Reading the wine press last week, you’d think the 2010 World Cup was organized for the purpose of promoting South African wine. Media outlets everywhere are letting the South African wineries toot their own vuvuselas, and deservedly so. South African wineries are now producing high quality wine on a large scale, and most importantly, their bottles are distributed widely, allowing the world to drink along with the games.
To celebrate South African wines, Dana Lee Harris organized a wonderful tasting last week at Earl’s in Yaletown, in the upstairs “V” lounge.
One aromatic white South Africa is famous for is chenin blanc. I like the Teddy Hall 2009, with its fresh lime, gooseberry and smooth mouthfeel; as well as the Man Vintners 2008, with its ripe, melon and citrus. Best yet was the Spier 2009, a superbly elegant chenin with a steely edge.
The sauvignon blancs all showed well. The Arabella 2009 is herbal and grassy with mouthwatering, fresh citrus. Boekenhoutskloof’s Porcupine Ridge 2009 was beautifully clean with fresh lemon/lime, and the Robertson 20009 is clean as well, with peppery fruit and a lively mouthfeel.
Shiraz / Syrah is big in South Africa as the vines grow prolifically, like in Australia. The Graceland 2005 Shiraz was outstanding. Juicy, forward purple fruit, great balance, soft in the mouth; I was impressed. (Graceland Cabernet 2006 is excellent too, with candied black fruit and cigar box notes.) Kumkani 2007 Shiraz has a big nose and body, burgeoning with baked plum, coffee and toffee. The Porcupine Ridge 2009 Syrah has ripe plum, black berries, smoke as well as a bit of graphite. And Man Vintners Syrah is always a terrific value for its price. All of these wines are meaty and substantial and barbeque friendly.
What I really go for is pinotage, the mis-underappreciated made-for-South Africa cross between pinot noir and cinsault. It’s a controversial variety, either loved or hated by the wine critics, and seems to be falling out of production, as I discovered the other day.
I only found one single varietal pinotage; more were blends that didn’t impress. My favorite pinotage was the Barista 2009 by Robertson, with its smoky black fruit, chocolate and long, espresso finish. Great depth and complexity. I liked the Sebeka 2009 Cabernet Pinotage for its deliciously candied fruit and pleasant acidity, perfect when chewing on a steak.
So if you can’t be in South Africa for the soccer, at least you can taste their terroir in a bottle.
I’ll be in Walla Walla, Washington next week for the 3rd Annual Wine Bloggers Conference. Please stay tuned as I blog daily about Washington wineries and the things I taste in the speed tasting events. Please follow me on Twitter using #WBC2010.
I’m so ready to be Wowed by Wines o’ Washington.