When I think about South African wine, I reminisce over my time at last years, Imbibe, Sommelier Wine Awards (SWA).
This is an on-trade event (for hospitality), rounding up, Masters of Wine, Wine Directors, Sommeliers and industry professionals into one space.
The concept is simple and fantastic, to find the ultimate wine list from the wines submitted to the competition. All wines are judged blind, bottles wrapped up in plastic bags; stickers with elaborate codes- prices are all we get to see.
Wines are split into stylistic categories- Pinot Noir from New Zealand for example, or North Western Italian reds. It’s our (tough) job to sift through everything & put some through for medals or commendations, and for the unfortunate ones; elimination.
It truly was an honor to be a part of. In the name of discovery I stumbled across some countries that are really making some noise through the quality of their wines.
So, South Africa; these guys are getting it right!
During my second day of tasting I was treated to no less than ten excellent Sauvignon Blanc’s from various South African regions.
The day before was no different, luckily I was able to judge and tuck into a flight of Chardonnay oozing with winemaker personality, from dry, clean-cut styles, to big oaky butter bombs and everything in between!
Lots of nods of appreciation around a fairly silent tasting table. All that broke the silence was the appropriate drink reflex sound one makes after tasting something delicious- or the obligatory supping of air as one mouthwashes the wine, coating the palate.
To me what was so impressive, was that there is no specific style coming out of each flight. Sauvignon Blanc showed versatility & dare I say it- minerality (whatever that means: just going with the consensus of the table).
Chardonnay dominant blends with not so familiar blending protagonists; maybe Viognier, Marsanne or even Riesling… joyous!
I can think of one or two wine regions around that really latch onto a specific style and recipe and seem to imprint this culture it in most of the winemakers in the vicinity. To an extent this is understandable, there are certain market demands, and the wine industry has to meet them. A sense of place is also super important.
However the South African’s seem open to doing some things a little different, even radical. Oenologists are giving themselves the freedom to create whatever suits them best- exceptional expressions of terroir on show.
Big thumbs up from all of us at M.
Remember that outside of Europe, South Africa has been producing wine longer than any of the other major New World region. This is further testament to the creativity of the industry.
They haven’t fallen into a rooted tradition of ‘monostyle’; constant changes are good, and earning plenty of recognition.
Even Pinotage that smells like burnt rubber most of the time is becoming more elegant. It could be a healthy dose of Syrah to mitigate the tar, or cooler fermentations lending to fruit driven wines instead of scorched earth. Regardless, the applications, as a result of the aforementioned rebellion are exciting, whatever grapes are being used!
Here at the M Wine Store we have a great selection of South African wine. Of course we have what S.A. does (or used to do) ‘best’, Chenin Blanc, and in a number of styles.
We can tick Chenin boxes for those of you looking for a casual after work glass of refreshment.
We can tick Chenin boxes for the wine buffs looking for that little bit extra in quality. But the best enjoyment is to be had by those who want to tick the box of trying something different.
Come into M Wine Store, upstairs in our WineEmotion machines we have a great choice of delicious whites that certainly ticked the right boxes for us:
Come in to see all of the South African wine we have on sale, please don’t forget to drop an email to the firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need advice.
ATARAXIA 2016, SAUVIGNON BLANC, HEMEL-EN-AARDE
WAS £21.45 NOW £17.55
From the stunning Hemel-en-Aarde region. This is a wine that screams terroir. You can literally taste the chalky soil from the vineyard. Minimal intervention winemaking allows Kevin Grant (formerly of Hamilton-Russell) to produce a charming wine with classic Savvy green notes with a new world exoticness! Acidity is not as high as one would expect from a Sauvignon. But its lively & crunchy nonetheless. There is an underlying persistence of stony fruit and ‘zee minerality’ that will put a smile on anyones face.
KEN FORRESTER, 2011, FMC CHENIN BLANC, STELLENBOSCH, SOUTH AFRICA
WAS £42.90 NOW £35.10
From the ever experimental, controversial Ken Forrester. The FMC is a benchmark for new world Chenin Blanc. It doesn’t get much better than this. The nose is rich with intense, candied lemon, cinnamon, ginger and other baking spices. Part of the fruit that goes into the final blend of this is Botrytised, adding orange marmalade to the mix! The palate is soft yet intense, and gets better after its been open for an hour or two. Powerful notes of honey, blossom dance around the palate with lively acidty- all of this is wrapped up in a warming, noble fat! A wine to try before you die!
RESTLESS RIVER, 2013, CABERNET SAUVIGNON, HEMEL-EN-AARDE
WAS £51.70 NOW £42.30
Back to the Hemel-en-Aarde now for a varietal not so synonymous with the area. This is a barrel fermented, natural approach to winemaking that rocks! Needs a little time to open up but when it does the classic cassis & leaf are supported by a balsamic salinity. A real gem from a region better known for its cool climate, Burgundian varietal style wines.
MULDERBOSCH, 2014 FAITHFUL HOUND, RED BLEND, STELLENBOSCH
WAS £19.80 NOW £16.20
A claret style wine with all five Bordelaise culprits. Brilliantly crafted. Typical South African tar, spice & stewed black fruit. This is a wine of layers of complexity with dusty tannins & a bitter, yet ripe, savoury finish.