For anyone who thinks South Africa is a newcomer to wine production, guess again. Some of this dizzyingly diverse country’s wineries date back to the 17th century. South African wines tend to be excellent price-to-quality bottles in the United States, which is nice – and it’s even nicer to know that when you buy wine from South African wine regions, you’re supporting one of the most sustainability-forward, ecologically sensitive and ethics-driven wine regions on the planet. The signature grape of South Africa is Chenin Blanc (also known as Vouvray), a gold-skinned beauty with very high acidity, which makes it a great draft pick for sparkling wines, dessert wines and everything in between. But there is a tremendous diversity of cultivars and micro-regions and styles, and something for everyone, so put South Africa on your wine map post-haste.
1 of 9
Groot Constantia is the oldest wine estate in South Africa and provincial heritage site in the suburb of Constantia. It was founded, just in case you think South Africa's an upstart wine region, in 1685.
2 of 9
Over 95% of South African wine is produced in the Cape Floral Kingdom. This is a unique biome consisting of over 10,000 known plant species in a very small area. For reference, that's more than the entire Northern Hemisphere. It is recognized as a World Heritage Site. The Cape Floral Kingdom is one of 25 recognized biodiversity hotspots. 70% of the plants found here are not found anywhere else on earth.
3 of 9
Pinotage is South Africa's only native varietal, a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut created in 1925 by Professor Abraham Perold.
4 of 9
South Africa has the most Chenin Blanc plantings in the world – 18,169 hectares as of 2012, and counting. That's more than the rest of the world combined. These are Chenin Blanc grapes at Mulderbosch Vineyards.
5 of 9
South Africa is unique in that their wine industry has established the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Initiative (WIETA), an independent, not-for-profit, multi-shareholder organization established in 2002. This organization keeps everyone committed to ethical trading, and improving and safeguarding the working conditions of employees in agriculture.
6 of 9
The Cape winelands are crisscrossed by steep mountain ranges, giving each valley and wine region a different individual character.
7 of 9
The Cape winelands are surrounded by two mighty oceans that generate fogs, mists and winds, which cool the vineyards. Coastal wine regions include Hermanus (pictured), Elgin and the Cape South Coast.
8 of 9
The Swartland is home to gorgeous mountains and valleys, quality high-quality vineyards, hip, winemakers and trendy rural villages. Traditionally a grain-producing area, the Swartland district is interspersed with older bush vines; most plantings are on the hills on the edges of this large region.
9 of 9
Tulbagh is an older wine growing region that is now being rediscovered. It is known for mountainous, rocky terroir and extreme weather. This is a photo of the winery at Fable Mountain Vineyards.