Wine grapes need a temperate climate to thrive, which explains why the world’s wine regions are clustered in two bands that ring the globe, each stretching from roughly 30 to 50 degrees latitude. These zones cover massive swaths of land on most continents, but not Africa. Here, the landmass straddles the equator, and only the northernmost and southernmost tips experience a wine-friendly climate.
While great wines can be made in North Africa, the region’s viticultural progress has been stymied by historical and cultural factors, most notably by the prohibition of alcohol in Muslim countries. But the story is quite different in South Africa, where accidents of history have favored wine-growing and positioned the nation for success on the global wine market.
South Africa’s Western Cape region has perfect conditions for making fine wines — a sunny Mediterranean climate tempered by miles of cooling coastline. While many grapes, white and red, can excel in these conditions, South Africa’s unoaked whites from grapes like sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc are of particular interest to cost-conscious wine shoppers.
This lively and refreshing blend of sauvignon blanc and sémillon, with its tropical flavors of passion fruit and lime, is a perfect example of Western Cape wines fitting neatly into the global spectrum of sauvignon blanc. As a rule, their thrilling coastal acidity resembles that found in New Zealand wines, but they’re enriched with the ripe-melon flavors associated with sunny California.
The Beachhouse Sauvignon Blanc — Western Cape, South Africa (13% ABV)
On sale for $8.99 through Dec. 1 (regularly $10.99); PLCB Item #6676
Also available at: Total Wine & More in Claymont, Del. for $7.79; Canal’s Bottlestop in Marlton, N.J., for $8.09; Gloucester City Bottlestop in Gloucester City, N.J., for $8.99; Williamstown Super Buy Rite in Williamstown, N.J., for $10.99; Cheers Wine & Spirits in Voorhees, N.J., for $10.99.