Wine Region: South Africa

Wine grapes have been cultivated in the region of South Africa since 1659. Around this time, the region was heavily influenced by the Dutch because it was a port city along the spice and silk trade routes. Even today, many towns and wineries still have Dutch names. In 1994 when apartheid and isolationism ended, the wine industry began to greatly expand with many family-owned and co-op-owned wineries emerging.

Grape Vines in South Africa
Wine producers are encouraged to preserve the natural vegetation and grow grapes among and around it. This provides added nutrients to the grape vines which imparts additional flavors to the wines. Because suitable grape-growing land is not nearly as scarce in South Africa as other countries, vines are often allowed to grow freely with minimal pruning or trellising.

About 90% of wines produced in South Africa have the official sustainability seal which enforces a set of regulations to ensure production ‘meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

Most widely grown white grapes: Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay. Most widely grown red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot.

Wine Examples:

bloem   2014 Bloem – Chenin Blanc Viognier

porcupine   2013 Porcupine Ridge – Cabernet Sauvignon

excelsior_chardonnay_nv   2015 Excelsior – Chardonnay

jamjar_sweetshiraz_nv   2015 Jam Jar – Sweet Shiraz

mosaic   2015 Mosaic – Indaba

Wine Grape: Chenin Blanc

Originally from the Loire region of France, today it is also grown in Australia, USA, and South Africa (where it is the most widely grown grape and is sometimes known as ‘Steen’). It is widely grown in California, but is mostly used to contribute acidity to low quality wines. The most popular regions for Chenin Blanc are Anjou and Vouvray in Loire Valley, France and Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Wines made with Chenin Blanc are typically high in acidity making it a very versatile grape and often blended with Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon. It is used to make dry, off-dry, and sweet wines, sparkling wines, dessert wines and brandy. Typical aromas consist of melon, nut, pear, apricot, peach, apple, honey, and cinnamon.

Wine Examples:

bloem   2014 Bloem – Chenin Blanc Viognier

Wine Grape: Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Franc (pronouned ‘kah-ber-nay fronk’ and sometimes known as Bouchet, Bouchy, or Breton) is less intense and somewhat softer than Cabernet Sauvignon. Often used for blending, it is one of the six grape varietals allowed in red Bordeaux wines and also in Meritage blends from California.

In the old world, it is primarily grown in the Loire Valley, France (most notably the Chinon and Anjou regions), and in Bordeaux, France (most notably the St. Emilion, Pomerol and Graves regions). In the new world, it is grown in New Zealand, Australia, and USA (most notably in New York, Oregon, and Washington).

It has high acidity with aromas of strawberry, raspberry, plum, violet, bell pepper, and blackberry. Two unique aromas that are sometimes associated with Cabernet Franc are pencil shavings and graphite. Because it is less perfumed and structured, it is often blended with other wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Wine Examples:

bourgueil  2014 Domain des Ouches – Bourgueil Rouge.

Wine Region: Loire Valley, France

The Loire Valley extends about 1,000 kilometers along the Loire River in the northwest part of France. The region produces predominantly white wines from the grapes: Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc and Melon de Bourgogne. The limited amount of red wines are all produced using the grape Cabernet Franc.

Famous regions in Loire Valley include Sancerre & Pouilly-Fumé which both product wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape and are known for their minerality and limestone flavors. The Anjou, Vouvray and Touraine are known for their white wines made with Chenin Blanc.

The Chinon and Bourgueil regions produces only reds from the Cabernet Franc grape (locally the grape is known as Breton). The wines from this region can achieve a nice purple color with notes of raspberry fruit and graphite.

The Muscadet (pronounced ‘MUS-kuh-day) region is known for producing both distilled Brandy and dry white wines from the Melon de Bourgogne grape. It is worth noting that the Muscadet region is not related in any way to the Muscat (aka Moscato) grape.

Located about 90 miles from Paris, the Loire Valley was a popular place for French nobility to build vacation homes. Today there are over 300 châteaux (castles) along the river – one of the most impressive is Chambord which has 440 rooms and 84 staircases.

Wine Examples:

tonnell  2014 Tonnellerie – Sancerre Blanc

pouilly-fume  2013 Pouilly-Fumé – La Moynerie

bourgueil  2014 Domain des Ouches – Bourgueil Rouge.

Wine Grape: Albariño

albarino grapes

A white grape grown almost exclusively in northwest Spain and northwest Portugal and has been growing there since the twelfth century. The most popular region for Albariño is Rías Baixas (pronounced ree-ass by-shuss) in Spain. When grown in Portugal, it is sometimes known as Alvarinho.

The grape has a thick skin which makes it resistant to mildew – this is significant because the regions where it is grown have heavy rainfall and are close to the ocean thus are exposed to wind, fog and mist.

About the Wines:

Wines made from Albariño grapes have a characteristic aromas of white flowers, almond, apricot and peach. The wine produced is unusually light, and generally high in acidity with average levels of alcohol.

Wines are particularly well suited to be paired with shellfish or any seafood because of the high acidity. Wines are typically consumed young (within a year of harvest) and are not well suited to aging.

Wine Examples:

do zoe 2015 Do Zoe – Loureiro-Godello Albarino

Wine Region: Rías Baixas, Spain

Rías Baixas (pronounced ree-ass by-shuss) is a wine growing region in the far northeast corner of Spain in the community of Galicia. It is best known for its white wines made from the Albariño grape variety. Although there are actually twelve different grape varieties allowed to be grown in the region, Albariño represents over 90% of all vines planted.

Heavy rainfall, as compared to other regions of Spain, as well as fog and sea mist from the Atlantic ocean give is a uniquely damp microclimate. Due to relative physical isolation, its wines were rarely seen outside of the region until the 1980s.

The primary reason why the Albariño grape thrives in this environment is because it has thicker skin compared to other grape varieties which make it resistant to mildew. Additionally, shellfish is a common local cuisine and Albariño makes an ideal pairing.

Wine Examples:

do zoe 2015 Do Zoe – Loureiro-Godello Albarino

Wine Region: Piemonte, Italy

Piemonte means “at the foot of the mountains” and in this case that refers to the Alps – which nearly encircle the entire region. This gives the region a very unique microclimate and thus, the grapes which thrive here are rarely ever seen growing elsewhere.

The two most popular reds are Barolo and Barbaresco – both are named after the villages near where they are produced and both use the Nebbiolo grape. The region’s other wines are named first after the grape and then after the region where they are from. For example, Dolcetto d’Alba is the Dolcetto grape from the Alba region.

Popular grapes grown in this region:

  • Nebbiolo: light in color, but big in tannins, acidity and flavors; it is known for making some of the world’s best wines
  • Barbera: medium-bodied, high acidity, bold flavors, and deep purple in color
  • Dolcetto: medium-bodied, high acidity, but softer less-intense flavors as compared to Barbera
  • Brachetto: produced in the Acqui region as a sweet sparkling wine similar to Lambrusco

Wine Grape: Nebbiolo

About the Grape:

A grape that will ripen only in very specific climate and soil conditions and therefore, is almost exclusively grown in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy. The unique terrior of Piedmont is not reproduced elsewhere, but a few producers have persisted with the variety in both Australia and California and have made some impressive wines.

About the Wine:

The most famous wine made with the Nebbiolo grape are Barolo and Barbaresco (sometimes called a baby-Barolo). These wines are very high in tannin and acidity when young, so winemakers typically will age a Barolo 6-10 years and a Barbaresco 3-5 years prior to release. Barbaresco wines typically cost $25 and up, while Borolos will typically above $45. Other wines made with Nebbiolo include Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d’Alba which can be found at much more approachable prices.

Wines made from Nebbiolo will have a lighter color density, similar to Pinot Noir. This often leads people to think the wine will have a lighter body and thus they are surprised by the intensity of structure and flavor when they taste it. The color of the wine is a characteristic brick-orange and is often darker at the rim. Aromas and flavors typical to Nebbiolo are prune, tar, chocolate, roses, and violets. Describing a wine as tasting like tar might not sound favorable, but when combined with the other aromas and flavors, it yields an exceptional experience.

Wines made with Nebbiolo have excellent aging potential with many Barolo winemakers recommending aging of 10 years or more.

The grape is used to make wines such as Barolo, Barbaresco, Gattinara and Ghemme (all of which are DOCGs in Piedmont). These lightly coloured red wines can be massively tannic in youth with intriguing scents of . As they age, the wines take on a characteristic brick-orange hue at the rim of the glass. These wines often take years to become approachable as they require ageing to tame the tannins from the grapes.

Wine Examples:

Pugnane 2008 Villero – Pugnane Barolo

barbaresco 2012 Ceretto – Barbaresco

principe 2014 Il Principe – Nebbiolo


Reading a wine label can be difficult, especially if many words are in a different language. The following tables provide a translation for some of the most common words you might see on a label or description of a wine.


French Word Pronunciation English Word
sec sehk dry
demi-sec DEHM-ee sehk semi-dry
demi-doux DEHM-ee doo semi-sweet
doux doo sweet
cru kroo growth, level, or rank
cuvée kue VAY batch or blend
millésime MEE-lay-zeem vintage or year
récolte RAY-kolt harvest (year of)
perlant pair-lon very slightly sparkling
rouge roojg red
blanc blonk white
rosé roe-ZAE pink
noir nwar black
gris gree gray
pétillant pay-tee-yon slightly sparkling
crémant kray-mahn moderately sparkling
mousseux moo-suh sparkling


Spanish Word Pronunciation English Word
espumoso eh-spoo-MOE-soe sparkling
abocado ah-boh-KAH-doh semi-dry
uvas oo-vas grapes
embotellado em-boe-tay-ya-do bottled
vendimia ven-DEE-myah year or vintage
cosecha koh-SAY-chah harvest (year of)
año AHN-yoh year or vintage
tinto TEEN-toh red
blanco BLONK-oe white
rosado roh-SAH-thoh pink
clarete klah-REH-teh pink wine
dolce DOHL-chay sweet
seco SEH-koh dry
semi-seco SE-mee SEH-koh semi-dry
brut broot very dry


Italian Word Pronounciation English Word
secco SAY-koh dry
amabile ah-MAH-bee-lay semi-dry
abboccato ah-boh-KAH-toh semi-sweet
dolce DAWL-cheh sweet
ciaretto keeyah-reh-toe light red
rosso roh-ZAH-toh red
nero nair-oh dark red
bianco BYAHN-koh white
rosato roh-ZAH-toh pink
vendemmia vayn-DAYM-myah year or vintage
annata an-NAH-tah year or vintage
spumante spoo-MAHN-tee sparkling
frizzante freet-TSAHN-teh slightly sparkling


German Word Pronounciation English Word
gutsabfüllung GOOTS-ab-few-lung estate bottled
erzeugerabfüllung AYR-tsoy-guhr-AB-few-lung producer bottled
trocken TRAWK-uhn dry
halbtrocken HAHLP-trahk-en semi-dry
rotwein RAWT-vine red wine
weiswein VICE-vine white wine
schillerwein SHIHL-uhr-vine pink wine
weissherbst VICE-hehrbst white harvest or pink wine
rotling ROHT-ling wine from a mix of red and white grapes
spritzig SHPRIH-tsihg slightly sparkling
kabinett kah-bih-NEHT first picking
spätlese SHPAYT-lay-zuh late picking
auslese OWS-lay-zuh selection
eiswein ICE-vyn ice wine
tafelwein TAH-fuhl-vyn table wine
trockenbeerenauslese TRAWK-uhn-bay-ruhn-OWS-lay-zuh dry selected berries
beerenauslese BAY-ruhn-OWS-lay-zuh selected berries


Portuguese Word Pronounciation English Word
adamado a-duh-MAH-doh sweet
doce DOH-chay sweet
séco SEH-koh dry
clarete klah-REH-teh pink wine
tinto TEEN-toh red
branco BRAHN-koh white
rosado roh-SAH-thoh pink
engarrafado na origem ayn-gar-rah-FAH-doh nah oh-REE-zhem estate bottled