More Quality Wines from South Africa Enter the Global Market

If you are not all that familiar with the wines of South Africa, welcome to a large number of wine lovers in the same boat. The simple fact is, there are very few South African wines exported to the U.S., even though the country’s winemaking goes back to the 17th century via Dutch settlers and the industry’s Cooperative Wine Growers’ Association was founded in 1918. But South Africa’s distance from the western world, the Depression and World War II and its apartheid policies kept the wines out of many markets until well into the 1990s.

Inter-agency battles for autonomy over the growers’ cooperative of more than 4,600 members further hindered the industry until the first democratic elections in 1994, which led to an export boom, although the best wines are still hard to come by, and high prices for some unfamiliar varietals like Pinotage haven’t helped. Cabernet Sauvignon comprises only 12% of the country’s vineyards and Shiraz 19%. There is some Merlot and Pinot Noir, but they are not significant grapes as yet. The thick-skinned Pinotage is actually a local cross breed of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Chenin Blanc is the most widely propagated white varietal, with some Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc increasing.

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