Wine blends vs. varietals – what’s the difference? 

a row of wine barrels

Probably the simplest answer to that question is that it is a combination of the wine varietals available to us in South Africa that generally make up the South African blends. There’s a bit more to this though and with the genuine desire to assist and entertain our valued clientele, we at Bellevue Estate love to give you some answers to your most frequently asked questions about wines. It’s called the Bellevue Food and Wine Pairing Guide! 

So, with a little help from our award-winning Winemaker Wilhelm and our Owner/Founder and Viticulturalist Dirkie Morkel, let’s take a look at Wine blends vs. Varietals – what’s the difference? 

How do you identify varietals in wine? 

Wilhelm sums it up with ‘’By first learning, what the individual, single varietals, smell & taste like … and then to “taste and look for them in the blend.’’ Dirkie added ‘’Get to know the characteristics of a specific cultivar (colour, nose and taste) very well, practice identifying different cultivar wines when tasted blind. It is far more difficult to identify the different cultivars in a blend.’’ 

collection of wines

Is Sauvignon Blanc a blend? 

Believe it or not, as popular as this wine is, this is a question that is sometimes raised and can only be answered with Wilhelm’s emphatic ‘’Hell no … it is a varietal!’’ Dirkie enlightens us a little more by explaining what a Sauvignon Blanc is, ‘’Sauvignon Blanc is a very old and famous white wine cultivar, originating from France, but now planted in almost all the (white) wine producing countries in the world. Although mostly made and bottled as a single varietal, it is sometimes blended with Semillon, as well as Chenin Blanc.’’ 

four separate wines

So, what are the top varietals in South Africa? 

There are, according to popular opinion, only 8 primary varietals in South Africa. The top four white varietals are Sauvignon Blanc (SA’s most popular white wine), Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Colombard – and the top four red varietals or cultivars are Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot and the one we consider to be the best of them all, Pinotage! 

collection of wines

What constitutes a Bordeaux blend in South Africa? 

We hear a lot about the famous Bordeaux blend, in many cases the flagship wine of an estate. So what constitutes a red Bordeaux blend? A Bordeaux red blend usually combines two or more of the classic Bordeaux varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec. As for the less commonly produced white Bordeaux blend, this would most likely include at least two from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle varietals. 

A truly great Pinotage!  

Pinotage is said to be the finest and most versatile wine for Food and Wine pairings (one of the reasons we love them) because Bellevue’s vineyard produced the world’s first commercially bottled Pinotage! Come and discover how the pioneering spirit of the Morkel family helped establish Pinotage as South Africa’s signature grape variety.  

Instead of just talking about wines why not come and experience some of the Cape’s finest Food and Wine pairings at our beautiful estate? Enjoy a tasting session, tour our estate and buy wine in our tasting room. If you have a special family occasion we are rated as a superb wedding venue and a perfect place for a family occasion or business conference of any size. 

If you want to know all about Wine blends vs. varietals and what’s the difference, come and savour our selection of Red Wines, White Wines, Bordeaux & Cape Blends, Sparkling Wines & Gin. It makes for a memorable experience and a day out you’ll never forget. We are waiting to welcome you! 

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