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South Africa is celebrating its 350th birthday as a wine-producing nation.

But it has been a serious international wine producer only since 1994, when apartheid ended.

The Cape on the southwestern tip surrounding the port city of Cape Town is the most significant growing region.

Pinotage, a cross between pinot noir and cinsault, produces the signature red.

Unique to South Africa, it makes an easy-drinking, somewhat rustic wine.

Cabernet sauvignon (actually the largest production) and shiraz show great promise.

As for whites, chardonnay is improving, and I enjoy the more assertive style of sauvignon blanc. But chenin blanc is the most interesting.

Guardian Peak is a 10-year collaboration of South African vintner Jean Engelbrecht and golf legend Ernie Els.

• 2005 Shiraz ($15)• 2005 Frontier (cabernet, shiraz, merlot, $15)

Fleur du Cap, from an estate owned by the Cape's governor around 1700.

• 2007 Chardonnay ($10)• 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($10)

Golden Kaan, a 2003 joint venture between the largest producer cooperative and a German wine company, is known for its sustainability program.

• 2007 Chardonnay ($10)• 2006 Pinotage ($15)• 2007 Sauvignon Blanc ($15)

Sebeka, a 3-year-old brand imported by Gallo, is named in honor of a noted wildlife conservationist's pet cheetah.

• 2008 Chenin Blanc "Steen" ($10)• 2007 Pinotage "Cape Blend" ($10)• 2007 Pinotage Cabernet ($10)

 

 

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