Knowing your wines – not just your reds from your whites – but really understanding why a certain wine is a particular shade or why you smell hints of a certain fruit in certain wines, or even understanding about the origins of a particular type of wine, is not about becoming a connoisseur but rather about ensuring you choose the right wine to guarantee maximum enjoyment!

In South Africa we produce five main red wines and predominantly four white wines. Below we have included a brief description of each in order for you to choose which is best suited to your palate.

South African red wines

  • Pinotage traditionally is a deep ruby to crimson shade of red with hints on the nose of plum, black cherry and mulberry. This wine has an expressive style which ranges from juicy and light, to concentrated, deep and age-worthy. You are often in for a (good!) surprise when you drink this wine!
  • Pinot Noiris a popular wine as it is highly aromatic and boasts of berry flavours, with earthy notes and exotic spices. The pinot noir is a black wine grape variety, which resembles a pinecone, as it has a compact, conical shape, and is how this wine got its name – pinot meaning “pine” and noir meaning “black” in French.
  • Merlotis a dark coloured, fleshy wine that is velvety and has hints of plums, mulberries, mocha and nuts. This is a well-rounded red wine that pairs perfectly with lamb, quail and cold meats.
  • Syrah/Shirazis a dense ruby shade of red, with rich smoky, peppery, spicy and fruity flavours. The intense flavour is accompanied by the smell of herbs, leather and Allspice. This wine pairs perfectly with rustic foods and red meat.
  • Cabernet sauvignonblends are last on the list for the red’s, but by no means the least. The cabernet sauvignon, the most planted red wine variety in SA, has great age-worthy potential with many different flavour profiles; from berries to liquorice, chocolate, grassiness and even green peppers – you can understand why this is a firm favourite in SA!.

White wines in SA

  • Sauvignon blancis SA’s top selling grape variety, a wine which is light and crisp, with a distinctive summery acidity making it perfect for enjoying on a sunny day. It has an aromatic, light smell and compliments many flavours as it is clean and simple.
  • Chardonnayhas a gentle yellow, to golden yellow colour. Often produced wooded (or oaked), chardonnay has a rich yellow hue, with notes of caramel, vanilla and butter, however, unwooded (or steely) chardonnay, has a lighter colour and flavour, which is crisp and has a fruity flavour.
  • Chenin blancis clear with a slight golden yellow glow in the glass and is perfect for a sunny day. Chenin blanc usually has had some wood contact which means it has more complexity than sauvignon blanc, but is not as rich as chardonnay. This wine has a fresh, tropical fruit aroma of melon and guava, and depending on the winemaking style this wine can be dry, off-dry, sweet or sparkling.
  • Lastly, the viognieris a crystal clear coloured wine which is often seen as ‘diamond bright’. This wine is associated with scents of orange blossom, peach, apricot, tropical fruit and honey, together with a mild ‘toastiness’ flavour. This is a great wine for enjoying with Asian-inspired food.

Now that you know a little more about SA’s red and white wines, we encourage you to bring your knowledge to this year’s Mercury Wine Week; with up to 60 wine estates joining us, the evening is the perfect opportunity to try out your new found understanding of wine and to engage directly with SA’s leading wine makers!

Book your tickets now