South Africa’s Other Wines
Although South Africa has become well known for its white and red wines, from Chardonnay to Pinotage, there is another section of wines for which the country has not yet received any accolades. These are the ‘other’ South African wines, such as Brandy, Muscadel or Jerepigo, which most outsiders do not know about, and which the domestic market takes for granted. These wines are not as talked about as the Sauvignon Blanc or the Cape port blends, but they should still be given some consideration, because South Africa produces fortified and distilled wines that are of excellent quality, and drinkers are missing out by not paying attention to them.
South African brandy is made in the tradition of European brandy. This after-dinner spirit is made by distilling wine, and then either aging in a cask (to give it the tanned appearance), or coloured using various caramels. The South African brandy spirit is often made in a similar method to Cognac (a variety of Brandy), produced through doubly-distilling white wines, putting them through copper stills that add some colour to the wines. Once the brandy has been made in this manner, it is then put into barrels made from French Oak, and aged for at least 3 years. This ensures that the brandy is dark, rich and of very good quality. In fact, in 2010 South Africa won the Best Brandy award from the International Wine and Spirit Competition. While Brandy is still one of the favourite drinks of South Africa, it is gradually being replaced in people’s affections by Cognac, its relative.
Cognac is also made using a number of distilled wines, preferably those with a fruity background. In the past, some suggested that Brandy was the traditionalists drink, while the more adventurous South African would enjoy a good Cognac. However, it is produced in a very similar way to brandy. The only difference is that the law is strict about the types of grape that are used to make Cognac. They must be Folle Blanche or Colombard, Montils or Semillon, with only a limited amount of another wine being used.
Muscadel and Jerepigo
Muscadel is a fortified wine which has become popular in South Africa. This wine is produced by adding alcohol to a red or white wine, and leaving it to mature or age. The grapes making this wine must be Muscat, usually of a white variety. The alcohol can be added before the juice ferments, or it can be added after the fermentation has begun, but before it is finished. The latter Muscadels tend to be rather softer in tone and texture. If the wine is note made from Muscat, then it is considered to be another branch of South African wine, known as Jerepigo. This sweet fortified wine can be between 15 and 20 percent alcohol, and it is often called Cape Port, or similar, because the ‘port’ wine is created from the Jerepigo methods. The sweetness of the Jerepigo makes it a great dessert wine, and with a few spices, it can easily be transformed into mulled wine.
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