29 October 2006

the South African wine industry - and winery tours, part I

The South African Wine Industry – Historical and General Information
The South African wine industry began in 1652 with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in the Cape region. His first wine was made in 1659.

The history of what has happened in between then and now is rather interesting. Lots of politics, and I'm not talking about Apartheid...

Currently, depending on what statistics you look at, the South African wine industry is the 6th or 7th largest in the world and growing. Producers are divided according to one of three different types - estate wineries, co-operatives, and independent cellars.

Wine regions include the Cape Winelands, which includes Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek and more. Contantia is the oldest, and there are lots of others outside of Cape Town, such as Swartland and Cape Point.

The Pinotage grape, a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir is exclusively South African, and the youngest grape variety in the world. However, Cabernet sauvignon dominates the red varieties, while Shiraz is becoming more and more popular. Chenin blanc is the most planted variety of all...

Winery tours – 26th of September
We went on the Easy Riders group wine tour that included the following four wineries:

The highlight of this trip was watching a bottle of sparkling wine be opened with a sword ;-) This was the only winery on this whole tour where we had a guide who presented information about wine production in general and where we got to see a cellar. The wines were OK - we didn't grade them very high. Most likely because we were stingy with the grading at the start...

Yes, indeed. Goats do roam here! And they let us taste the good stuff, not just their cheapest stuff – at most wineries, they only have a certain set of “cheaper” wines they let the tourists taste. In order to taste the good stuff, you usually have to book a special appointment/tasting. Or pay extra, though it's difficult to get that in order if the place is busy. And not only did we taste lots of really good wine, we also got to taste some really tasty cheeses, produced from the goats' and cows' milk from the animals on the farm. Too bad it was impossible to take some of the cheese home with me :-/

Kudos to Enoch, who assisted us in the tastings and with buying a few bottles. He was brilliant!

Dieu Donné
They have a very nice sparkling (Methode Cap Classique/Maingard Brut) and a lovlier wooded chardonnay. Not too crazy about the the other wines though.

The wines we tasted were already set up for us when we arrived, i.e. poured in the tasted glasses, which I wasn't overly amused with. However, they have a white wine called Le Bouquet that was just amazing – everyone sitting at the tasting table with us liked the Le Bouquet. Which was interesting because the others we sat with had very different tastes in wine than our tastes... We ended up buying a bottle :-)

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