Thursday, February 3, 2011

Boston Wine Expo: Embrace South Africa

I am back with more reviews of some of my favorite wines of the Boston Wine Expo.  This year, I spent some time tasting through numerous South African wines, which have long pleased my palate, including the much maligned Pinotage grape.  South Africa is now producing plenty of delicious wines, especially those made from Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and Pinotage.  It is a region I want to visit one day soon, to learn more about it as well as to experience its beauty and wonders.  For now, I must be satisfied with drinking their fine wines.  So here are my favorites of those I tasted.

One of the most unusual wines I tasted, which I also enjoyed immensely, was the 2009 Beyerskloof Chenin Blanc/Pinotage (about $10).  It is a blend of 75% Chenin and 25% Pinotage, and this is the first time I have ever seen such a blend.  Together, they make a compelling wine, with lots of tropical fruit, including pineapple, as well as strawberry flavors.  There were underlying floral notes with hints of herbs, together with nice acidity.  It was very easy drinking, and certainly provided a unique flavor profile for a white wine.  At this price, it is a killer value, though unfortunately it is not yet available in MA though they were seeking a distributor at the Expo.  This wine would sell well and I hope a distributor takes the chance on picking it up.

The 2009 Stellenbosch Hills Polkadraal Pinotage/Merlot is a blend of 70% Pinotage and 30% Merlot, which was aged in French and American oak for about six months.   It presents as dark, spicy and smoky, though still smooth with rich black fruit flavors.  When you taste it, bacon comes immediately to mind.  This is an ideal BBQ or hearty pasta wine and a definite recommendation.

Fairview produces plenty of good wines, including many value wines, and the 2008 La Capra Pinotage (about $10) is one of those values.   Lots of plum, black cherry and blackberry flavors with loads of spiciness.  An easy drinking wine with smooth tannins which would be a good wine for pizza, burgers or BBQ. 

The 2010 Delheim Pinotage Rose is a blend of 94% Pinotage & 6% Muscat de Frontignan and it mesmerized me with its bright red fruit nose.  The taste was bursting with strawberry, bright cherry and watermelon yet it was more of a dry wine than a sweeter California style. Plenty of acidity and a satisfying finish contribute to a delicious wine. I drink Rose all year round though this would be especially delicious once summer arrives.

The 2010 Boland Cellar Cappupinoccinotage is a mouthful of a name with an intriguing concept. There is a Coffee Pinotage style, that emphasizes that flavor but Boland wanted to make a more subtle wine, with nice fruit flavors but still retaining some of the mocha and coffee elements.  I think they succeeded as the spicy and smoky elements predominated and the mocha and coffee flavors were far more subdued, accenting without overwhelming.  Blackfruit flavors permeated the wine and there was also that familiar bacon taste.  A moderately long finished helped to indicate its complexity.  A very interesting choice.

The 2007 Tamboerskloof Syrah (about $25) is produced by the Kleinood Winery ("Kleinood" being an Afrikaans word for "something small and precious").  It is a small winery, with only ten hectares of vineyards. This wine is made from 100% Syrah and seemed a little tight, as if it needed more time in the bottle. But you can tell it is a big wine, a complex blend of dark spice, black fruits and leather.  It has a very lengthy finish, a nice structure, and over delivers for this price point.  I would love to see how this wine develops in a couple years and I expect it will only become better and better. 

Italy in South Africa?  Yes, just check out the 2008 Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal (about $45) which the winery describes as a “super tusker blend.”   This wine is a unique blend of 50% Sangiovese, 22% Pinot Noir, 13% Nebbiolo, 7% Mourvedre, 6% Barbera and 2% Shiraz.  This was a very aromatic wine, with intriguing herbal smells.  On the palate, it had a very unique character, a melange of red fruits, mild spices, herbal notes and hints of earthiness.  Complex, a lengthy finish and well balanced.  A very satisfying wine, this would be best with food and it should age well too.  I really loved its unusual nature and highly recommend it.

The name of this wine, the 2008 Post House Missing Virgin (about $28), has a fascinating story. It refers to a printing error on a Virgin Island stamp where the virgin was omitted.  This virgin was St. Ursula, who lived between the third and fifth centuries A.D., and is thought to have been martyred for her faith with 10,000 virgin companions at Cologne, Germany.  In her honor, Christopher Columbus gave her name to the Virgin Islands. The wine is a blend of Pinotage and Petit Verdot, and is dark and smoky with a strong vein of blueberry flavor. It is not overly tannic and has a long and pleasing finish.  Another winning wine which really appealed to me.

The Non-vintage Star Tree Brut Sparkling Chenin Blanc (about $10) is a dry and fruity sparkler with a smooth, pleasant taste.  It is a simple but delicious wine and a very good choice at this price point.

What South African wines have you enjoyed lately?


Romantic Dinner said...

south Africa wine world famous.
this branded wine and good quality. this post are very nice and good information shared thanks

Paul Kalemkiarian said...

Sounds like a good time, and the Chenin Blanc/Pinotage blend that you mention sounds intriguing.

After years of having existed in an almost forced solitary confinement, South Africa has finally begun to emerge from the shadow of the apartheid, and it certainly has some exceptional offerings to bring to the international wine stage. While white varieties, most notably, Chenin Blanc, have traditionally dominated the South African wine market, these are quickly giving way to increased plantings of international varieties including Cabernet, Shiraz, as well as Cape Town's own variety, the either loved or loathed Pinotage.

I have recently been impressed by both Ondine and Westerland labels, and especially enjoyed Westerland’s 2008 Celebration vintage (Cabernet Sauvignon/Cinsault). While having a classic South African nose (tar), the smoky Cinsault character is cut by the blend with the Cabernet, making the wine more approachable. The Pinotage, 2010. Boland Cellars from Paarl, and the Chardonnay, 2010. Riebeek from Swartland are also exceptional.

Great post.

Paul Kalemkiarian
President, Wine of the Month Club

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks very much Paul for your comments, and you have provided me the names of a few South African wines to seek out.

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks very much Paul for your comments, and you have provided me the names of a few South African wines to seek out.

Jen@Cybercellar said...

Hi Richard
Thanks for your post. The Hannibal has always been a personal favourite:-) South Africa really does have some interesting and fabulous wines to offer, that's why we are launching a range of unique SA wines in the USA very soon. We will keep you posted...


Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Jen, I look forward to the news.

Alana Gentry said...

Richard, I'm involved in launching a new Pinotage import. You are now on my list for review! I'll be in touch. Cheers!

Richard Auffrey said...

Thanks Alana, I do love Pinotage.