Author: Fred KuMesu

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Wednesday, October 15th, 2008 at 10:41 am
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Wines

Wines from the Rainbow Nation

In 1652 the Dutch East India Company set up a refreshment station and repair depot at the Cape of Good Hope for their merchant ships journeying between Europe, India and the Far East. Three years later, the first vineyard was planted and on 2nd February 1659 the first wine was pressed from Cape grapes. Now you can enjoy 350 years of South African wine making history at our Africa in Motion wine tasting.

For almost two centuries the natural, sweet muscat wines of Constantia, on the slopes of  Table Mountain, remained the Cape’s best-known and most sought-after wines, enjoyed by European Emperors and kings, statesmen and their guests. It is said Napoleon took casks of Constantia wine with him to St. Helena to comfort his exile.

In 1925 South Africa earned its place in the history of winemaking  through the successful crossing of Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut) by Professor Abraham Perold, to produce Pinotage, a truly South African varietal.

In the late 1970s a new drive for quality resulted in the replanting and upgrading of vineyards and the development of cooler coastal regions better suited to noble varieties. New techniques in the vineyard and cellar produced new benchmarks in world-quality wines.

South Africa’s dynamic wine industry is constantly changing and reinventing itself as it takes up the challenges of global competition. Today, more than 100,000 hectares of vineyards are cultivated by 4700 grape farmers and wine is made in more than 340 wine cellars and estates. These wines express the soils, climate, varieties and people of the Cape and tell their story to the world.

Regions
Cape wine country extends from the northern West Coast region on the Atlantic Ocean to the near desert of the Klein Karoo. 5 wine regions are divided into 14 diverse wine districts, each of which is, in turn, comprised of smaller wards, where specific meso-climates and terroirs dictate marked differences in grape varieties and wine styles.

These different wine areas range from historic Constantia  to the centuries old towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek; from the fertile valley of the Breede River to the gentle rolling hills of the Olifants River and dry riverbeds of Calitzdorp.

Every wine-growing region in the Western Cape possesses unique conditions, due to combinations of soil types and different micro-climates within short distances. At the end of the rainbow the world’s greatest wines are born…

At our wine tasting, we will be featuring wines from the following Wineries and regions

McGregor Wines – Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch, about 50km south east of Cape Town, is often considered to be the heart of South Africa’s wine industry. It is notable for the number of small wineries concentrating on red wines. Situated next to the serene town of the same name in the Robertson Valley, lies the McGregor Winery, which has been producing wine since 1950. 35 producers make up the main shareholders of the McGregor Wine Company.
Boschedal Wines – Coastal Region
The coastal region contains the famous winelands of the Cape, including the most famous ward of all, Constantia.  Boschedal Estate is the largest in the region and was previously owned by the Rhodes family.
Niel Joubert and Avondale Wines – Paarl
The Paarl district lies about 50km east of Cape Town and is one of the most famous of South Africa’s winegrowing areas, particularly for Rhone-style red wines such as Syrah and Pinotage, and more recently Viognier based whites. Paarl itself is a picturesque town set against the towering backdrop of the Du Toitskloof mountain range.
The vineyards of Niel Joubert overlook Paarl Valley and focus on the white Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier and the red Pinotage.
Avondale Wines – Paarl
Over 300 years ago, the original “Geelblomsvallei” (Valley of the Yellow Flowers) farm was established on the slopes of the Klein Drakenstein Mountains to the south of the town of Paarl. Today, owner Johnathan Grieve is pioneering a ‘back to the future’ approach which has resulted in Avondale being one of the first certified organic Cape wines.
Ionas Wines – Elgin
Iona wines come from a mountain plateau 420 metres above sea level, surrounded by the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Andrew Gunn and family acquired this beautiful, but run-down apple farm in 1997. It was renamed “Iona” after the Scottish island. The first vineyards, including Sauvignon blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, were planted in 1998. Since the first release in 2001, the wines of Iona have quickly made a name as being among the finest in the world, probably due to the fact that their cool site means allows these grapes to ripen up to two months later than other Cape vineyards.
Tasting
The main wines at the tasting will be Chenin blanc, which produces a wide range of wines from sweet to dry, including sparkling and still wines. Its dry wines are fresh and fruity and Chenin Blanc’s sweet wines and botrytis dessert wines are becoming more fashionable.

Pinotage is a hardy plant and generally produces a wine that is full bodied with good fruit flavours and a distinctive spiciness described as a “sweetish acetone” flavour.
Sauvignon Blanc. Well known and very popular, the South African Sauvignon Blancs tend to be dry and grassy.
Chardonnay. one of the most popular if not the most popular dry white wine varieties in the world, so much so that the phrase “Anything but Chardonnay” was born.

For more information on the history and culture of South African wines, Capvin International is a good source.

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