016 75cl

    Clear colour with a light aroma, mostly flint and like a Loire wine, but with more Apricot fruit on the palate.

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    £7.75
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    £5.70
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  6. Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch

    Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, 2014 75cl

    Quince, tropical and stone fruit flavours with savoury undertones. Lightly textured palate with subtle sweetness and balanced acidity gives this wine a fresh finish.

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    £10.75
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    £8.00
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    £8.96
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  7. Meerestein Chenin Blanc Pinot Grigio, Worcester

    Meerestein Chenin Blanc Pinot Grigio, Worcester, 2014 75cl

    This is a really interesting and well made wine made with an interesting blend of Chenin Blanc and Pinot Grigio each grape passing on its own expression into the glass. Rich, guava fruit flavours from the Chenin Blanc are enhanced by the bright freshne

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    £6.66
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    £7.30
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    £5.55
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  8. Newton Johnson South End Chardonnay,

    Newton Johnson South End Chardonnay, 2015 75cl

    Grapefruit, hedge flowers and green citrus aromas encourage you further in. Initial creaminess in the mouth develops into fresh peach, balanced by crisp citrus notes. The finish is dry and fruity. 

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  9. Painted Wolf Chenin Blanc, Swartland

    Painted Wolf Chenin Blanc, Swartland, 2012 75cl

    Intensely flavoured and well textured white that has peach and melon fruit flavour in abundance. In the mouth this is well supported by vanilla notes from the oak-aging and the finish is long and fresh.

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  10. Robertson Wide River Chenin Blanc, Robertson

    Robertson Wide River Chenin Blanc, Robertson, 2016 75cl

    This delicate wine has lovely ripe fruit flavours, fresh floral aromas and a delightful off-dry finish.

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    £6.07
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    £6.60
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    £5.06
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  11. Robertson Wide River Viognier, Robertson

    Robertson Wide River Viognier, Robertson, 2016 75cl

    A rich medley of fresh apricot, peach and lemon flavours that follow through on the supple, slightly oily palate. Barrel fermentation in new small French oak barriques has provided nuances of cinnamon and cracked cashew nuts.

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    £6.91
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    £7.45
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    £5.76
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    £6.21
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  12. Seven Springs Unoaked Chardonnay, Overberg

    Seven Springs Unoaked Chardonnay, Overberg, 2013 75cl

    Tropical aromas combine beautifully with pear on the palate, with some melon adding to a fresh and vibrant palate. Medium bodied with a dry finish, this is a delightful unoaked style of Chardonnay.

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    £11.76
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    £13.45
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    £9.80
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    £11.21
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