The coastal region of South Africa is one of the most prodigious and productive wine regions on earth, and one which covers a vast distance making up for most of the tip of the African continent. The history of South African wines is a fascinating and surprisingly long one, with the very first wines in the country being produced by settlers in the 1650s, long before many other New World countries had even been discovered. Today, coastal South African wines are wildly popular around the world thanks to their big, fruity flavors and relative simplicity. Wineries in the region make the most of the hot sunshine, the high quality soils, and the brisk oceanic winds which keep disease at bay and stop the grapes from getting too hot, and produce a wide variety of wines of great distinction. Pinotage is the signature grape varietal of South Africa, and is the most widely grown grape in the country, as well as being common in several other countries around the world. It is a viticultural cross of two fine grape varietals, the Pinot Noir and the Cinsaut (known as Hermitage in South Africa, hence the portmanteau name), and is notable for the fact that it produces excellent and flavorful wines of a deep red color The flavors most commonly associated with Pinotage wines are generally smoky in nature, with notes ranging from dark bramble fruits, to plum, mulberry and earthy characteristics. However, it often also includes quite tropical flavors of stewed banana. The Pinotage varietal is a versatile one, and is often used for producing fortified and sparkling wines, as well as the more common still red wines.