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Wine tasting for dummies: A beginner’s guide

If you ever want to go wine tasting but feel like a beginner, here is a little guide to get you started.


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South African wines are highly sort after by locals and tourists alike. The Cape is home to many beautiful wine vineyards. Here’s a guide to help anyone who has ever wanted to know just a little more about wine.

Wine Vocabulary for beginners

You will often hear wine being described by four key factors: sweetness, acidity, tannin and body.


Tannins are found in grapes and in your tea. They are responsible for the colour of your wine. Red grapes have more tannin than green grape skins. Wines that ferment with the skins for longer will be a darker red.


You will often hear the word “varietal” and it simply refers to the type of grape used to make the wine. It is usually labelled on your wine bottle.


Most South African wines are matured in French oak barrels. This accounts for the different, complex flavours found in wine. Not all white wines are matured this way but most red wines are. You can tell if a white wine has been wooded if it has a deeper yellow colour.

Red Wine

A full-bodied wine looks thinker and coats your glass as if you swirl it gently. You shouldn’t drink chilled red wine because the tannins tend to taste bitter when cold.


Pinotage is a deep red wine unique to South Africa and is a hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. You may taste notes of chocolate of coffee in these wines.


Shiraz is quite a versatile grape so its flavours vary according to the winemaker. It has a spiciness to it and is rich and deep.

Cabernet Sauvignon

“Cab Sav” as many call it, has a deeper red than pinotage as it has rich tannin flavours. You will taste notes of tobacco, pepper of dark berries.


Merlot has gentle tannins and fruitier flavours and is a bit softer on the palate for red wine beginners.

Cape Blend

A Cape Blend will, just as the name indicates, be a blend of different varietals. It is 30% Pinotage and includes, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc and Shiraz.

White Wine

Sauvignon Blanc

It is light and crisp due to it being fermented in a stainless steel tank. While some white wine is fermented in wood barrels, most of it is fermented in stainless steel tanks.


Usually, Chardonnay is wooded which gives it that rich, deep yellow colour but you can occasionally get and unwooded Chardonnay which will appear lighter.

Chenin Blanc

This is a great wooded wine for a sunny afternoon. Due to its high acidity and sweetness, it is a great wine to be paired with a variety of foods such as sweet and sour pork, chicken dishes and many vegetarian meals.