In the mid-1990s, the quality of South African wines was highly variable. The industry was just emerging from the quantity-over-quality apartheid years, and isolation from the world market showed. More than a few of the country’s signature pinotage reds — pinotage is a cross of pinot noir and cinsaut — were flawed, offering up aromas reminiscent of nail polish. White wines tasted manipulated and over-acidified.
Industry reforms in South Africa changed all that. Vines planted after apartheid are hitting their stride and many people are taking notice. The next time you visit your local wine shop, don’t be surprised if you find plenty of company in the South African aisle. New enthusiasts seem genuinely excited about these bottles, and longtime wine drinkers will tell you these pours have come a long way in 20 years.
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