As the South African wine-making industry has long been connected to the production of Port wines, it is inevitable that there will still be a production for port-style wines even after the labelling restrictions have been put into place. Alongside the traditional red ports, South Africa has also been able to make a number of white ports. These ports, often known as White Cape Port, come from a variety of different grapes, particularly Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Colombard. The wines are made in much the same way as red port, with only the resulting colour and the flavour being different.
White Cape port can be made from any white grape produced in South Africa, with the only exception being the Muscat, which is used to make fortified Muscadel wine. The majority of the remaining white port-style wines can be considered as Jerepigo wines, a variety of fortified wines that have a particular sweetness. Like most Jerepigo varieties, white cape port is a good dessert wine, suitable for sweets and afternoon desserts. It is also suitable as a drinking wine by itself, often complimented with a fizzy soda-style drink, and many people enjoy the Cape ports in this way during the evening.
The manufacture of white cape port is very similar to that used in making red Port wines. The wine is usually made first, by crushing and blending, and then the different wines are blended together with additional spices. When this is done, the resulting port mix is placed into wooden oak barrels for six months or more, giving the white wines a brown or golden appearance that indicates that the wine has become a port. This aging process will usually ensure that the port-style drink has an alcohol content of around 15-22%, although some may be higher than this.
As South Africa has traditionally produced a greater quantity of white wine, rather than red, it is unsurprising that it has managed to create a good white port-style wine that is still being sold as Cape White ‘port’ to this day. The restrictions have only come into place since 1 January 2012, so it is likely that South African vintage ports will be sold in the domestic market for some years to come. The majority of wine-makers had already altered their labelling to ‘cape’, this being the stand-in for Port in South Africa, but it is likely that marketing the wines as ‘port’ or ‘port style’ will continue.
There are a number of makers of Cape white wine in South Africa, including the Boplaas Wine estate. Their 2004 white port-style wine is a bright gold in colour, establishing that it has been aged in barrels, with the smoked nut flavour that is typical of oak-barrel port. This wine is only a medium sweet wine, and the alcohol levels ensure that it has a good bite on the palate. On the other hand, the Peter Bayly Cape White Port has much more of an acidy flavour, with a distinctive fruit after-taste that compliments the alcohol level.