Constantia is the renowned wine region that put South African wines on the map centuries ago, when legend had it that their sweet wines were some of Napoleon’s favorites. South of Cape Town, the region is highly-regarded for its Chenin Blancs of all levels of sweetness, though it also boosts some extraordinary Hanepoot (Muscat de Alexandria) wines.
Franschhoek is a small region that means “French Corner,” and is located just south of Paarl and east of Stellenbosch. Virtually surrounded by mountains, it possesses a cooler, wetter climate than its neighbors, lending itself much better to Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Chardonnay.
Robertson is further east of Stellenbosch and is becoming more significant as more South African wines come into the U.S. market. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Colombard are the major grape varieties here, yet the sweet Muscadel wines are a regional specialty.
Worcester is situated directly east of Paarl and to the west of Robertson, is home to massive vineyard plots, providing up to ¼ of the wines produced in South Africa. Though a much hotter, more humid climate due to being further inland, water sources allow for constant irrigation and greater yields.
Swartland lies to the northeast of Paarl, following up along the Atlantic coastline. Meaning “black country,” this is reference to its dark, rich, fertile soils. Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage are the primary grape varieties, yet Shiraz also fares well.
Olifants River adjoins Swartland in the north and is nearly 300 miles from Cape Town. Though very dry, the proximity to the coast provides a more temperate climate. Though small in yield, the cooperative in Vredenal produces around 50,000 barrels after harvest each year.
Other regions such as Wellington, Klein Karoo, Durbanville, Tulbagh, Douglas and Orange River are also becoming more productive. The trend in the industry is seeing many more wines from South Africa coming to American shores.
Some wines to look for from this great nation are the wines of Mulderbosch, Raats Family, Thelema, Rustenberg, Kanonkop, Ken Forrester, Klein Constantia, Rudi Schutz, Columella, and Warwick Estates. Try a South African wine and you too will be a believer.