Food & Drink

South African wines worth a visit

This week I’ll venture outside of the Northwest to feature wines from South Africa.

Wines from that part of the world have come into their own the past decade or two, but the roots of winemaking there trace back to the 17th century. European settlers, particularly the Dutch and French, brought the initial vines to the area and began making wines, with the first recorded South African vintage in 1659.

Today you’ll find such varietals as riesling, chardonnay, chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, malbec, and merlot – to name a few – commonplace among South Africa vineyards. Also notable is pinotage, a pinot noir-esque grape that is the only variety authentic to the country.

The combination of winemaking history and diverse grapes has made South Africa a formidable player in the world wine market. Here are some current releases I think you’ll enjoy:

MAN Family Wines 2014 Chenin Blanc (about $11) – Sourced from South Africa’s Paarl District, the vineyards for this wine are planted at higher altitudes in mostly shale soils. Gentle tropical fruit aromas lead to a zingy streak of ruby red grapefruit on the palate. There’s also plenty of steely minerality on a linen-crisp finish that allows it to pair with oysters, creamy pasta salad, and roast poultry. Outstanding!

Seven Sisters Non-Vintage Odelia Sweet White Wine (about $12) – If you have an aversion to sweeter wines, don’t let the label deter you from giving this a try. A nice splash of acidity balances out the wine’s sweetness, making it instantly enjoyable when served well-chilled. Made from the bukettraube (pronounced bu-ke-traw-bah) grape, it’s packed with golden delicious apple flavors and a touch of tangerine on the extreme finish.

Indaba Wines 2014 Mosaic (about $12) – This cabernet sauvignon-based Bordeaux blend of five red varietals is released early in a Beaujolais style and might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Still, it’s an interesting and rather unique wine, with big blackberry fruit, clove and spice undertones, and somewhat bright and tangy finishing notes.

De Wetshof Estate Limestone Hill 2014 Chardonnay (about $20) – This chardonnay is grown in the higher elevations of South Africa’s Robertson District; an area known for its lime-rich soils. Baked apple flavors are rounded with a nice touch of toasted almond and then capped with lemon-citrus accents on a slightly earthy finish.

Reyneke Wines 2012 Capstone (about $25) – This superb blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc is made from biodynamically farmed grapes without the use of yeasts, enzymes or added acidity. Gorgeous aromas of spiced berries fill the glass, with juicy black currant and berry flavors, hints of white pepper, and a dense, meaty/gamey texture that demands a pairing with anything beef.

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