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Congratulations, South Africa

No sooner does South Africa’s wine industry celebrate its 350th birthday, than we are presented with a superb opportunity to sample the fruits of its labour – excuse the pun – as a leading New World wine producer.

I have to confess, I had often been sceptical of South African wines, due in part to reading out-dated and overly critical studies into its soils and the people that cultivated them.

While I was at Decanter magazine back in November, I was fortunate enough to come across a wonderfully uplifting article written by the editor, Guy Woodward, in praise of South African wines and the people who make them.

History has not been kind to the South African wine industry.

Vineyards plagued with crippling disease, experimental out-of-place varietals that have failed to adapt to the unique terroir, and a reputation for ‘burnt rubber’ have led to stigmas which it has fought hard to shake off.

Woodward’s article really made me sit up and re-address my absurdly antiquated view of South African wine, and I’m mightily glad it did.

Lining Majestic Darlington’s tasting counter this week is a stellar line-up of South African wines, demonstrating such levels of quality across the board that I’m hard-pressed to recall the last time such a consistent range was on offer at the same time.

Like Camenère in Chile and Malbec in Argentina, Chenin Blanc has at last found its home, a long way from its family in the Loire Valley.

Not just Chenin Blanc, but Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Grenache are all flourishing thanks to the ever-increasing international apprenticeships being undertaken by young South African winemakers. Long time winemakers-in-waiting, now the patient pupil is becoming the master.

Step forward South Africa. You have come of age.

My Wine of the Week

//www.majestic.co.uk/Assets/Majestic/Client/products/2/0/1/20165_t.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.‘Bernard Series’ Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Bellingham 2007£9.99 or £7.49 Buy any South African wines save 25%

It’s not often that I’m stunned by a wine. Words cannot describe the intermittent shock and pleasure my palate endured when I tried this for the first time last week.

No wet-wool, no soapy flowers. Definitely no burnt rubber. Just pure butter, toasted, nutty and sensual.

This could be fine old white burgundy, and easily command a similar price.

Sometimes good things come from nowhere. This one comes from South Africa.