South African Port wines

South African Port wines

South Africa has been producing fortified wines which it describes as ‘Port’ for many years now. These drinks, which are the basic red or white wines strengthened by the addition of alcohol, are known by many drinkers as ‘Cape Port‘, but in fact this description is forbidden by the European Union, who limited the name Port to wines originating in Douro, Portugal. Although Cape Port wines to closely resemble the Portuguese wines in their strength and flavour, there are some differences which can allow the wine connoisseur to enjoy both Port and South African Cape Port for their individual virtues.

There are several different types of Cape Port, most typically using a red wine base. The Cape Ruby Ports, for example, use a number of different wines to create a blend which resembles port. These original wines have to have been matured for six months each, and then stored for a another year when they are blended. Only the Cape Tawny ports are more complex, and this is because they have to be matured for more than a year, as the excess of aging will allow the wine to acquire that slightly brown, nutty flavour. It is actually forbidden to mix together ruby and white cape ports to produce a Tawny appearance.

Since 1992, the majority of good ‘port’ makers in South Africa have been members of the SAPPA, the Port Producers Association. In this association, wine makers are encouraged to stick to a number of restrictions, known as ‘styles’ which ensure that the South African Cape Ports resemble Portuguese Ports as much as possible. The Association began by advocating the use of Portuguese grapes such as Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca, and Touriga Naçional. A number of producers still stick to this advice.

One of the best makers of Cape Port in South Africa is the Boplaas Estate. This is famous for the quality of its ports, and has been awarded Championships for the standard of its Port wine, as well as being named as South Africa’s Best maker of Ports. One of their best vintages is the Boplaas Chocolate Cape Vintage Port, with the 2008 considered to be the top vintage. Made from Tinta Barocca, with hints of spice and cacao, this rich, deep port has been praised by wine experts from all over the globe.

Rivals to the Boplaas stable have come in the form of the De Krans estate, which has produced a number of highly-regarded Cape ports, including the 2008 Pink Port which was made using a fortified rosé wine from the Touriga Naçional, Souzao and Tinta Barocca grapes. Given extra pizzazz with red berries, the Pink Port has gone down well with the majority of tasters. JP Bredell are also well known as traditional makers of South African Port wine, and their 2001 Cape Vintage Reserve, made using the traditional Portuguese grapes, was given an Old Mutual Trophy in 2008, as well as a Gold Medal at the Michelangelo Awards in 2006, establishing this estate as another great maker of Cape Port in South Africa.