Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny



Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is a "Cape red"? I often see it on wine labels from South Africa.

—Calide G., Brazil

Dear Calide,

“Cape” is a geographical term that is often applied to wine. A cape is a large piece of land that sticks out into the sea from the coast. If you look at South Africa on a map, you’ll notice a lot of references to capes, as that tip of the continent juts into the water at different angles. There’s a Cape Peninsula, Cape of Good Hope, a Western Cape and an Eastern Cape. The Western Cape even has its own winemaking district called the Cape Winelands.

South Africa’s vineyards spread out from the regional center of Cape Town (another cape!). The cape is a distinctive point of pride for South African vintners. As you might imagine, the two oceans that the country meets—the Atlantic and the Indian—have a big influence the climate there. There’s even a strong wind current in the region known as (what else) the “Cape Doctor,” which can damage grapes, but also limits the risk of mildew and fungus. "Cape reds" are typically South African red wines made from a blend of some of the country's most prominent red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah (Shiraz), Pinotage and Merlot. You can learn more about the wines of South Africa in senior editor James Molesworh's cover story, "South Africa: An Emerging Giant," and his "ABCs of South African Wine," in the July 31, 2013, issue of Wine Spectator.

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers


WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.