Although South Africa is better known for its big reds, there is an impressive number of white wine varietals.  Here are some of them with some examples of good wines to try.

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Chenin Blanc

Originally regarded as relatively ordinary, it was historically grown with high yields and poor fruit concentration.  South Africa is now producing really good Chenin Blanc wines.  The wine it produces has fresh applies and citrus notes.  Over time the flavours develop rich honied flavours and the high acidity makes it a wine that can age for many years.  It is also known as Steen.  In Ireland we can find relatively easily Drostdy-hof and Fleur du Cap in a lot of stores.

Chardonnay

This grape flourishes in poor, rocky soils.  The wine expresses typical butter, spicy and even nut flavours.  In warm areas the wine is rich and full bodied with softer acids, and in cool conditions it shows high, crisp acidity and strong mineral and flinty characteristics.  In South Africa it’s grown predominantly in Stellenbosch, Kloof, Robertson and Franschhoek areas.  NederbergTwo Oceans, Fleur du Cap and Drostdy-hof are all widely available in Ireland and are good examples of typical South African Chardonnay.

Sauvignon Blanc

This variety prefers cooler growing conditions and has a refreshing acidity.  There are typically two styles of wine produced: either very tropical with citrus, guava and pineapple, or more green with grass cuttings, asparagus and tinned peas.  Areas it is grown include Durbanville, Constantia, Elgin, Cape Point and Helderberg.  It’s widely available in Ireland; winemakers include Durbanville Hills, Drostdy-hof, Two Oceans, Fleur du Cap and Nederberg.

Semillon

This variety is often a blending partner, although Fleur du Cap does a very interesting unfiltered Semillon which is worth trying.  It has peachy and citrus aromas and can be quite dense if aged well.  It’s grown in Franschhoek and Helderberg.

Viognier

This is an increasingly popular variety in Ireland.  It is a gloriously perfumed grape and can be used as a blending partner for Shiraz or with whites.  It’s grown in Swartland and Stellenbosch.