South African Red Wine

A couple of years ago it appeared that little was going right for South African wine. During the eighties, before apartheid came to an end, other countries were able to invest heavily in vines and technology, whilst South African growers were left out of the loop. The cooperative system which for so long determined prices and production promoted neither quality nor encouraged innovation. There had to be a major undertaking to abandon the age-old habit of growing as many vines as possible on the same estate on easy-to-cultivate land. Sensible measures, such as planting higher up on hillsides in search of cooler climates, are only a comparatively recent phenomenon. But now there encouraging signs: the Coastal Region has an ideal climate to produce quality grapes and there are some fascinating examples of Pinotage. And within the past couple of years strong identification of terroir allied to a sensitive organic approach to winemaking has driven quality of South African wines remorselessly forward. We've tasted great Cabernet, Merlot (and blends thereof), Shiraz is improving and Grenache, especially where there are old vines, is a star. Synergistic (yes, it's the revival of that buzzword) blends are in fashion, oak is being used to highlight rather than obliterate the fruit, the approach to winemaking is certainly more considered at every stage of the process.

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