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Varieties & Styles


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White-wine varieties

White-wine varieties grown in South Africa include:

  • Bukettraube - Developed in Germany, produces quality wines with a distinctive Muscat bouquet. South Africa is one of the few wine-producing countries worldwide to bottle Bukettraube as a single varietal wine.
  • Cape Riesling (Crouchen Blanc) - The variety was wrongly regarded for many years as Weisser Riesling (Rhine Riesling) but was later identified as the Crouchen Blanc of France. A shy bearer which can produce quality white wines with a delicate yet fruity bouquet and sharp grassy aroma if growth and ripening conditions are ideal.
  • Chardonnay - A native of Burgundy, this variety is widely planted throughout the New World. Locally, much experimentation has been taking place with barrel fermentation and oak ageing of Chardonnay, and excellent wines in a number of styles are being produced. It is also used in some of the base wines from which Cap Classique sparkling wines are made as well as in white blends, an increasingly successful category.
  • Chenel - A local cross between Chenin Blanc and Ugni Blanc which produces a white wine of reasonable quality.
  • Chenin Blanc (Steen) - The most widely cultivated variety in the Cape, growers are raising the standard to new levels. Characterised by its versatility, Chenin Blanc produces good natural wines covering the whole spectrum from sweet to dry, as well as sherry and sparkling wine. Its fruitiness finds favour with a wide range of palates. It is also used for distilling brandy and spirits. Download the Chenin Blanc Tasting Wheel here
  • Clairette Blanche - Although it is seldom used as a single variety, its presence is an essential in many of our light, fruity wines - unusually low in alcohol and acid content.
  • Colombar(d) - Planted especially in the Breede River region, this variety produces a quality wine in the warmer areas. Good acid content ensures fresh, interesting wines with a pleasant fruity flavour.
  • Emerald Riesling - A relatively new variety from California which made its commercial debut in 1981. The wines are flavourful and fruity.
  • Gewürztraminer - A delicate aromatic flavour profile with an easily identifiable rose-petal fragrance; usually produces a light, off-dry wine.
  • Grenache (Blanc) – Related to the more widely known Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc originated in Spain where it still plays a role in the wines of Rioja and Navarre. It spread to France, where it is the fourth most widely planted white grape variety and thrives in the Rhône valley and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It has a crisp acidity and produces rich, full wines with clean green apple fruit aromas and flavours. It has a long, lingering finish and can stand on its own or as a blending component. Plantings in the Cape are miniscule.
  • Muscat d'Alexandrie (Hanepoot) - One of the world's most widely planted and versatile varieties, locally it was probably developed from 'Spaanse Dryven' (Spanish Grape) cuttings introduced to South Africa by Jan van Riebeeck in the 1650s. Nowhere else does it form such a high percentage of a country's total grape harvest as in South Africa, where it is used especially for dessert wine, as well as natural wine and raisins. Hanepoot delivers a strong, flowery bouquet and intense honey flavour.
  • Muscadel - Used chiefly in dessert wines, it gives an intense, raisin-like bouquet and was historically associated with the famous Constantia dessert wines. Red and white grapes grow mainly in the Breede River region. It belongs to the Muscat family.
  • Nouvelle - This grape, a crossing of Crouchen Blanc and Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), was developed in South Africa by Professor CJ Orffer of Stellenbosch University. While plantings remain tiny they are increasing, mainly for inclusion in blends. It produces wines with a strong grassy, green peppery character.
  • Palomino (White French Grape) - A heavy bearer, low in sugar and acid. Used mainly for making sherry and brandy. It produces a neutral wine, best enjoyed young.
  • Pinot Gris - Planted on a very small scale in South Africa. Produces wines which are full and well balanced.
  • Sauvignon Blanc - Sauvignon is most readily associated with the eastern Loire region, which is known for its classic crisp, dry Sancerre and smoky Pouilly-Fumé. In combination with Sémillon, Sauvignon grapes also produce some of the most exceptional white wines of Bordeaux, including the sweetest Sauternes (sometimes with Muscadelle too) and the driest Graves, which are often aged in wood (sometimes labelled Blanc Fumé). Extensively planted in the 18th century, Sauvignon Blanc has now regained popularity and considerably increased its share of plantings. There are some leading local examples which have garnered international attention.
  • Semillon (Green Grape) - Produces a full yet subtle wine with little acid; often used in blends. Locally, some outstanding wooded varietal wines have been produced from this grape variety which once represented 93% of all Cape vines and now accounts for only about 1%.
  • Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano) - Slightly neutral, thin wines which are used almost exclusively in brandy production.
  • Viognier - Becoming increasingly fashionable internationally, this variety has been grown for centuries in the northern half of the Rhône valley in France. An early ripener, it produces delicate complex wines with peach, apricot, honey and spice aromas under the right conditions. It is also sometimes blended with Shiraz (to a maximum of 20%).
  • Weisser Riesling (Rhine Riesling) - Has adapted well to South Africa's soil and climate. Produces very full, flavourful wines with excellent fruit acids that develop well with bottle ageing. Wines have a honeyed spicy nose and a flowery sweetness