GP Life: Progressive wines from South Africa

Over a decade of change has transformed South African wines, says Alan Johnson.

South Africa, the land of majestic beauty, smiles and sunshine, is a rising star when it comes to wine. Without doubt one of the most beautiful wine routes in the world (along with the Douro, Beaujolais, oh, and parts of Chile...), it now boasts some of the most exciting and progressive wines available.

So many transformations have taken place here that the wine industry is almost unrecognisable from 10 years ago. The political issue was obviously a major factor in holding the industry back and, like all business, it is slow to change - but changing it is.

Black empowerment is positively active in the wineries and the Vine Improvement Programme is a dynamic force for higher-quality fruit, better management and winery skills, resulting in superior wines.

Chenin Blanc, which was always the most important grape variety in South Africa, producing various styles of wine of capricious quality, is now being replanted with favourites such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and, South Africa's own Pinotage.

Stellenbosch, Robertson, and Worcester are highly regarded areas but others such as Klein Karoo and Tulbagh are proving to have micro-climates and interesting terroirs capable of producing complex yet accessible wines.

Try the mixed case in this month's GP Life Club ( or the wines below.

- Alan Johnson is managing director of

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