Last week I posted about South African white wine varietals.  Of course South Africa has a great range of red varietals so here are some of them with some examples of good wines to try.

Cabernet Franc

Is the grassy cousin of Cabernet Sauvignon, and does very well as a blending partner.  However, it is becoming popular as a single variety wine.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Cab Sav… one of the most famous wines out there.  It ripens late and enjoys sites with long hours of sun, which are plentiful in South Africa.  There is a high ratio of skin to juice and it has a high tannin content which means it has good maturation potential.  It’s mainly grown in Stellenbosch-Simonsberg, Helshoogte and Paarl.  Many brands are available in Ireland. NederbergTwo Oceans, Drostdy-hof and Fleur du Cap to name a few.


Is a spicy red grape but not as tannic as Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s a great stand- alone but also a good blending partner for red blends.


This grape varietal was made famous in the film Sideways, but has a long history in South Africa.  It has less tannin than many South African varietals and is more fruit driven with toffee and plummy characters.  It is good as a single varietal wine such as Drostdy-Hof’s Merlot with softer mouthfeel and early drinkability, or used to soften blends.


This is a favourite bending partner of Shiraz and has a typical blackberry flavour.  It’s high in alcohol and is often mixed with weaker varietals such as Grenache to boost the alcohol levels.


A unique style, Cape Blend, incorporates Pinotage along with various red blending partners.  The wine has tastes of red fruits and some hints of violet.  I’ve blogged about this famous South African varietal before here.  Many of the brands have Pinotage in their portfolios: Durbanville Hills and Nederberg are two that stand out for me.

Pinot Noir

This varietal requires meticulous handling.  It prefers cool conditions with no direct sun and is sensitive to wind damage.  It’s a less intense wine and has less tannin, tending towards an elegantly restrained wine.  Pinotage is a South African crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault.  Typically it has raspberry and strawberry flavours.  It’s grown predominantly in Elgin and Walker Bay.


This is a dark-skinned grape and makes very powerful wines.  Smoky, leathery and spicy with some red berries and can sometimes be very peppery.  It is another very popular wine and Drostdy-Hof, Nederberg, Fleur du Cap and Two Oceans produce nice ones which can be found easily in Ireland.