Tips to Get the best out of your wine tasting tour
The most popular white wine produced in South Africa is Chenin Blanc, which alone accounts for over 30% of all the grapes harvested. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling are also produced, and many wineries specialise in sweet dessert wines such as Muscadel.
Red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cinsaut, Zinfandel, Shiraz and Pinot Noir, but the red wine to try, if you have not done so already, is the Pinotage. This is a local hybrid grape variety of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. Very full and fruity, it is best drunk at an early age.
Several companies offer tours to 3 or 4 vineyards including lunch. It is advisable to ask before booking such a tour if it includes not only a driver but a knowledgeable guide as well. Having someone to guide you through the tastings and explain the difference between the wines can make all the difference to the wine tasting experience.
Alternatively, it is possible to arrange a wine tasting tour on horseback - a unique and slightly more interesting way of exploring the vineyards!
The majority of estates offer wine tasting, some for free, others for a small fee. Either way, it is a very pleasant way to spend a day, and many wineries have restaurants for a relaxing lunch.
To get the best out of wine tasting, it is advisable to start with the lighter white wines first, then move onto the heavier red wines, and end on the fortified wines such as port.
The colour of the wine can tell you a great deal about its variety, age and quality, as can the aroma, or 'nose'. Sniffing the bouquet before taking your first sip will introduce you to the predominant flavours of the wine. A small sip of wine, taking in air through your front teeth at the same time, will allow the full taste of the wine to penetrate your taste buds.
There are 2 important characteristics to look out for - the first is the 'fullness' of the wine, which is to do with the intensity of the taste in your mouth.
The second is the 'farewell' which is how long the taste lingers after swallowing. The longer the farewell, the better the wine.
Ideally, only rinse your mouth and glass with water when switching from white to red to fortified.