If you live in Europe, you’ve probably never seen a non-Portuguese port wine before. Strict EU laws mean that the term is protected, in Europe at least. There’s also the supply and demand issue: Portugal produces more than enough Port to supply Europe’s demand, anyway, leaving little reason for anyone to consider importing it from anywhere else. But several other countries like the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa produce Port Wine.
The temptation as a European — and even more so as someone who blogs about Portugal — is to look down on anything that isn’t Portuguese as simply a cheap rip-off. And, that’s exactly what I did. But then I tried some in South Africa and, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Portugal’s culinary influence on South Africa is incredible, especially when you consider that it was never a Portuguese colony. Browse the restaurant menus in South Africa and you’ll find plenty of Portuguese pregos (which are actually different to pregos in Portugal), bifanas, Portuguese chicken livers, and of course Portuguese peri peri chicken. In the supermarkets you’ll find all kinds of Portuguese ingredients like prego sauce and Portuguese chicken spice – ingredients so Portuguese that you won’t be able to find them in Portugal. It isn’t surprising then that South Africa is one of the main Port producers outside of Portugal.
The majority of South Africa’s Port industry is based in Calitzdorp, a town on the Western side of the Klein Karoo in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The dry climate and poor soil here is well-suited to growing grapes like Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional, both of which are used in South African Port, and often blended with other grapes like Merlot and Shiraz.
As of 2012, labelled laws mean that the bottles can no longer be labelled as ‘Port.’ You can still find plenty of pre-2012 bottles labelled as Port, but newer bottles are usually recognisable by names like Cape Tawny, Cape Ruby, Cape LBV, and Cape Vintage Reserve.
Popular producers include De Kranz, Calitzdorp Cellar, and Boplaas – so look out for these names if you visit South Africa. These names are regular winners of the Tony Mossop Trophy, which honours the best Port Wines in South Africa. Winning bottles to look out for include the 2015 Boplaas Cape Vintage Reserve and the 2012 De Kranz Cape Vintage Reserve Port.
Getting a hold of these wines outside of South Africa is a little tricky. Most vineyards will ship to anywhere in the world if you order in bulk. If you just want to buy a bottle, however, you’ll have to scour the internet. Hard to Find Wines in the UK does stock the 2012 De Kranz, but it was difficult to find anyone stocking the Boplaas.