Trying to get a handle on the South African wine vibe but feel a little overwhelmed? We totally get that. When you just start on a wine appreciation journey, it can feel like there is just so much you don't know. Happily, we are here to tell you that you don't need to understand everything at once to enjoy some good wine!
You are 100% allowed to take it one step at a time, and you do not have to feel like a noob while you do so. To help you get a grip on all the lingo thrown around in the wine world, we're going to break down some of the most frequently used terms here on the Hazendal blog in the coming months.
Let's start with 'cultivar'.
What is a wine cultivar?
The term 'grape cultivar' refers to the name given to a specific wine grape variety. Every wine cultivar has distinct characteristics. In SA, all of our cultivars belong to the overarching Vitis vinifera species. This was originally imported from Europe.
FUN FACT: Thanks to the journals of erstwhile governor Jan van Riebeeck, we know that the first wine was made from Cape-grown grapes on 2 February 1650. The vineyard was planted in 1655, and the wine was so well received that farmers were commissioned to plant vines on a larger scale at Rosheuvel, known today as Bishopscourt, Wynberg. This was the start of the South African wine industry as we know it today!
What cultivars does South Africa have?
Oh, you'd be surprised at just how many different wines South African growers have in our amazing soils. The most widely planted and bottled cultivars include Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay on the white side. As for reds, the most prolific cultivars are Shiraz, Merlot, Pinotage, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
However, South African grape grower communities are actually quite experimental when it comes to varietal choices these days. As such, you can find everything from Barbera and Bukettraube, to Carignan, Gewürztraminer, Grenache, Harslevelü, Riesling, and Cabernet Franc on the grape production line-up in our wonderful soils.
DID YOU KNOW? South Africa is also seen as a bit of a maverick wine region when it comes to grape breeding. After all, we are the innovative country that introduced the world to Pinotage thanks to cross fertilisation!
This grape variety saw the light of day in 1925 when Professor Abraham Izak Perold from the University of Stellenbosch bred Hermitage with Pinot Noir to combine the robust nature of the first grape with the exceptional wine-making potential of the second, which struggled to grow well in our challenging climate.
Little did Prof Perold realise that he was developing a brand-new cultivar that would have the wine-drinking world torn between absolute adoration and utter nope for years to come. See, Pinotage is not exactly everyone's vibe - some people find its very distinctive taste overpowering (they will normally pick up a lot of banana flavours on the palate), while others cannot get enough of it.
The top 5 wine cultivars to try at Hazendal
Want to come for a wine tasting at Hazendal, but not quite sure where to start? Don't worry; our wine-tasting hosts are on hand to guide you every step of the way. Here are the top five wines we recommend you try when you come around:
This beautiful wine features Prominent bursts of apricot and lemon, accompanied by spicy notes of ginger and nutmeg, followed by buttery toast and whiffs of macadamia nut.
A medium-bodied dry wine with refreshing acidity, this Chardonnay offers nuances of pineapple, Cape gooseberry and apricot are supported by subtle hints of buttery brioche, almond and honey.
This exceptional Pinotage boasts prominent red fruit aromas of plum and cherry that are married seamlessly with seductively smoky oaken notes.
A fruit-forward red with lingering spice notes, this special Syrah features dark berry aromas such as blueberry and mulberry bolstered by spicy notes of exotic white pepper.
This exceptional red wine has a lush palate with black fruit flavours that lead onto a textured finish supported by beautifully silky tannins.
There you have it! A short and sweet introduction to wine cultivars and which ones to try when you visit the Wine Lounge tasting room at Hazendal. PS. We highly recommend booking our incredible Sensory Experience if you'd like to get in on some truly unforgettable food and wine pairing action.