The history of wine goes back a very long way, and is inextricably linked to the history of man. Archaeologists have discovered evidence of wine having been made some 8000 years BC in Ancient Persia.
More importantly the roots of the South African wine industry can be traced back to the exploration of the Dutch East India Company when a supply station was established in Cape Town, Jan van Riebeek was given the task to manage the station and plant grapes to produce wine, falsely believing the eating of grapes and the wine created from them would prevent scurvy and other diseases between sailors during their long voyages. In 1659 the first South African wine made from French Muscadel grapes were successfully made. The wine industry in South Africa has grown immensely since then as winemakers experiment and plant a variety of grapes to try and find the best grapes for their unique Terroir. South Africa does not have a specialty cultivar yet, but contenders include Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. I feel even way back in those times wine and food met there affinity and as time has shown today wine and food pairings is all the rage with high end restaurants now using it to lure in new customers, and once again there is no correct or incorrect answer to these pairings, so let’s debunk this myth white wines can be drunk with meat as much as a red wine can be drunk with seafood, it’s all about what you enjoy but there is room for the opportunity to test different wines with different foods to increase the knowledge of what wines can taste satisfying with certain food tastes.
As in food you get the 5 tastes Sweet, Sour, Salt, Bitter and Umami well wine too has its 5 taste characteristics Sweetness, Acidity, Tannin, Fruit and Body so there will be an ever evolving discussion on what actually matches best, this lends itself to some wonderful debates at table and makes for a far more stimulating discussion, in contrast to the usual political or religious deliberation.
Wine in South Africa has certainly come a long way since those early days and the progression has strengthened and accelerated since 2004 and we are fortunate to have traditional and new world winemakers supplying us with their wines, they are experimenting to continually bring us superior wines, so its exciting times ahead and it bodes well for attracting a “new” market to the drinking wine fraternity.