South Africa is the southernmost country on the continent of Africa, and has a long and complicated history.
The country is home to a large variety of different microclimates, and some of the most stunning landscapes and wildlife viewing anywhere in the world.
Today, the country is one of the most well-respected new world wine-producing countries on earth, and wine enthusiasts from around the globe are familiar with the most popular regions and wines of South Africa.
The Top Wines of South Africa
South Africa is home to Route 62, which is the longest wine route in the entire world. It measures in at a whopping 850 kilometers, or 528 miles.
Route 62 spans the entirety of the country of South Africa from east to west, and there are many different wineries along the way.
Route 62 is considered by many to be the most beautiful and scenic road trip in the country of South Africa, and it is far less traveled and busy than the more famous “Garden Route.” It is possible to drive the route in two days, though four to eight days is recommended.
Travelers who elect to take their time working their way across this famous wine route will have plenty of opportunities for wine tasting, and there are a number of incredibly scenic stops along the way. Many travelers elect to start their journey from the large city of Cape Town.
When starting from Cape Town, travelers will first be greeted by one of the most prominent wine regions in the country of South Africa.
Paarl is only 60 kilometers or 37 miles inland from Cape Town, and there are nearly 50 different wineries located in this famous wine region.
The wines produced in the Paarl region are world-renowned for their full body and large flavors. Paarl produces big and bold interpretations of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc. There are also many other styles of wine produced in the region.
Paarl is considered to be the “pearl” of all wine regions in this corner of the country, and some of the wineries here are known worldwide.
Two of the most famous wineries in this region are Fairview and Nederburg, both well known for their full-bodied and bold Shiraz.
Nearly all wine tourists elect to stay in Paarl for at least one night, and many spend multiple days wine tasting before progressing further east down Route 62.
The next stop is the mountainous Worcester region, which produces some fantastic wine grapes as well as olives.
Nearly 25 percent of all wine produced in South Africa comes from the region of Worcester, and nearly every major wine grape grown in the country can be found here.
The dramatic mountainous landscape helps to protect the region from the surrounding extreme weather.
Wine enthusiasts who also prefer spirits such as brandy often choose to stop by the Klipdrift Distillery after leaving Worcester, as it is one of the most famous alcohol producers in the country.
Montagu is the next major wine region on the journey and is sure to not disappoint.
While not one of the most famous wine regions in the country, Montagu is home to some of the most beautiful and remote vineyards anywhere in the world, and the region also produces some of the best fruit in the country.
The next stop on the Route 62 wine tasting tour is Barryville, which is the beginning of the final stretch of wine regions known as the Klein Karoo Wine Route. There are about a dozen wineries located east of Barryville, and these wineries are the easternmost in the country.
The primary white wines produced along the Klein Karoo Wine Route are Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, while the most popular red wines are Shiraz and Pinotage.
There is plenty of variety in this region, and winery employees are known to make travelers feel at home.
The end of the route forks off three ways, and wine enthusiasts usually choose to finish their wine tours at one of three wineries. Domein Doornkraal, Excelsior Vlakteplaas, and Herold are the most common finishing spots for wine trips down Route 62.
Many wine enthusiasts regard South African Chenin Blanc as second to only Loire Valley wines, and about 18 percent of all wine grapes grown in the country are Chenin Blanc.
These fruit-forward and fresh wines are generally best when enjoyed young, and have a distinct crispness.
One of the most popular and highly regarded representations of South African Chenin Blanc is The FMC by Ken Forrester. This wine is grown in the Stellenbosch region and is a single variety wine that is made using 100% Chenin Blanc grapes.
The wine is aged in 50% new French oak and is barrel aged for a year while sitting on the lees. This develops a distinct creamy texture in the wine, similar to that of oaked California Chardonnay.
The grapes for this wine are harvested at 10 different times throughout the season. Harvesting multiple times throughout the growing season allows the winemaker to get the best out of every wine grape, as each is picked at its point of maximum maturation.
The tasting notes of honey and vanilla mixed with the smooth body make this one of South Africa’s top wines.
21 Gables Chenin Blanc by Spier is another top-selling South African wine, and it offers a depth of complexity and sense of terroir that is rarely found in new world wines.
The vineyard is nearly 40 years old, and the winemaker does a fantastic job of letting the terroir shine.
This refined and complex Chenin Blanc offers a burst of acidity that makes the mouth water without overpowering the more subtle notes offered by the wine. Each grape is hand-picked, and multiple passes are made to ensure maximum grape ripeness.
The winemaker allows the juice to sit on the grape skins for six hours, imparting an added layer of depth without the tannins and pigment associated with red wine skin contact.
The wine is aged in different sizes of oak barrels and then blended to achieve the optimal taste profile.
Cabernet Sauvignon produced in South Africa is known for its distinct deep body and strong flavor profile.
The Stellenbosch region produces some of the most famous and highly regarded bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon in the country, though it is also grown in many other regions.
Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular red wines produced in South Africa, and is a particularly big seller abroad in countries like the United States.
The wine is aged in 40 percent new French oak for 14 months and is a bold and bone-dry red wine.
While this Cabernet Sauvignon is extremely dry, there are enough fruit notes on the palate to make it complex and perfect for a variety of different food pairings.
The fruit is hand sorted to ensure that only the best wine grapes make it into each bottle.
Boekenhoutskloof’s Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular, best-selling, and most highly regarded interpretations of the grape in the entire country. The winemaker uses rustic techniques including the implementation of concrete tanks for fermentation.
While the winery has been around for many years, they are fairly new to the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the quality of the wines increases dramatically every year.
The intense flavors of dark cherries and cassis shine particularly well when served with red meat.
When grown in its homeland of France, this grape is called Syrah – but when produced in new world regions like Australia and South Africa, it is called Shiraz.
This medium-skinned wine grape thrives in a variety of different regions and microclimates throughout South Africa.
Cederberg Shiraz is one of the top-selling and most recognizable bottles of Shiraz produced in South Africa and is a favorite both abroad and among South African wine enthusiasts.
The wine is aged for 15 months, where it develops a deep and rich body with mature tannins.
Cederburg has won many international wine-making awards for its production of this Shiraz, including a “Gold 96” rating at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021.
Red fruit dominates the palate before giving way to subtler undertones and a distinct spicy finish.
Saronsberg Cellar’s Syrah is another strong and dry red wine that is considered to be of the highest quality.
This is one of the most awarded and most popular wines in the entire country, and the winemaker is known as one of the best producers in the country.
The wine is extremely dark in color, with shades ranging from deep purple to garnet. There are both black fruit and red fruit notes on the palate, and there is a floral and spicy flavor that develops after the first sip before giving way to a refined and elegant finish.
Diemersdal Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most recognizable white wines produced in South Africa, and it is a staple on wine lists both domestically and abroad.
There is a bright burst of fresh and tropical fruit on the nose, and the wine is very crisp and mineral-driven.
This is an impeccably balanced wine with an extended length of finish, and it is an extremely versatile wine when it comes to food pairings.
The bright acidity and tangy and fruity notes work in harmony to elevate lighter fare without overpowering the palate.
Kleine Zalze is one of the most highly regarded winemakers in the country of South Africa, and they produce a number of different varieties of Sauvignon Blanc.
Perhaps the most highly regarded and most easily recognizable is the Vineyard Selection Sauvignon Blanc.
This is a well-balanced mineral-driven wine, and one of the tasting characteristics that set it apart from others is the presence of kiwi fruit on the palate.
This crisp and bright white wine showcases all the best parts of South African winemaking.
Wines of South Africa – Conclusion
South Africa is one of the most stunning and unique countries in the world, and the wine produced is as diverse as its culture and climate.
There are many different styles of wine produced all over the country, and many producers have become famous worldwide for making and exporting high-quality wines with extraordinary consistency.