According to the latest Wine Industry statistics (2002), South Africa has become the world’s 9th largest producer with its +/- 719 million litres represents 2.7% of global output.
In keeping with the spirit of renewal in South Africa, the wine industry has, in recent years, replanted 40% of the vineyards
In the past white wines dominated the South African vineyards but the trend is now towards a more market-driven balance between whites and reds. Noble varieties that have been cultivated increasingly over the last few years include Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay which are producing top-class wines and Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Pinot Noir.
A significant portions of South Africa’s red vines are currently very young – 52% under 10 years of age.
South African legislation requires that at least 85% of a wine to be present of the stated variety. Blends may only name component parts if those components were vinified separately, prior to blending, then they are listed with the larger contributor/s named first. Should one of the blend partners be less than 20% of total composition, all the blend partners percentage of total composition must be supplied.
South African Vinicultural Styles
Aperitif - An appetiser; a beverage drunk before meals to stimulate the appetite. Traditional examples: Dry Sherry, Dry white wine, Dry Sparkling Wine, Dry Vermouth - all chilled. Wine Aperitif pertains to a wine-based drink to which flavour has been added.
Blanc de Blancs – "White of Whites"; White wine made from only white grapes, sometimes a blend of two or more varieties, also used for Champagne and Méthode Cap Classique.
Blanc de Noir - Usually a pinkish wine ((shades range from off-white through peach to pink) made from red grapes by means of removing juice from the skins immediately after crushing or pressing - reducing the amount of skin contact reduces the amount of colour extraction and tannins that it imparts to the wine. Sometimes called "blush".
Blanc Fumé/Fumé Blanc – Dry white from Sauvignon Blanc, not necessarily finished in wood (nor smoke, smoky); usually referring to wooded Sauvignon Blancs.
Bottle Fermented - Sparkling Wine produced by the traditional method - Méthode Champenoise - undergo a second fermentation, whereby sugar and yeast is added to the wine already in the bottles and then resealed. Carbon dioxide, a by-product of fermentation, is trapped inside the wine under pressure and is eventually released as bubbles (the "mouse") when the Sparkling Wine is served. Winemaking process made famous in Champagne, France, also used fin South Africa (Méthode Cap Classique), Cava in Spain and bottle fermented wines elsewhere in the world.
Brut – Used to describe a Sparkling Wine that is Dry or dryish in taste. See also Sugar or Sweetness, Sparkling Wine below.
Cap Classic – See Sparkling Wine below.
Cape Blend – Evolving term, increasingly used to denote a (red) blend with pinotage, the “local” grape making up 30-70% of the assemblage. However, sometimes simply a blend showing a distinct “Cape” character.
Carbonated – Beverages impregnated with CO2 gas under pressure. See also Sparkling Wine below.
Champagne - Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine from the French district Champagne. Made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir or a blend of these varietals, often with the addition of Pinot Meunier.
Charmat – Method of making Sparkling Wine in a sealed tank (Cuvée close) under pressure. Easier, cheaper than Méthode Champenoise.
Cultivar – Grape Variety (a contraction of "cultivated Variety").
Cuvée - A particular lot or barrel selection, or wine from a specific grape Variety or blend that has been kept separate from the bulk production.
Demi-Sec - A level of sweetness in Sparkling Wine. Although French for half-Dry, Demi-Sec bubblies are often semi- to medium-sweet. See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Dessert Wine - Collective term for Sweet Wine styles typically served with dessert after a meal, though sometimes prior to a meal (e.g. together with foie gras). Inclusive of Noble Late Harvest (botrytis) wines, certain Late Harvest and Special Late Harvest wines, Natural Sweet wine, Straw Wine (Vin de Paille) and certain Fortified wines. See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Dry – Normally relates to a wine with no preceptible taste of sugar (below 0,7%). See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Doux - Normally relates to sweet Sparkling Wine.
Fortified - A wine with its alcohol strength imparted or increased by the addition of brandy, grape spirits or neutral spirits, by South African law to a minimum of 15% alcohol by volume. Normally 15 to 24% alcohol by volume. See also Port, Sherry, Muscadel and Jerepigo below.
Grand Cru - French for "great growth" - a specific area, or wine from that area. In South Africa, the term can infer simply Dry white wine. See also Premier Grand Cru below.
Icewine – Sweet, concentrated wine from grapes picked and pressed whilst frozen. Not a recognize wine style for South Africa.
Jerepigo - Very sweet Fortified wine (red or white) that involves stopping fermentation in the very early stages - sometimes even preventing fermentation altogether - by adding grape spirit to the must. Synonyms include Jerepiko or Jerepico (South Africa) and Jeropiga (Portugal).
Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) - Made from the fruit of a single year, matured in barrel for two years (sometimes for as long as four or five years) and Vintage dated.
Late Harvest (LH) - Refers to sweeter style of wine from grapes harvested later and therefore sweeter. See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Méthode Champenoise – See Sparkling Wine below.
Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) – See Sparkling Wine below.
Muscadel - South African term for Sweet Wine made from Muscat grapes, Usually Fortified. Moscatel in France.
Natural Sweet - Dessert style wine, sweeter than Late Harvest, sometimes as sweet as Noble Late Harvest (but usually without the influence of botrytis). See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Natural Wine - Unfortified wine; fermented grape juice. Still or sparkling, Dry to sweet. Nothing that could inhibit the normal processes of nature is added during fermentation. Ranging between 6 and 18% in alcohol by volume though normally between 11 and 13% alcohol by volume.
Noble Late Harvest (NLH) – Sweet Dessert Wine exhibiting a noble rot (botrytis) character, from grape infected by the botrytis cinerea fungus. This mould, in warm, misty autumn weather, attacks the skins of ripe grapes, causing much of the juice to evaporate. As the berries wither, their sweetness and flavour become powerfully concentrated. South African law dictates that grape for Noble Late Harvest must be harvested at a minimum of 28° Balling and Residual Sugar must exceed 50g/l.
Nouveau – Term originated in Beaujolais for fruity young and light reds, usually from Gamay and made by the carbonic maceration method. Bottled a few weeks after Vintage to capture the youthful, fresh flavour of fruit and yeast fermentation.
Perlant, Perlé, Pétillant – Lightly Carbonated, Sparkling Wine.
Port – Fortified dessert with improving quality record in South Africa sine the late 1980s, partly through the efforts of the South African Port Producers’ Association which recommends use of word "Cape" to identify the local product. Following the SAPPA – defined styles: Cape White: non-muscat grapes, wood-aged minimum of 6 months, any size vessel; Cape Ruby: blended, fruity, components aged minimum of 6 months, up to 3 years depending on the size of the vessel. Average age minimum of 1 year. Cape Vintage: fruit of one harvest; dark, full-bodied, vat-aged (any size); Cape Vintage Reserve: fruit of one harvest in year of “recognized quality”. Preferably aged minimum of 1 year, vats of any size, sold only in glass; Cape Late Bottled Vintage (LBV): fruit of single “year of quality”, full-bodied, slightly tawny colour, aged 3-6 years (of which minimum 2 years in oak); Cape Tawny: wood-matured, amber-orange (tawny) colour, smooth, slightly nutty taste (white grapes not permitted); Cape Dated Tawny: single-Vintage tawny.
Premier Grand Cru – Unlike in France, not quality rating in South Africa – usually an austerely Dry white.
Quaffable - Easy-drinking, accessible, undemanding wine.
Reserve - Depending on the producer, it can signify the winery's best wines. Often meaningless.
Rosé - Pink in colour. Can be made by blending white and red grapes, but mostly made from red grapes whose skins are left on the must during fermentation. The juice is then run off the skins and treated the same way as white wine. Rosé can be Dry to semi-sweet. Rosé also being used as a collective name for Rosé and Blanc de Noir style wines.
Residual Sugar – See Sugar or Sweetness below.
Rouge - "Red" in French. Ruby Port - Fruity, similar to young Vintage Port, aged in wood for at least six months, usually not Vintage dated. Ruby in colour, hence the name.
Sec - Dry in French. See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Sherry - Fortified wine, traditionally a blend dominated by the Spanish Variety Palomino. Sherry grapes (white) are dried in the open before being pressed at low temperature, and the product gains its unique characteristics from the addition of flor, a type of wine yeast. The term derives from the name of the town Xeres in the Jerez district of Spain (the "X" pronounced as "Sh"), whose Sherry was the forerunner to other wines of this style now made in various countries. There are four different styles of Sherry: Fino (Dry and light in colour), Oloroso (sweet and fairly dark), Amoroso (lighter in colour and sweeter than Oloroso) and brown (dark and sweet).
Sparkling Wine – Bubbly or Champagne, usually white but sometimes Rosé and even red, given its effervescence by carbon dioxide (CO2) – allowed escaping in the normal wine making process. Champagne undergoes its second fermentation in the bottle. Under an agreement with France, South Africa does not use the term that describes the sparkling wine from the Champagne area. Instead, Method Cap Classic (MCC) is the South African term used to describe Sparkling wines made by the classic Méthode Champenoise in South Africa. Charmat undergoes its second, bubble-forming fermentation in a tank and is bottled under pressure. Carbonated sparklers are made by the injection of carbon dioxide bubbles (as in fizzy soft drinks). Sweetness levels range between Brut (extra Dry), Sec (Dry), Demi-Sec (semi-sweet) and Doux (sweet). See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Special Late Harvest (SLH) – South Africa’s designation for lighter dessert style wine. There is no longer a legal stipulation for Residual Sugar content, but if the Residual Sugar content is below 20g/l, the label must state “extra Dry”, “Dry”, “semi Dry” or “sweet” as the case may be. The minimum stipulated alcohol content has been raised from 10% to 11% by volume.
Steen - South African term for Chenin Blanc. Not to be confused with Stein.
Stein - Used in South Africa to describe a semi-sweet white wine, many examples of which a high percentage have Steen (Chenin Blanc) in the blend.
Still Wine - The opposite of Sparkling Wine - without bubbles - whereby carbon dioxide produced during the fermentation is not retained, the wine being bottled and served in a "still" condition.
Straw Wine - Sweet nectar resulting from late picked grapes being left to dry and shrivel in the sun on straw matting. Synonym for Vin de Paille (French). See also Sugar or Sweetness below.
Sugar or Sweetness – In Still Wine: extra Dry or bone Dry wines have less than 2.5g/l Residual Sugar, undetectable to the taster. A wine legally is Dry up to 5g/l. Taste buds will begin picking up a slight sweetness, or softness, in a wine, depending on its acidity, at about 6g/l, when it is still off-Dry. By about 8-9g/l a definite sweetness can usually be noticed. However, an acidity of 8-9g/l can render a Sweet Wine fairly crisp even with a sugar content of 20g/l plus.
As a rough guide, red wines (including port) should be served at between 16°C and 18°C, with all other wines chilled to between 8°C and 10°C.
Ideally, though, the following temperatures should apply:
|Sweet Sparkling Wine||5°C - 8°C|
|Dry Sparkling Wine||8°C - 10°C|
|Unwooded White, Sweet White and Rosé||8°C - 14°C|
|Wooded White||13°C - 16°C|
|Light Red and Nouveau Wines||10°C - 14°C|
|Full-Bodied Red||16°C - 18°C|
|Dessert Wine and White Port||8°C - 10°C|
|Dry Sherry||5°C - 8°C|
|Medium and Full cream Sherry||8°C - 10°C|
|Red Port||16°C - 18°C|