Swartland, a rolling coastal valley north of Cape Town, was once famous for its vast swaths of renosterbos, or rhinoceros bush. After rain, the plant’s leaves look black; hence, in Afrikaans, het zwarte land, or "the black land." Today, grapevines draw more attention than renosterbos, as Swartland has risen to become South Africa’s most exciting new wine region. Two factors play into that: the area’s countless old vineyards, once used for nondescript blends, and a group of young, tremendously talented, visionary winemakers, most gathered under the Swartland Independent Producers rubric. Their focus is on grape varieties that have been planted in the region for decades, such as Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. Made with an eye toward expressing the character of the region, the wines can be remarkable: layered, complex reds and whites that are eye-opening for anyone used to more commercial wines out of South Africa.
Five Bottle to Seek Out
2015 Secateurs Chenin Blanc ($16)
Adi Badenhorst’s top wines are wonderful but pricey. His affordable Secateurs white comes primarily from the family estate as well, and has juicy peach flavors and stony mineral notes.
- Wine-Centric South Africa Travel Tips
- Wineries by the Sea: South Africa
- South Africa Wines: Why to Buy
2014 Fram Shiraz Swartland ($16)
Winemaker Thinus Krüger sources grapes from vineyards on the western slopes of the Paardeberg mountains for this mocha-scented, peppery Shiraz.