Since the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, the country is once again becoming a world player on the viticultural stage. As an overview, South Africa encases the elegance and finesse of the european wines while retaining the bold ripeness of the southern hemisphere.
The most famous region is without doubt Stellenbosch that lies just below the Simonsberg Mountain and where the Cape Doctor wind that blows from False Bay cools the vineyards. Here Chardonnay is the main white grape with the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot weighing in for the reds. Some Sauvignon Blanc is grown but this is far more successful in the Overberg where Pinot Noir is also producing some superb wines. Look out for wines from Elgin or Walker Bay which can offer both terrific quality and value.
The hotter region of Paarl is also producing good wine especially from the older Bush Vine plantings that naturally shade the berries from the harsh sunlight. Chenin Blanc can be good from here but now some growers are showing their love for Rhone varieties by planting such grapes as Viognier for whites and Shiraz and Mourvedre for the reds.
We must just mention here South Africa's home variety of Pinotage. Not everybody's cup of tea but certainly worthy of trying, it is a hybrid created in 1934 at the University of Stellenbosch from Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Some good wines are to be found made from this variety but there are some pretty grim ones too. Buyer beware!