South African wine production has long been a political endeavour, right from the first plantings with the Dutch East India Company, to economic protests in the 20th Century over apartheid. Recently, South African wines have been taken seriously in the international market and are now one of the top ten wine-producing regions in the world, known for their quality and value.
Most South African Merlot is grown in the Stellenbosch coastal region, which is the second oldest in South Africa. It is most often used as a blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon as in Bordeaux.Although Merlot is not generally categorized among South Africa’s most premium wines, these unblended Merlots are known as dependably easy drinking, fruit forward wines with soft tannins. Until recently, the South African wine industry focused heavily on white grape production. It is only in the last several years that red varieties, such as Merlot, have been planted in significant numbers.
- South African wines were first produced in an effort to prevent scurvy among sailors who set off from the port.
- The South African wine trade was devastated in the 1800s by the fungus phylloxera.
- As recently as the 1990s, less than 30% of grapes harvested were used for wine production. Ten years later, that number reached 70%.
- Until recently, most wine grapes went towards the production of brandy.