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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.
The French wines of Beaujolais are widely regarded as some of the finest table wines in the world. This is due in part to the qualities of the Gamay grape, from which they are made. Gamay produces beautifully, juicy, rounded and gulpable red wines, usually drank young and full of their natural fruit character. However, it would be a mistake to say that Gamay is limited to easy-drinking, soft wines - it’s a highly flexible and versatile grape, capable of producing aged wines of serious complexity and structure, full of expression and fascinating characteristics.
The majority of Gamay wines from France are labeled under Beaujolais Villages or Beaujolais, and these are the standard table wines we’re used to seeing in French restaurants, at bistros, and at our local wine store. Usually great value for money, these are the light, slightly acidic examples of what the grape can do. Far more interesting are those Gamay wines from the 10 cru villages, just north of Beaujolais, where generations of expertise and a unique soil type made up of granitic schist result in far more unique, complicated wines. The best examples of Gamay feature intense aromatics, all black fruit and forest fare, and are worth cellaring for a few years.
Situated on the very tip of the African continent, South Africa has proved itself over three centuries to be an ideal location for producing a wide range of wines. Benefiting from something not dissimilar to a Mediterranean climate, with long, hot summers complemented by both Atlantic and Indian Ocean winds, the grapes which grow on the valleys, mountainsides and plains of this fascinating country can ripen to their fullest capacity, producing wines packed full of fruity flavors and an array of interesting and enticing aromas. As a former colony, South Africa has long since been home to a range of different nationalities, who each brought something of their wine culture with them. As such, many European grape varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and others have been given time to flourish in South Africa, allowing the country to develop a diverse group of wine types which are proving increasingly popular around the world.