In Tipsy Tips

Here are some popular wine varietals that South Africa has to offer, have you tried all of them?



Sauvignon Blanc: A common and refreshing white wine of Bordeaux

Chenin Blanc: Most cultivated variety in South Africa, it is versatile and ranges from sweet to dry with a fruity palate.

Semillon: Low in acid, Semillon is a subtle wine often used in blends especially in more woody varietals

Chardonnay: Originating from Burgundy, it is mainly oak aged and used as a base wine in many Method Cap Classique sparkling wines. Being oak-aged it has strong woody notes which is said to require an “acquired taste”

Riesling: A delicate and fruity taste with a sharp aroma.

Viognier: Grown for centuries in Rhone Valley, it produces a complex wine with peach, apricot, honey and spice aromas. It is becoming a more popular varietal.

Pinot Gris: Very small scale in South Africa, but it produces a well-balanced varietal with a particular flavour.



Cabernet Sauvignon: Grape variety from the Bordeaux region in France. Often blended with Pinotage, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc or Merlot.

Cabernet Franc – a little softer and has a lower alcohol and sugar content than its relative – Cabernet Sauvignon. It is also used in a Bordeaux blend.

Cinsaut – A strong and very versatile variety & it is often used in blends. It is known for its contribution to the forming of the South African Pinotage.

Grenache (Noir) – Spain’s most important variety, it is a hardy grape and very resistant. It is often blended with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Malbec – a main component of the Bordeaux blends, adding a spicy element to the varietal.

Merlot – A softer alternative to a Cabernet Sauvignon. Grown mostly in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl regions.

Petit Verdot – Not commonly found on it’s own, this beautiful variety is blended in a Bordeaux-style varietal.

Pinot Noir – A lighter, berry coloured varietal that makes for a great Summer wine! It is a sensitive variety that is difficult to grow everywhere. It grows mainly in Burgundy (France) but is now produced in South Africa mainly in the Hemel en Aarde region (Hermanus).

Pinotage – Unique to South Africa! It is a local cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (thanks to Professor Abraham Perold in 1925). It is easy to drink when young and has a more complex and fruit taste when it ages. A ‘Cape Blend’ wine has to consist of a minimum of 30% of Pinotage.

Shiraz – Also known as Syrah, this is a spicier tasting wine of French origin. Often found in a blend or as it’s own varietal.

Zinfandel – California’s leading grape variety but is found in limited quantities in South Africa.



Young Red Wine = More astringent, More tannin & more colour (A lighter more berry-like colour)

Older Red Wine = Smoother, Less tannin & less colour (A darker more brick-like colour)

In terms of health benefits:

  • Dry red wines are better than sweet wines.
  • Red wines with less alcohol (preferably below 13% ABV) are better than high alcohol wines
  • Red wines with higher tannin (those that are more astringent) are better than low tannin wines.

The Colour of red wine comes from the grape skins – a pigment called anthocyanin

Nearly all red wines are made from one species of grape: Vitis vinifera.

Red wine grapes are older than white wine grapes

Red wines often contain fewer sulfates than white wines

Red wine grapes can be made into white wine – without contact with the grape skin.

The colour of wine tells you a lot about the geographical location where it is grown – Darker shades of wine, namely the darkest reds and yellow whites come from warm climates. Lighter colours come from cooler climates and taste lighter and less lush.