South Africa produces some fine wines that suit the average wallet. 

A Sip of South Africa

There are some very prestigious (and expensive) wines from South Africa, but there are also many that are quite reasonably priced, making them a good choice for everyday sipping or for entertaining a crowd. First, a few facts about South African wines in general: Most of the wine-growing districts in South Africa are near the southwestern coast, about 90 miles from Cape Town. The heart of the fine-wine region is near the towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl. The major wine grape-growing districts are Constantia, Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Franschoek Valley.

Principal red wine varietal grapes grown in South Africa include cinsaut (which is the same as the cinsault, a Rhone variety), cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot. The red grape, pinotage (a hybrid of cinsaut and pinot noir), is also widely grown in South Africa.

Chenin blanc — also called steen in South Africa — is the dominant white variety but sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are also grown.

1999 Elephant Pass Sauvignon Blanc, $12.99. This beautifully balanced white from Franschoek has delicate hints of oak in the nose. It's medium-bodied, crisp and fruity, but not overly acidic. Pour a cool glass of this charmer with chicken cooked in just about any manner, as an aperitif, or with mussels or clams steamed in white wine, garlic and olive oil.

1998 Kleine Hazen Chenin Blanc, $8.99. Also from the Stellenbosch region, this light, dry white had subtle notes of peach and almond in the nose. Unlike many North American chenin blancs, this one is dry enough to serve with grilled fish or steamed lobster.

1996 Savanha Agulhas Bank Chardonnay, $13.99. Robust aromas of vanilla and mango tempt the palate for what's to come: a medium-bodied chard that's rich in fruit flavors and (thankfully) not overwhelmed by oak. Delicious with grilled veal chops, shrimp or chicken cooked on the rotisserie.

1998 Kleine Hazen Merlot, $9.99. This rich, fruity red from the Western Cape is a real bargain. Flavors of cassis, blackberry and ripe cherry make this a nice accompaniment to grilled steaks, quail or smoked turkey.

1997 Stellenbosch Farmers' Winery, Ltd. Chateau Libertas, $12.99. Full and assertive, this red is redolent with flavors of spice and dried cherry. Try it with grilled leg of lamb, pepper steak or roast

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