Red wine in South Africa
Red wine in South Africa has been undergoing something of a revival in recent years. Although the vineyards in the country have long been known for their white wines, and in fact have centuries of history concerning white wines, it is now estimated that about 80 percent of all new vine plantings are for red grapes. This turn-around has been partially due to consumer demand for more interesting and attractive wines, but it is also down to the economics of growing the different vines and harvesting the grapes. White grapes tend to be more expensive from a grower’s point of view, and they can be very costly, while red wines tend to be easier to look after, and this could be a deciding factor behind the explosion of red grape growing.
Another reason why red wines are so popular just now is that the domestic market has been demanding cheap, good red wine from their growers. South African wine drinkers expect their wines to cost less than R100, which means that even very good wines have to be grown and produced in a cost-effective manner. This is particularly important because the majority of South African wine estates still sell most of their wines on the domestic market, and this is a tradition that seems unlikely to be broken soon.
South African growers also face the challenge of exporting their wines to Europe and the US, where French, Italian and Spanish wines have typically dominated the market. Selling here requires that the producer offer their wines at a very cheap level, in order to rival the very good wines which Australia has been producing for the European market. Sometimes selling at a lower price can bring in customers, so it is well worth planting and growing a few cheap vines of red grapes in order to attract potential customers to your more expensive wines.
In South Africa, the majority of red wines produced are Single varietals, that is wines which are from one type of grape. Although there are some blends, such as The Chocolate Block, which have been successful, the largest percentage of South African wines are from a particular variety of grape. This not only allows the grower to concentrate upon those vines, but gives the wine-maker top-quality grapes to work with. The single largest red wine to be produced in South Africa is the Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by the Merlot and the Shiraz. The popular domestic product Pinotage is still grown in large numbers.
South African growers are still branching out, and are also growing Portuguese grapes in increasing amounts. Although the term ‘port‘ is no longer used, the Cape Port-style wines are exceedingly popular, and grapes such as Tinta Barocca are grown in order to carry the resemblance beyond the taste, and into the product itself. With this growth of vines, blended red wine has become more popular, and is likely to increase within the next 10 years as growers and producers devise ways to create cheap, but good quality wines.