South Africa has long been known for its extensive wine production, but it is not alone among its African neighbors. Winemakers have begun to explore different areas of the continent for their vineyards, and have created some truly unique and exceptional wines. The following are some of the best wine regions in Africa, whether fully developed or still in the experimental stages, and should be on every viticulture snob’s must-visit agenda.
Sources: Edition.CNN.com, SmithsonianMag.com, TheGuardian.com, MAAP de Cabo Verde, The Wine Library, AlgerianWine.com, TheDailyStar.com, TheDrinksBusiness.com, Schiller-Wine.Blogspot.co.nz, Wine-Searcher.com
The vineyards on the shores of Kenya’s Lake Naivasha date back to 1985, and have only improved with time. Particularly since the arrival of wine professional James Farquharson in 2007 at Rift Valley Winery, the region has begun to produce quality wine, though it has not yet reached the production levels needed for international export. The tropical climate is unusual for wine production, but Farquharson and his flagship label Leleshwa, a summery Sauvignon Blanc, have proved that it is not only possible, but also delicious.
With its strong Roman and French colonial background, its unsurprising that Morocco is a wine-producing nation, and is actually thought to be one of the first winemakers on any kind of grand scale in the world. Today, the vast majority of Moroccan wine is red, and the Atlas Mountains region is best known for its Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot production. The region is generally described as “semi-arid Mediterranean,” as the mountains help maintain an ideal balance as they shelter vineyards from both the Saharan drought and Atlantic moisture.
Chã das Caldeiras, known as Chã to locals, is the only area of Cape Verde that grows significant quantity of grapes, allowing it to produce wines suitable for export. Chã’s climate, with hot and dry days and cool and humid nights, are optimal for viticulture, and produce full-bodied, rich wines. Chã has a wine-making tradition that is over 120 years old, and uses all grapes locally grown by farmers within the caldera.
South Africa is easily the best-known country in Africa for its winemaking, and the Stellenbosch region represents the crème de la crème of its wine production. The Mediterranean climate with hot dry summers and cool wet winters allows for a range of soils in the area, from sandy dirt to decomposed granite, and offers conditions for a variety of grapes. Though Stellenbosch is known for its high quality reds and whites, the Cabernet Sauvignon from the region is particularly noteworthy.
All of Algeria’s vineyards are located in the Hauts Plateaux, the region running along the Moroccan border, that boasts a Mediterranean climate similar to that of southern Spain. The region is actually comprised of seven main wine production zones that span several provinces, producing a wine characterized by a high alcohol content and low acidity, using overripe fruit. Little aging is recommended for Algerian wines, and Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Mouvedre, and Syrah are all producd in high quantities.
Cap Bon, the peninsula that rests in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Tunisia, is just 10 kilometers from the sea, and offers a Mediterranean climate for wine-making that is rarely found on the African continent. The vineyards of the Cap Bon region are best known for their sweet red wines, such as Domaine Atlas’s Ifrikia Rouge Reserve, a deep, sweet red wine similar to port, that offers a tangy aftertaste with hints of raspberry.
The relatively tiny island nation of Madagascar would never be the first place one would assume wine production occurs, but the country has about a dozen wineries, divided between Fianarantsoa and Ambalavao in the south. Though the number of wineries in Madagascar has decreased in the past few decades – many former vineyard owners sold their land to plant other crops, and others were hit hard by the withdrawal of Swiss development aid – those that remain produce a variety of wines, including red, white, and the less common gray and orange wines.
Launched in 2007 by a partnership between the Ethiopian government and French group Castel, winemaking in Ziway began, just 170 kilometers south of Addis Ababa. The temperate climate and sandy soil is ideal for light, fruity wines, and winemakers in the region have grand plans to begin to compete with the booming South African industry. It is also important to mention Tej, the traditional East African honey wine that is most often made in the home, but has begun to be produced by a few wineries in Ethiopia. The white wine uses the Gesho buckthorn shrub native to the region, and is sweetened with honey.
Zimbabwean wines are beginning to receive international attention, as its high-altitude vineyards, hot summers, and cool nights make for ideal wine-making conditions. Bushman Rock Estate, for instance, located in the lush valley along the Nyamasanga River, is one of the country’s most prominent estates, and has become known for its signature Charlevale white wine, a blend of Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat.
The Dodoma region in Tanzania is home to a variety of wines, which are loosely grouped in the categories of dry white, red, and “natural sweet.” The dry earth and sandy soil, kept that way by the low humidity, is ideal for these types of wine, and the region has become known for its delicious Chenin Blanc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvingnon, and Makutupora, a local dry red, production.