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South Africa - In praise and awe
IPosted - October 2 2008
By Daenna Van Mulligen

A recent visit to South Africa has fed me, not only with great wine but with a new understanding of a country of stunning beauty, passionate people, warmth and a strong desire to welcome the world. It’s a new country to those of us who talk on the grape vine yet it was witness to the birth of civilization. Travelling through South Africa affected me on a visceral level unlike almost anywhere else I have travelled.
The geography is rough and powerful, rocky and sweeping and stretches as far as the eye can see. Unlike our Rocky Mountains which seem to strike the sky with enthusiastic authority the mountains in South Africa provide a prehistoric memorial. You can sense their watchfulness in the way a grandparent watches a grandchild – with the lenient eye of one who has seen so very much.
Ironic too, that a wine region which turns 350 years old in 2009 should be deemed new world, yet it is, and with that South Africa fights the same battle all new world wine producing countries face – making consumers understand its uniqueness, its regionality and its strengths. Of course South Africa has faced other serious problems that other countries have not. But with democracy now fourteen years in, great strides have been made and the country is looking forward with eager eyes fully open. Change does not happen overnight – you have to crawl before you walk but investment in the country is up, and infrastructure for the 2010 World Cup is being developed with gusto. Money brings strength to a country in the form of jobs, social assistance and the freedom to welcome the world with pride.
The wines of South Africa are good – good to fantastic. The much maligned Pinotage has come a long way from the tarry, rubbery and bitter inky juice most of us have sampled. This South African developed cross of Cinsault x Pinot Noir has a youthful history yet it is wholly South African. Invented by Professor Abraham Izak Perold in the 1925 the first Pinotage wine was made in 1941. Although Perold spent much of his career at (the well recognized) KWV, it was the wineries of Kanonkop and Bellevue who were the first to produce it (they still do) but it wasn’t until 1959 when the first commercial Pinotage was bottled and sold by Lanzerac.
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