A Guide to Souzão in South Africa
Updated: Jul 16
One of the things I love about the world of wine, like most things in life, is how you can never know everything. Whether it’s a new variety that you stumble upon or a simple word like “bung” that’s thrown around in every wine cellar, the opportunity to learn is endless. Often drawn in by the design of a wine’s label (I blame the graphic designer in me), I recently found myself holding a bottle of 100% Souzão from the Fledge & Co. I’d never come across Souzão in South Africa or not to my knowledge which got me thinking - what’s this lil’ grape’s story?
Where is Souzão From?
Also known as Sousão, Vinhão, Sousón (Spanish), Souzão has origins dating back as early as 1790 when it was first planted in the Minho wine region in Northern Portugal. Slowly but surely it made its way down south to the iconic Douro Valley before crossing borders and waters to Spain, Australia, California and South Africa.
Introduced to sunny South Africa in the 1920s, Souzão is still a pretty rare variety to come by. Along with other Portuguese varieties, it started out its journey in the Swartland and ended up in the Klein Karoo a few years later after Tinta Barocca was mistakenly planted instead of Shiraz. A variety that likes a bit of a struggle, the dry and hardy conditions of both regions were perfect for it to thrive.
Fast forward a few years, the Klein Karoo region and specifically Calitzdorp has earned the title as the Port Capital of South Africa. Portuguese cultivars cover more than 62 ha in the Klein Karoo comprising of Souzão, Tinta Barocca, Touriga Naçional, Tempranillo and a couple of others.
What Wines are Produced with Souzão?
Because of its high sugar levels and deep, rich colour, Souzão has found itself predominantly in the production of port-style wines (Hello, Klein Karoo and Douro Valley). In Northern Portugal, however, it’s a popular choice in making red Vinho Verde.
Often thought to be a *teinturier because of its beautifully pigmented red skin, the berries don’t actually have red-tinted flesh. Despite its uncoloured flesh, the skins have made it a great variety for blending to add a kick of acidity and colour.
Souzão Food Pairings
Port-style wines: Pair any port-style wine with a beautiful cheese board. From a rich blue cheese to mature cheddar, you’ll no doubt want to recreate one of those dreamy cheese boards that you pinned on Pinterest.
Red blends: For those that know what’s good for them and grab one of the bottles listed below, pair it with wood-braaied meat, a charcuterie board or a beautiful char-grilled aubergine salad.
Producers Using Souzão in South Africa
The Fledge & Co. - Try out their 100% Souzão from their experimental range or their Red Blend that has a blend of rare old vine, Portuguese varieties.
The Wine Thief - A collab with The Fledge & Co., Nooer is a beautiful blend of Souzão, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional.
De Krans - From their Cape Vintage and Cape Ruby to their Tritonia, De Krans is one of the leading producers of port-style wines and the reason Tinta Barocca was planted all those years ago.
Cape Rock Wines - Sourcing their fruit from Olifants River on the West Coast, the Capa Roca is a full-bodied blend of Souzão, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Naçional.
Boplaas - One of South Africa’s port pioneers, Boplaas produces world-class ports with blends of Portuguese cultivars.
Peter Bayly - From the foothills of the Swartberg, the Peter Bayly III is an elegant red blend of 3 Portuguese varieties.
Overgauuw - Harvested from 45-year old vines, the Overgaauw Cape Vintage is a sweet velvety blend of 6 Portuguese varieties.
*Teinturier (French) directly translates to ‘tinter’ or ‘dyer’. This refers to grape varieties with red-tinted flesh that give wines a significantly deeper colour. While most teinturiers have been used in blends to give a wine a richer colour, some varieties are now used to make 100% varietal wines like the guys at The Fledge & Co.