COVID-19 is affecting wine industries around the world. And in South Africa, the timing of lockdown has badly impacted their South African wines harvest. This is because the lockdown was initiated right in the middle of the wine harvest.
While the harvest had been hailed as one of the finest in many years, and winemakers mostly managed to finish the harvest, there was a subsequent ban on exports during April. At the same time the South African Government stopped all domestic sales of wine.
Why are South African wine sales down?
South African wine exports have now resumed, but the industry has a lot of catching up to do. This is exacerbated by the fact that the UK is one of the biggest markets for wine from South Africa. And as all commercial catering, restaurants and bars have been shut down since lockdown began on 23 March in the UK, this has affected South African sales even more.
Online retailers and supermarkets have continued to sell wine throughout the crisis, with ecommerce sites adapting delivery methods to fit new distancing stipulations. The UK lockdown is officially lifting on 4 July 2020 with pubs and restaurants allowed to open as long as they are COVID-19 regulation compliant. All of which means now is a good time to search out some high quality South African wines to enjoy this summer.
If your summer choice of wine is chenin blanc, try an alternative to the Loire Valley wines. South Africa produces excellent chenin blanc. As it’s grown in an even hotter climate than the South of France, South African chenin blanc wines are more complex and richer than French versions. For a real treat, select wines that are barrel fermented, such as Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc Vineyard Selection Stellenbosch 2018. This hails from South Africa’s finest wine-producing region and is packed with honey and tropical fruit flavours.
Try a lightly oaked South African wine this summer
One of the recognisable characteristics of wine made in South Africa is that oak aging is used just enough to add a bit of complexity, but not so much so that it dominates the flavour. For chardonnay lovers, The Journey’s End Honeycomb Chardonnay 2019 is a good choice, with its combination of vanilla and citrus.
Another well oaked South African wine is Simonsig Stellenbosch Rousanne 2016. This grape is more usually found in French white wine blends, but this South African version is delicious. Expect the flavour of pears and tropical fruit, with a hint of oak.
If you’re looking for a lighter South African wine, move away from oaked wine s and try Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2019. A delicious white wine ideal for a casual white wine, this is a great choice. Or try the South African version of sauvignon blanc. It’s slightly heavier than the French version and is full of zesty flavours like lime and grapefruit. Try the RNW Rikus Neethling Sauvignon Blanc 2019.
Pinotage is the signature South African red wine
For red South African wines, the only grape ‘owned’ by the country is pinotage. It was created in the early 20th century and was made from a mix of cinsault and pinot noir. It’s a distinctive flavour, with hints of spice, chocolate, coffee and red fruits, making it a wine that people either love or hate. Try it for yourself and see what you think. Expect a juicy, earthy red that will go well with heavier dishes, such as pasta.
South African reds also come in classically rounded cabernet sauvignons, with plenty of dark fruity flavours or in deep shiraz varieties. Try War House Shiraz 2017 if you’re looking for something to go with your barbecue burgers. With flavours of forest fruits and plums overlaid with peppery spicy tones, it’s delicious with barbecued meat.