South Africa’s skillful mixture of New and Old World winemaking is unmatched anywhere in the wine world. Scroll down for an introduction to South African wine, or head to the sale now!
Blessed with a climate in which daytime temperatures rarely exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit, South Africa produces wines that have all the ripeness typical of the New World, along with all the structure and brightness of the Old World. No other winemaking region has South Africa’s amazing soil diversity, abundant hillside locations, and temperate weather; this long list of assets gives the region’s wines astounding clarity and impeccable balance.
Pinotage plays rather a minor role in South African wine these days. This red grape is still used to great effect in blends, and occasionally in varietal wines. The delightful Chamonix “Greywacke” Pinotage has a touch of Pinot Noir, but still retains plenty of Pinotage character.
Sauvignon Blanc has been planted quite successfully in the region. Generally made in a crisp, refreshing style, South African Sauvignon Blanc has substantial depth and varietal character. Our favorites tend to be light on their feet, with plenty of acidity to balance out the fruit: Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc is a delicious example that will continue to evolve gracefully for a few more years.
Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape variety in the Cape region, where many vineyards were historically used for the production of simple, innocuous table wines. These ancient vineyards have been rehabilitated in recent years, and are now producing wines in a variety of styles. Chenin Blancs from the Cape region range from dry to sweet, and are now ably competing with the best in the world (such as the Vouvrays and Savennières of the Loire Valley). Graham Beck’s Chenin Blanc is a rich, unoaked bottle with abundant apple aromas.
Shiraz (or Syrah) from South Africa is worlds apart from Australian Shiraz. Once a second-tier grape in South Africa, Shiraz now leads the way in the country’s viticultural revolution, from the cooler climes of Paarl to the warmer and more recently cultivated stretches of the Swartland. These wines offer classic Old World aromas of black olive, smoke, and blackberry in a fleshy, supple style. Try Excelsior Syrah, a dark, smoky, crowd-pleasing red wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grow quite successfully in this region. Many South African wines made from these classic Bordeaux varieties exhibit a uniquely smoky, cocoa-tinged character that works well with the rich, plummy fruit of ripe Merlot grapes. We love Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon: it is woodsy, well-mineraled, and full of dark fruit.
Chardonnay is another South African success story. In fact, this ubiquitous and beloved grape helped fuel the South African wine renaissance. Chardonnay’s gigantic popularity in the 1980s coincided with South Africa’s wine revolution, and plantings soared. For a reminder of why everybody fell so hard for this grape, try Cape Indaba Chardonnay: it’s citrusy, fresh, and it goes with just about anything.
Top Deals From Today’s Sale:
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz – 2011
Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz was born out of the realization that there are not a lot of options available to consumers seeking quality sweet red wine. This fresh, fruity, semi-sweet Shiraz aims to fill that void.
Mooiplaas Estate “Langtafel” White – 2011
This airy, herbal blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Chenin Blanc opens up easily. Beautiful tropical notes blend effortlessly on this light white, while the acidity remains clean and fresh. This is a beautifully balanced wine, perfect with a platter of shrimp and crab, or a salad with grapefruit and poached chicken. The Mooiplaas Estate is part nature preserve, part working farm. The Roos family’s vines are situated at a moderately high altitude, overlooking the Cape Peninsula.
Oracle Sauvignon Blanc – 2012
Lately we’re finding that South African wine is nearly unbeatable when you’re looking for value and top quality at all levels. Drink this crisp white as an apéritif wine to whet your appetite, or enjoy it throughout a seafood dinner. It’s unoaked, refreshing on the palate, and driven by citrus fruit flavors.
Chamonix “Greywacke” Pinotage – 2009
A plump Pinotage with ripe dark currants, plums, and a sprinkling of herbs. This is a full-bodied reinterpretation of the Ripasso method, in which grapes are lightly dried to concentrate their sugars, making a wine that is more lush in texture. A splash of Pinot Noir is added to lighten the acidity, and the combination works very well. A great choice for lamb and gamey meats.
Kanonkop Kadette, Stellenbosch – 2010 (Staff Pick)
A blend of 50% plus Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Matured in 225 litre French Nevers barrels for up to 16 months. This experience starts with a deep crimson color for your eyes… Your nose will notice smoke and game They smell of the Jungle is in here…. But your mouth will be challenged by the mix of flavors laced with savory smokiness and hints of wild game or beef jerky…. This is one of those wines that seems like a mix of black and red berries… Drink at 60 degrees Fahrenheit But not with 60 friends…. Maybe six…. This is for when you think all wines taste the same…. – JR