New World fruit, Old World elegance - that's what South Africa offers at its best.
While wine has been made in South Africa since the 17th century, standards in the early 1990s left much to be desired. Since then, progress has been rapid on all fronts and the wines have never been better.
As with the sports teams, it took South Africa's wineries a few years to come back up to international standards following Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom. Now they're back with a vengeance.
Chenin Blanc is South Africa's most widely grown grape, a legacy of brandy production, and there are several punchy peach and citrus-laden versions, with and without oak. Sauvignon Blanc combines the pungency of New Zealand versions with Old World restraint. Constantia and Elgin are the best sources. Chardonnay is getting better, with Robertson and the cooler parts of Stellenbosch being the hot spots.
For reds, Cabernet Sauvignon has been the traditional star, especially in Stellenbosch, where the wines, sometimes with Merlot in the blend, offer ripe fruit but also some refinement. Shiraz threatens Cabernet's supremacy, and veers between a subtle Rhône-y style and a more robust, quasi-Australian model. Pinot Noir can be good, but South Africa's signature variety is Pinotage, the chunky, berry-and-banana-rich grape used for medium to full-bodied wines.
Pinotage is a cross between Cinsault, a southern French grape known in the Cape as Hermitage, and Pinot Noir.
What is MCC?
Méthode Cap Classique, a sparkling wine made by the Champagne method.