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Of all the white wine grape varietals, surely the one which has spread the furthest and is most widely appreciated is the Chardonnay. This green skinned grape is now grown all over the Old and New Worlds, from New Zealand to the Americas, from England to Chile, and is one of the first varietals people think of when considering white wine grapes. Perhaps this is because of its huge popularity which reached a peak in the 1990s, thanks to new technologies combining with traditional methods to bring the very best features out of the Chardonnay grape, and allow its unique qualities to shine through. Most fine Chardonnay wines use a process known as malolactic fermentation, wherein the malic acids in the grape juice are converted to lactic acids, allowing a creamier, buttery nature to come forward in the wine. No grape varietal is better suited to this process than Chardonnay, which manages to balance these silky, creamy notes with fresh white fruit flavors beautifully.
The South African wine region of Overberg takes its name from its location in relation to that of the country’s capital city, Cape Town. It is ‘over the mountains’, or berg. For the past three decades, this region has been steadily establishing itself as one of the most important and finest of all of South Africa’s wine regions, thanks to the dedication of the vintners who call this place home.
Overberg owes much of its success to its altitude. The region is situated around seven hundred meters above sea level, which allows the vines to receive more hours of sunlight than those in neighboring regions. This altitude also allows for a cooler climate, and a longer ripening season which produces grapes of remarkable character and balance, which are used in the region’s distinctive and increasingly popular wines. Complex, acidic, fresh and balanced are the typical adjectives used to describe the wines which come out of Overberg, and they are a fantastic example of what native French varietals can be in new and interesting locations. The most popular grapes planted in this part of South Africa are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc - the altitude and coolness suiting these white grapes perfectly. Red varietals are also grown there to great success, namely Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Petit Verdot.
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.