A Beginners Guide to South African Wine

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

Although our website and contact center teams have seen a significant increase in the interest of people who want to buy South African wine online the first few weeks in the business has not been without challenges. Technology is certainly making it much easier for us to buy our favorite SA wine online. The choices however can be overwhelming, and thus the need to understand the various types and vocabulary of wine to simplify the process.

Understanding the differences between the various types of wine can be both exciting and challenging. Each of the wines has its own ideal food for pairing. Having an elementary understanding of the various types of wines and their tastes could change a regular meal into something far more enjoyable.

This is an even more reason to learn about the various types of wine and their unique tastes. We hope this basic outline will make it easier for you when ordering.


If you are new to drinking wine, don't worry if you don't like the first bottle you taste. WIne is often an acquired taste and it will take time for you to find the wine you like.

5 Tips for choosing wine:

  1. If you are new to wine, start with a white or rose. ...

  2. Reflect on other flavors you enjoy. ...

  3. Consider the occasion. ...

  4. Don't stress over the age of the wine. ...

  5. Don't let price dictate your choice.

The difference between Red and White Wine

On SA the wine sales website, both white and red wines are clearly separated. But it’s pretty easy to differentiate between a white and red wine. Their tastes vary as well as their colour. The difference is caused by the skins and tannin, an element in grapes. Tannins occur naturally in fruits such as grapes and often has a bitter and dry taste. A wet tea bag for instance, is practically pure in tannin and has a bitter and drying sensation.

Red wine contains more tannins than white wine, thus the red colour. This is because the grapes' skins are allowed to sit for longer while the red wine ferments, unlike the white wine. The red wine therefore is often, firm and more bitter, while the white wine is more crisp.

Rose wine is pink in colour. This is because the grape skins are only allowed to sit in the wine for a short period of time.

While placing an order for an SA wine online, you need to be sure of exactly what you need. This is to ensure that you get exactly what your taste buds are looking for. Our intention is certainly for our customers to enjoy the wine they receive. Wine, after all is all about enjoyment and we know that customers who are happy will tell their friends and perhaps even order again.

Popular varieties of red wine in South Africa includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot, Pinotage and Shiraz.

Pinotage which was invented at Stellenbosch University in 1925 is unique to South Africa. its really a combination of pinot noir and cinsault. Pinotage is deep in red colour and has a complex and rich taste, great for eating with Braaivleis and roast meats.. You are likely to taste, berries and chocolate as an aftertaste.

Cabernet sauvignon is a darker, deeper red than pinotage and many would say that its flavours are more complex. You might taste red types of fruit like raspberries, tobacco and even a little bit peppery.

Merlot is a far softer wine and often one favoured by people just starting to drink red wine. Its easy drinking with plenty of fruity flavours and after taste. Its a personal favourite of my own, especially when drinking wine without a meal. Its certainly much softer on the palate.

Shiraz, also called Sirah which are both the same although called differently, is a rich tasting wine, so once again perhaps better consumed with a meal of red meat. Although the wine will differ dependent on where it comes from, it often has a spiciness to it with a slight chocolate or coffee type of after taste.

Popular varieties of white wine: Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.

Sauvignon blanc is famous around the world, with a light and crispy taste. This is a great wine for long summer days and hot afternoon lunches that later become dinners. Its easy to drink, perhaps to much of but then as long as you are not driving afterward, that is of course fine.

Chardonnay is a rich wine, and often has a slight woody taste to it. This wine is often more yellow in colour with a taste of caramel, butter and vanilla. This also is a easy drinking wine and the wine of choice of many good friends.

Chenin Blanc is another great wine to drink with good company on a long summer day. It often has more complexity than a sauvignon blanc, but it isn’t as rich as a chardonnay. This is a great wine with food, especially Cape Snook and other types of fish. My personal preference is to have a bottle of Chenin Blanc with a fish braai as it really eventuates the flavour of fish made on the braai.

Dessert wine and Sparkling wine

Wine with an alcohol content below 15% is considered as “table wine” in the U.S and “light wine” in Europe. This excludes anything sparkling or fortified with alcohol.

In South Africa, desert wine goes back many centuries and has a rich history. South African wines were actually first made famous by dessert wine made right here in Cape Town. Groot Constantia‘s Grande Constance is the oldest wine in the country, and it was famously served to Napoleon Bonaparte when he was exiled in St Helena.

Dessert wines are sweeter and are served after a meal. They are fortified with alcohol to retain their natural sugars that are lost during fermentation.

All said and done; you can never go wrong with a good bottle South African wine. And every bottle of wine you choose will bring you closer to the wine you like best.

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