South Africa

Appellations

In the heart of continental Europe lies Austria, a reasonably small wine producing country that is enjoying a period of growth and higher standing amongst wine lovers around the world. Austria’s most famous export is Gruner Veltliner, a white grape variety found almost exclusively in their traditional wine regions. It produces generally full bodied, dry white wines that stylistically range from the very rich and gastronomic, to crisp, mineral and savoury. Alongside Gruner Veltliner, Austria is regarded for its unique interpretation of the aristocratic Riesling variety. Fuller bodied and more powerful in general than their German counterparts, Austrian Rieslings are almost always dry, pair cleanly with food and tend to age remarkably well. The best examples of both varieties are found in the heartlands of Wachau, Wagram and Kremstal, all in Niederosterreich; the largest wine growing region in the country. It encompasses eight separate sub-regions that stretch from Wachau in the west to Carnuntum in the east. In true continental style, winters are harsh and cold but summers are generally hot and dry. Most of the best white wine vineyards are moderated by proximity to the Danube river. In particular, Wachau is UNESCO world heritage approved, and famed for its beautiful steep terraced vineyards that flank the Danube valley. Here, as in Wagram and Kremstal, the top Rieslings (usually the most concentrated and intense) are designated “Smaragd” while the more moderate examples are called “Federspiel”, and the lightest “Steinfeder”. It is not all about white wines though. Austria is experiencing a quality boom with their reds and the best Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt based wines are finally finding favour in the export markets. Burgenland has long been the most famous red wine producing region in Austria, located in the warmest, southern reaches of the country. As a very general rule the soils here tend to be clay and loam dominated and the vineyards are planted at reasonably low elevations. For a long time, fairly uninteresting, rustic indigenous red grape varieties have dominated the production but the creation of specific appellations with stricter controls over planting, yields and wine production has facilitated a rise in the overall standard from the mid-late 2000s onwards. The most up-and-coming and exciting of the red wine producing regions is probably Carnuntum, on the eastern fringes of Niederosterreich bordering Vienna to the west and spreading east towards the Slovakian border.
Clare Valley is famed for its hilly topography and cooler temperatures. The best sites are of high elevation and protected from the full strength of the sun's rays. In fact, it is the combination of exposure and altitude that helps to retain freshness in the region's wines, alongside a wide diurnal range. Australia's best examples of Riesling often hail from the Clare Valley.
Elgin is an emerging region in South Africa, known for being one of the coolest areas in the winelands. This makes Elgin a promising region for white wines, with several wineries producing particularly crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blancs.
Hemel-en-Aarde, or “Heaven and Earth” as it means in English, is a cool climate South African wine region within the wider Walker Bay and in close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. A distinctly maritime profile and frequent cooling breezes has encouraged plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, where it generally excels. The region is further split in to three sub-appellations: Valley, Upper Valley and Ridge, each with its own distinct character, according to soil type, topography and climate. They were created as recently as 2009 and time will tell as to how these variations manifest themselves in the final wines. The most famous inhabitants of the Hemel-en-Aarde are Hamilton Russell, Newton Johnson and Bouchard Finlayson, as well as a number of increasingly important producers such as Restless River, Storm Wines and Tesserlaarsdall.
Arguably Americas most important wine growing region, home to the likes of Dominus, Heitz, Cain Cellars and Opus One. Bordeaux varietals are key in this 40 mile long North-South valley that stretches from the San Fransico Bay up towards Calistoga and the sheer variety of different climats and vineyard sites is as bewildering as the sheer variety of styles of wine produced. At their best these can be some of the most opulent examples of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world - truly great wines with dinstinctly long cellaring potentials, but more youthful approachability than their european counterparts.
The most productive wine region in Australia, with just under 50% of all grapes grown, grown here. It includes the regions of Barossa, Mclaren Vale, Connawarra and the Clare Valley.
Stellenbosch is the second oldest wine region in South Africa (after Constantia), established in 1679. Made up of five wards whose characteristics vary greatly, the dominant feature of the zone is the influence of the atlantic breeze sweeping in and keeping a check on the African heat. Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and Pinotage are the regions best known varieties, but Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also seeing some measure of success. Vineyards at a little altitude, aided by the atlantic breeze, are producing wines that marry New World charm with old world elegance.
Swartland is a large wine-producing area 65 kilometers (40 miles) north of Cape Town in the Western Cape of South Africa. Traditionally a wheat-producing region, it now specializes in making rich, fruit-driven wines particularly from the Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage grape varieties. Swartland covers a large area, Encompassing the vineyards on the northern side of the Paardeberg mountain in the south to the plains of Piketberg in the north. The smaller ward of Riebeekberg and the Kasteelberg Mountain lie in the eastern part of the region, while the cooler district of Darling separates the area from the Atlantic Ocean. The topography is varied, and vineyards can be found on steep mountain foothills or on gently folding hillsides.
Victoria is generally cooler than neighbouring South Australia. With the exception of the more inland Rutherglen, perhaps the Victoria's most famous wine, all the other regions have a distinctly maritime feel. The most significant wine regions within Victoria are Rutherglen, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Geelong. All styles of wine are produced here, from fortfied wines to crisp, zippy whites, and everything in between.
The Western Cape encompasses all of the major wine regions of South Africa. Within this classification is the Cape Winelands, itself made up of the most prominent regions, namely Stellenbosch, Constantia, Franschoek, Paarl, Robertson and Wellington.