Discover some unusual wine varieties

Most consumers see wine as an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes. It can be white, red or pink and, if it's a moment of celebration, may even have bubbles floating to the top. If the tipple of choice is white, it will in all probability be Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, and if red, a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon will suffice. On very adventurous outings, a Chenin Blanc or Pinotage may even make it to the table. Then there are other lesser-known varieties that have been banned to the outer extremities of the known winemaking world, not for any other reason than for the fact that they are not deemed to be fashionable enough for the modern palate – or in some cases may just be too difficult to pronounce.

Bukettraube, Grenache, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Viognier and Zinfandel. No, I am not trying to create a new phonetic alphabet, but rather mentioning just a few of the 30 odd “unusual varieties” planted in South Africa presently. It is with huge delight that I see more and more unusual varieties making their way into the bottle these days – both as blends as well as single variety wines.

As in most established wine-producing countries, new plantings are taking place at a pace and new varieties of wine grapes as well as new regions are being explored as the country finds itself at the frontline of modern market requirements. The focus, I have no doubt, will always remain on the more commonly planted varieties, but when I am lucky enough to come across something unusual in my glass it makes me stop and contemplate it for longer, even if it is not quite to my personal taste. These wines awaken the palate and the mind to look deeper, explore further and often unravel a real gem.

While it may often seem that the tunnel for introducing new and interesting varieties is quite dark, there are still producers who boldly go where others fear to tread. While government rules and regulations are daunting to ensure that imported plant material is virus-free, the bureaucracy can often also lead to new varieties taking more than five years before go-ahead is given for their production.

So where does this place the lesser-known grape varieties? Real interest would lie in sniffing out wines made from lesser, or should one say unknown, grape varieties. Be sure to check out our Odd Bins range to find some of these intriguing varieties!