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12 Rich South African Wines To Sample

A South African winemaker working in the U.S. once explained the term ‘cellar palate.’ Basically, it refers to what happens when winemakers are so used to tasting their own wines, or wines produced by neighbors, that they have difficulty appreciating or embracing a diversity of styles. The term originated during the apartheid era in South Africa, when economic restrictions reduced travel for winemakers, and diminished many visits from foreign wine producers.

Vilafonté vineyards, South Africa


Such restrictive days (Covid-19 aside, for now) are gone for South Africa. Yet even today, cellar palate can occur in any wine region of the world.

Over a decade ago, a woman who opened a wine store in the town of Sonoma, California, told me how she sold only wines made overseas. Unexpectedly, the store became an instant hit with locals, who craved tasting wines made in different style than local fare.

Harvest in South Africa (AP/Schalk van Zuydam)


For those working in the trade—be they in Marlborough, New Zealand, Rioja in Spain, Napa Valley in California or the Mosel Valley of Germany—it pays to occasionally sit with other professionals and taste wines from different countries. For casual wine drinkers also—be they novice or aficionado—one joy of exploring the world of wine comes from creating comparative mental (and/or written) notes about wines tasted from varied regions. Diversity in tasting diminishes cellar palate. It also increases the intrigue and joys of tasting vintages.

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