Wine Tasting Session
On July 14, 2005, we had another wine-tasting session. The following article is presented by Dr. Anthony Cheng for us to taste South African wines and his comments on the wine on that occasion :
“The Wines of South Africa
To classify South Africa as a New World wine growing region is a misnomer since vines were grown way back in 1655. A commander in the Dutch East India Co. known as Jan van Riebeeck planned the first vine. Wine-making flourished in Stellenbosch and Constantia and the products were sold successfully in Europe especially in Holland and the U.K.
It then suffered a severe setback when U.K. abolished the protective tariffs on French wines in 1860s thereby making them much cheaper than the South Africans. The spread of Phylloxera (a fungus disease of vine) didn’t help and the problem of over-production eventually rendered many South African wines undesirable. In 1957 a giant ruling co-op, the KWV (Ko-operatiewe Wijnbuwers Vereniging), controlled the production, stabilized the sale and set up a quota system which limited the number of new vines planted. Things got rosy for a while before the introduction of international trade sanctions in the 1980s as a protest against the apartheid regime. The situation became very miserable. The wine industry then started to roll again after the end of the apartheid and improved dramatically in the 1990s when the KWV relinquished its regulatory role. South Africa is now the world’s no. 8th wine growing country. More independent quality driven producers and investors are now setting up here to make wines which can compete at the highest level with those made by the “old” world.
About 70% of South African wines are white and the most favorite varietal is Chenin Blanc, followed by Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Red wines are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinotage (South African’s own indigenous grape) and Merlot.
The style of South African wines is said to be somewhere in between the new world and the old. It has the fruit intensity of the former and the structure and restraint of the latter.
Dr. Anthony Cheng