South African Treasures

Amy HetheringtonTraditionally South African red wines have had a reputation for being coarse in texture with rustic flavours on the palate and nose. The Afrikaans word dikvoet used to describe these wines meant literally “thick foot”. I, however, am actually a South African wine supporter and wouldn’t turn down a nice chilled bottle of Thelema Chardonnay on a summer’s day or a good bottle of Spier Shiraz with a BBQ.

South Africa is known for its Mediterranean climate and the cooling Benguela Ocean current which are well suited to the production of wine. However irrigation is needed in some regions.

The main red grape of South Africa is Pinotage, a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault which results in red berry fruit character wines, and like marmite, you either love it or you hate it! I have to say I am more towards the latter. Fortunately for me, winemakers are branching out to Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah for red wine grape varieties. The winemakers chose noble grape varieties and created Bordeaux style blends with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Spier Shiraz 2008 from the Coastal Region is a great Shiraz starter for those who are a bit unsure and has rich spiced tones that are reminiscent of a bonfire with sizzling sausages on, or a coal BBQ, meaning that this wine is perfect for both the summer and winter months! The under tones come from the aging process which consists of 70% of the wine matured in French- and American oak barrels for 6-8 months. The wine makers are of the opinion that this wine should be enjoyed now or within 4 years of harvest, and I would agree wholeheartedly.

Chenin Blanc is the favoured white grape variety and is known locally as Steen. This grape has declined over the years and the winemakers have realised the versatility of the variety, even including barrel fermentation and ageing. Sauvignon Blanc is also grown with great success and can be used to go down two roads, light, crisp and aromatic such as Elgin Vinters or take on a more vegetal flavour, such as Vergelegen. Chardonnay has shown potential in South Africa and one of my favourite Chardonnays comes into this category, Thelema Chardonnay 2005 from the Stellenbosch region. It has a great buttery toasty flavour and is a great way for those who like a full on Chardonnay! These buttery, toasty notes are from the 33% new French oak used in for 11 months. The 2005 vintage is peaking this year so grab it while you can!

There is also a new wine which is part of our New World Parcel which should not be overlooked, Noon Gun. This is a crafted dry white blend of Chenin Blanc 45%, Viognier 35% and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. This is a very approachable and drinkable wine that has honeydew melon, orange peel and cinnamon on the nose and a palate which incorporates sweet fruit which leads into a zesty crisp lingering finish. This is a perfect summer BBQ wine and is a steal at £3.79! Grab a case now or add a few bottles to your mixed case while you can, we only have limited stocks and it would be a shame to miss out on this real treat!

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