South African vocabulary for wine tourists

New research suggests that language influences how we perceive the world. So in order to better understand us and our sometimes strange ways, here are some uniquely South African words to help you navigate our winelands and our wine culture. 


Steen: the original name for what was identified in 1963 as Chenin Blanc (the most planted variety in South Africa). Just to confuse everyone, some artisan winemakers are once again using steen on their labels.

Hanepoot (pronounced hunnepoot): local name for Muscat of Alexandria. Used in sweet fortified wines, but also sold fresh at roadstalls in late summer…delicious!

Busticket: the name the wine industry gives to the certifcation seal for sustainability and integrity issued by the Wine and Spirit Board and found on the neck of most wine bottled in South Africa.

Jerepigo: sweet red fortified wine usually made from hanepoot, and usually unoaked.

Pinotage: South Africa’s unique wine variety, from a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.

Papsak (pronounced pupsuck): The silver foil container inside bag in box or cask wines, often repurposed as a pillow on picnics.

Babelaas (pronounced bub-ur-laas): hangover.

Blink gedrink: having drunk so much that he/she is shiny.

Polisie koffee: Brandy and coke (from the flask on the police officer’s desk).

Catemba: Red wine mixed with cola, a drink more common in Mozambique. Not for purists.

Fynbos (pronounced fayne-boss): the indigenous and phenomenally biodiverse vegetation of the Cape that surrounds the vineyards, somewhat similar to the Garrigue of France, and which lends special qualities to our wine.


Biltong: dried meat or jerky. Making biltong is an art and an important ritual on many farms.

Boerewors (pronounced burrevors): spicy farm sausage, the staple of all braais.

Braai (pronounced brrr-eye): barbecue on open coals, never ever gas.

The beloved braai.

Bunny chow: Half a loaf of white bread, filled with curry, a traditional street food for workers. Now fashionable in gourmet versions.

Mielie (pronounced meelee): corn on the cob. It is perfectly acceptable in South Africa to pick up the cob and attack it with your teeth rather than cut the kernels off the cob.

Padkos (pronounced putt koss): essential food for a journey.

Granadilla: passion fruit.

Naartjie (pronounced narchee): any soft peel citrus such as a Satsuma. 

Snoek (pronounced snook as in book): popular local line fish, traditionally basted with apricot jam and braaied. 

Getting around

Bakkie: A pick-up truck, often with an open back, and the usual mode of transport for most farmers.

Donga: (pronounced donger): A ditch that you do not want your bakkie to land up in.

Pasop: Look out, be careful! What you say just before the bakkie lands in a donga.

Circle: a roundabout.

Robot: traffic lights.

Good to know

Eina: ouch, that hurt.

Gatvol: Had it up to here.

Zef: South African kitsch, influenced by 80’s style. See Die Antwoord if you want to experience it in all its glory.

Loadshedding: Government spin word for rolling blackouts due to a shortage of electricity.

Lekker (pronounced leck-ur): nice, good, sweet, delicious. Good descriptor for wine, or mielies, if you are stuck for words.

Mahala: free.

Gogga: any small insect, especially the kind you do not want to land in your wine glass.

So cheers, hope the steen is lekker and the boerewors is on the braai, and don’t drink too much or you will have a babelaas in the morning!

Read Related Posts

Ultimate Guide to the Top Food & Wine Festivals in the Western Cape in 2024

Looking for the best food and wine festivals in the Western Cape in 2024? Diarise these upcoming festivals!
Experience the best of South African food and wine at these upcoming festivals in 2024. Sample some of the country’s finest wine and freshest food, spend a thrilling weekend annerkant die berg, taste cool wines, savour heartwarming food and full-bodied reds in winter, and more. Here’s your list of the top food and wine festivals in the Western Cape in 2024.

Written by: Jeanine

Read More »

The Constantia Wine Walk

This private-access walking tour visits three iconic wine farms in the Constantia Valley – Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, you’ll wander through the vineyards, taste 10 wines and enjoy a delicious harvest platter lunch at the final stop.

Read More »


Fill in the form below, and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. 
The questions marked with an asterisk(*) must be answered.



VW0002 Website MISC_generic elements_partner-10
VW0002 Website MISC_generic elements_partner-11
VW0002 Website MISC_generic elements_partner-12
VW0002 Website MISC_generic elements_partner-13
VW0002 Website MISC_generic elements_partner-14

Accessibility  |  Privacy Policy  |  Public Access to Information  |  Terms of Use  |  POPI Act
Website designed and built by Achieve Through Action