Which ten countries produce the most wine in the world? It sounds easy enough, but after naming the top contenders (France, Italy, Spain, United States) it starts to get tricky. Or at least that’s what I found when I drilled (I mean, quizzed) my friends on their knowledge of wine production. While France and Italy are constant contenders for the first place crown (Italy is currently in the lead, woot woot) you may be surprised to find out who else is on the list.
For example, according to the latest statistics put out by the OIV (International Organization of Wine and Vine) China is currently ranking number 9 in the world (really? What don’t you do China?) And Chile took a recent jump from ninth place to sixth. Want to know more? Check out their latest press release to find out about the most recent statistics for Global Wine Production.
Over the last several years, the polls have stayed relatively consistent with its heavy weight countries, and smack dab in the middle, peacefully holding onto its eighth spot is South Africa. I was pleasantly surprised that most of my victims (I mean friends) correctly listed South Africa amongst their answers. They are quickly becoming a household name when it comes to wine and it’s not hard to see why. Put your seats in the upright position friends, this week’s journey takes us to South Africa.
Somewhere over the Rainbow. There may be no better way to describe South African other than diverse. It has been referred to as the Rainbow nation due to all the vast cultures and languages (eleven to be exact) that have settled and made it a home. Not to mention the varied animal population. If Elephants, Lions, and Zebras aren’t your thing, you’ve got the Great White Shark, the Crocodile (sooo many things that can eat me) and the Ostrich!
Fun Fact, right off the famous Route 62 Wine Trail is Oudtshoorn in the Karoo, where you can ride an Ostrich (book me a ticket!) And if you happen to travel south to Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town, you can chill with the African Penguins as they sunbathe (get it? Chill? Because they’re penguins! Stop, my puns are funny.)
The Climate too is diverse. Summer usually brings sunny and dry days with brief afternoon thunderstorms, while winter can get cooler in the evenings, with even a potential of frost. But amidst all this diversity lies a vast viniculture that produces some quality wines.
Whimsical Winelands. The diversity of this land continues amongst its wine trails. In recent years more wineries are popping up in the Northern and Eastern Cape and even in the Kwazulu-Natal province. However the majority of the country’s wine production comes from the Western Province. Here you’ll find a trail to fit every traveler. Take a look at just a small selection of what you can find:
- Constantia – Known for its cool climate wines, this region makes an excellent sauvignon Blanc and has a wine making history dating back to the 1600’s. It’s also one of the closest regions to Cape Town, making it an easy day trip
- Breedekloof – Known originally for its sweet wines, but now more diverse in its production. Though its one of the newest wine regions, it is also one of the largest, with over 22 wineries
- Durbanville – also located fairly close to the city, Durbanville is just a short drive north. Known for its stunning views and excellent food.
- Elgin – Known for its fruit orchards and Shiraz. Go here for pretty views and fruit forward wines.
- Franschhoek – Known for its heavy French history and influence, this region produces some excellent Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and (not surprisingly) has a Sparkling wines tour.
- Worcester – this mountainous district produces some serious Brandy, as well as being the first to produce a Braille wine bottle, with part of its proceeds going to the Institute for the Blind
- Stellenbosch – This region is huge and famous. It was the first to establish a wine route and is home to over 200 wine producers, also containing the popular sub region, Helderberg
Get your Kicks on Route 62. A favorite attraction is the Route 62 wine trail. It stretches from Cape Town all the way into the Eastern Cape and is home to a variety of adventures. It’s considered the longest trail in the world and boasts the perfect trip for travelers looking to meander along at their own pace. It contains over 70 wine farms as well an awesome Brandy Route, Calitzdorp (the port capital of South Africa) and even the Green Mountain Eco Route (the world’s first biodiversity route.)
There is simply too much to say about South Africa, and you can be sure there will be some more in depth looks into this superb wine region in this Pearl’s future (stay tuned for an upcoming post on specific wines to try). But hopefully this brief look has sparked your interest. Go out into the world (or your local wine shop) and experiment. Try new things, see what suits you. The beauty of South Africa lies in its diversity, meaning there truly is something for everyone. Find your piece of this beautiful culture and make it your own.