Thursday, February 14, 2008

South African Wines: Sizanani & Tumara

It is always a dilemma at the Boston Wine Expo. With nearly 2000 wines available for tasting, what do you select? You certainly cannot try more than a small fraction of all those wines. So you must make some hard decisions and be very choosy. Or end up like some of the people I saw at the Expo, staggering and slurring. That was not my goal.

For me, one of my planned stops was at the South African wine section. I am a big fan of their wines and I love good Pinotage. South African wines are still not as easily found in many wine stores so this would be an opportunity to try some new wines. I can taste California wines almost any time. But it is much more difficult to find a South African wine tasting.

One of my first stops was at the table of 57 Main Street Imports, who import numerous South African wines as well as other countries. In addition, through their Vision 57 programs, they help educational advancement and opportunity in the Western Cape of South Africa. For example, their Adopt-a-School Program gives 5% of the net proceeds of every bottle sold in the U.S. of their South African wines to beneficiary schools in the Cape of Good Hope. As another example, through their Wine for Literacy Program, shipping containers that drop off South African Wines in the U.S. are returned to South Africa containing books and educational materials. All very worthy charitable efforts.

I tasted two wines from their portfolio, a 2006 Sizanani Pinotage and a 2002 Tumara Titan. Both impressed me.

The 2006 Sizanani Pinotage (about $9) is produced through a partnership of Bellevue Wine Estate and over eighty members of its staff from previously disadvantaged population groups. They formed a new company called Stellenbosch Wine and Logistics (Pty) Ltd. with a focus on upliftment and empowerment. The aim is to achieve this focus through the production and trade of quality wines at real value price points, and through the provision of logistical services to the wine industry.

The range of wines they will produce include both red and white wines, single cultivars as well as blends. The focus will be on making wines that can be enjoyed at any occasion. They will be easy to enjoy wines, full of ripe fruit. Their label name, "Sizanani," is a Xhosa word that means "helping each other." Xhosa is one of the eleven official languages in South Africa.

The 2006 Sizanani Pinotage won't be available in stores until about June and when it is available, I would recommend that you buy it. The wine is a dark ruby in color with fresh berries on the nose. There is a lot of spice on the palate mixed with lush dark berry flavors. There are also hints of vanilla in the taste. This is definitely an easy-drinking wine, but with character, and is a Pinotage that should appeal to most, even those who generally don't care for Pinotage. For under $10 this is a very good buy. Drink this with a big, juicy burger!

The 2002 Tumara Titan (about $15-16) is produced by Bellevue Estate in Stellenbosch. Bellevue was founded in 1701 and have the oldest Pinotage vines in South Africa. The label name, "Tumara," derives from the name of the estate's beloved Arabian mare.

This wine is a Bordeaux-style blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignion, 15% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot. It was aged in 300L French Oak barrels (50% new) for about twelve months. The 2002 vintage was a cool and wet summer which resulted in a smaller crip with intense fruit.

I found the wine to have a medium ruby color with a strong nose of blackberry and raspberry. On the palate, the flavors of this wine just flowed over my taste buds. Lots of dark berries, vanilla, subtle spicy notes and a hint of smoke. It was a very smooth wine with a lingering finish. It is a bolder wine than many French Bordeaux but subtler than many California Bordeaux blends. It is said that this wine will continue to mature over 5-10 years. At this price, this wine is an exceptional value. You won't find too many wines of this complexity, character and flavor for under $20. This is another wine I highly recommend.

The Wine Expo started off very well for me as the first couple wines I tried were big hits. I hoped that the rest of the Expo would go as well.


Anonymous said...

Hi Richard,

It's great to see South African wines leaving such a great impression on you. I don't believe our wines, nor our region enjoys a fraction of the international tourism market as we deserve.

Much of that I believe is due to poor marketing and positioning. I hope our project, and (I collective effort of multiple wine estates and their wines) would aid to solve that issue.


Richard Auffrey said...

Hi Henre and welcome to my blog!

Thanks for the link. From a quick scan, it looks to be quite a comprehensive and interesting site. South Africa is definitely a wine region that I wish to visit one day.