When I mention to people that South Africa is the 8th largest wine producing country in the world, I am usually met with a few surprised faces. Even South Africans themselves might not be aware that the country has been a wine producing region since the 1500s. Cape Town was a big stop-over point on the spice route. This resulted in many Europeans colonizing and settling the country. Now fortunately they brought their vines and winemaking along with them! Given that Africa is such a warm continent, most foreigners are skeptical that South Africa would be such a thriving wine region. Well, the simple explanation for this is climate!
The role of climate might be one of the most important factors in determining whether a region can be a successful wine region or not. Now there is no doubt the Cape Winelands have a warm Mediterranean climate, but there are many cooling influences. The Cape Winelands are located on the southern part of the continent, which receives the Antarctic-origin Benguela current, which cools the land and equalizes temperature and humidity levels. Combining the general warm Mediterranean climate, with these cooling sea breezes, results in a perfectly rounded wine.
So what red wines do well in the South Africa? Well, the most planted red varietal is Cabernet Sauvignon. Given the history of winemaking in South Africa, combined with the climate, Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa fits in-between the new and the old world. It is a perfect alternative to the fruit-forward Cabernet values from Sonoma, California. It has a savory, bold flavor without the grit from French Bordeaux's. It has the drinkability and smoothness from its new world influences, allowing it to lend the best from both worlds. You will also love the Syrah's, Merlot's, and of course that gorgeous Pinotage grape that South Africa is so famous for and which is making a huge comeback.
All in all, South Africa has many diverse micro-climates resulting in a wide spectrum of wine offerings. There is simply no competing with the value you can get from South African wines as they are known for producing very high-quality wines at very affordable prices!