South Africa is in a sense a greater brandy country than wine country. But they keep most of the brandy for themselves. They make large amounts of brandy, of cognac type. It is actually a very old tradition. The first time they made brandy in South Africa was in 1672…
It is also largely thanks to brandy that chenin blanc is such a common grape. Chenin blanc, or as it used to be called, steen, is a grape that gives wines with high acidity. It is suitable for production of brandy. A large part of the chenin blanc production goes to distillation.
Brandy in South Africa fall into three different categories:
- “Blendend” or standard-brandy
- Vintage brandy
- “Pot still” brandy, made from old-type stills of copper in, similar to the ones used in for example cognac and calvados.
Pot still is considered the best brandy. Vintage Brandy can also be pot still.
There is also something called Estate Brandy, which is exactly what it sounds like, made on a particular property.
They make really excellent brandies in South Africa; I have on several occasions had the opportunity to try South African brandy and been very impressed.
They consume most of what is made within the country though. Unfortunately they export very little brandy from South Africa.
So it was well-deserved when a South African brandy producer recently won the “Best Brandy & Cognac Producer in the World”. It was KWV who received the award at the 2015 International Spirit Challenge in London in July, the first time that a brandy producer and not a cognac house won!
KWVs 20-year-old brandy also won two prizes: the “Best Brandy in the World Trophy” and “Grand Champion”.
Read more about this on www.wine.co.za.
Swedish adventurer becomes brandy in South Africa: Olof Bergh
There is also a South African brandy with a direct link to Sweden, Olof Bergh Brandy, which of course it is a pleasure to explain. In particular since he also has some historic links to the South African wine industry.
Olof Bergh was born (it is believed) in Gothenburg in 1643, an adventurer. He joined the Dutch East India Company. After been in Jakarta and in Ceylon he came to South Africa, the then Cape Colony, in 1676. He was recruited by Simon van der Stel, the Commander and the first Dutch governor of the Cape.
Olof Bergh became very wealthy and owned much property and land. He became one of the wealthiest persons in the Cape. He married Anna de Koning in 1678 with, the daughter of a slave named Angela of Bengal, and she herself a slave until she was freed in 1666. Most interesting from a vinous point of view is that Lindbergh owned the large country estate of Constantia, where they made and still make, the famous Vin de Constance. However, apparently Bergh was not particularly interested in wine production. Nevertheless, he is said to have been the person who introduced the solera method to South Africa for the storage and aging of fortified wines and brandies. In 1724, 80 years old, he died at Constantia.
The Olof Bergh brandy is indeed a solera. It was launched in 1988 as the first (in modern times) solera brandy. It is now made at Olof Bergh Cellars, between Cape Town and Worcester. Today, the brand is owned by Distell.
I have unfortunately never had the opportunity to taste the Olof Bergh brandy but it is said to be excellent.
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This post is also available in: Swedish