Which Grape Dominates South Africa?
Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s most grown wine grape. It was most likely one of the first vines brought over from France in the 17th century since it originates from the Loire Valley of France. Chenin Blanc grows very well in South Africa, as it is able to tolerate the warm weather and winds. The best examples of these wines have bright acidity and notes of apple, pear and honey. Most of the styles from South Africa are dry, but it’s not uncommon for producers to make off-dry or sweet versions.
Unfortunately, South Africa initially built a reputation for high volume lower quality Chenin Blanc. However, now with innovations in viticulture and winemaking, they are producing some elegant styles of Chenin Blanc. Regions like Swartland are also implementing organic and sustainable practices.
In 2010, Swartland created Swartland Independent Producers (SIP) to protect the area’s reputation by developing rules related to winemaking and viticulture. Their goal is to minimize intervention in both vineyard and cellar. Some of these rules include: the grapes must be grown, vinified, matured and bottled entirely in Swartland, and no adjustments like acidification, added tannin or chemical fining can be done to the wine.
You’ll also notice the words “Old Vine” on the label, which there is no legal definition, but most are over 35 years old. Innovative grape growers in this region recognized the value of these vines. They tend to produce high quality grapes and their deep roots require less water, which is extremely valuable during droughts like the one they experienced in 2018. Thus, Rosa Kruger created the Old Vine Project to bring attention to the quality of wine that can be produced with old vines in addition to creating more sustainable vineyards.
Chenin Blanc is a great cheese pairing wine and it is a delicious complement to seafood!