Celebrate South Africa 2010!

Celebrate South Africa!

With my pipedream of making it to South Africa and the surrounding wine country for World Cup 2010 a distant memory you can imagine how happy I must have been when I found out about the Celebrate South Africa 2010! tasting event. Given that the ability to taste the wine of 50+ producers in one afternoon was almost as good as getting on the plane. Well not really, but you know that lemon/lemonade story. Now being on the west coast South African wines aren’t quite as readily available as I think they might be back east. So while the temptation to try and taste each and every one of these wines loomed large I showed some restraint making the decision to focus (and not wear out my palate) early on. With that in mind I still managed to taste nearly 40 wines. That said rather than bore you all and detail my thoughts on each of these there were six highlights I wanted to share:

  • Being Introduced to Worthwhile Wine: From the slogan “Great Wines. Better Lives” this seems to be an importer who shares many of the same values I do. One of my resolutions for the year was to lower my carbon footprint so every time I grab a bottle from overseas that crosses my mind. So when Tom Lynch, the founder, told me that he purchases carbon offsets for all of his imports I surely paid attention. But the commitment goes well beyond that as every wine they import is sustainably made. And by sustainable they mean protecting the environment and improving the lives of those with whom they interact. The latest addition to their portfolio, Partnership Vineyards is a shining example. Oh by the way, I wouldn’t even be telling you this if the wines weren’t good. Check out their portfolio to learn more or visit their store locator to track down a bottle for yourself!
    2009 Man Vintners Chenin Blanc
  • Terrific White Value Wines: Speaking of the Partnership Vineyards their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is a great place to start, nice and crisp with grapefruit flavors and a snappy lemon tartness. Sure to please on a summer day! My other two favorites were both Chenin Blancs. The 2009 Man Vintners (available at wine.com for $9.99) was crisp and tangy with a mineral backbone and nice nectarine like flavors. The 2009 Painted Wolf “The Den” was crisp with green apple and melon fruit with a little sour lime on the finish. All wines I’m relatively sure you can grab for less than ten bones and each one that I would be quite happy to spend a whole afternoon with.
  • Getting to Know Pinotage: I quickly got the sense that Pinotage is not as big of a part of the South African wine identity as I had imagined. While they were on display, the numbers were no more so than that of Shiraz or the other red varietals that were being poured. That said, I did get a chance to become more acquainted with this grape. Over the course of the day I tasted six different bottles and while none knocked my socks off it was interesting to see the different styles. I am used to what I’ll call the smoky, green, earthy flavor profile but had a few here that were much more fruit driven. To top it off the most memorable of the day was a 2009 Delheim Pinotage Rose.
  • Tasting more of the Boekenhoutskloof Portfolio: For those with a keen memory you may recall that “B” stood for Boekenhoutskloof in my 2009 Year in Review post. There I was enamored by their ’06 Syrah and lamented that I couldn’t try it again three years down the road. As I worked my way towards the table I crossed my fingers that the ’06 might be getting poured today. Alas, it was not but the ’07 was just as memorable showing the same magnificent depth and balance. I also had a chance to taste their Semillon and Chocolate Block, a syrah based kitchen sink kind of blend, which were both compelling (and a bit more affordable) as well.
    2009 Wolftrap Red
  • South African Inspired Red Blends: I had a number of very interesting red blends that like the whites were not only very good but delivered a nice quality to value ratio. Let’s start by sticking with Boekenhoutskloff’s (which I can now spell without looking) second label the 2009 Wolftrap Red (available on wine.com for $9.99), a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Viognier, which had nice bright red fruits and spices. It struck me as a perfect grilling wine. As I already grabbed a few bottles of this one I can let you know if it turns out to be true. Next up would be the 2008 Edgebaston Pepper Pot, a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre and Tannat, which was described as a playful side project for the winemaker and playful it is delivering loads of juicy berry fruit on a spicy, pepper laden backbone. This one is worth seeking out, I’ll let you know if I track it down. Finally, the 2007 Black Pearl Oro, a blend of 56% Shiraz and 44% Cabernet, hailing from the slopes of Paarl Mountain which had a fantastic nose full of dark, brambly berries that merged with earthy, spicy flavors on the palate to deliver a balanced wine with a smooth, lingering finish.
  • Meeting the Mullineux’s: Before leaving I was lucky enough to meet the husband (Chris) and wife (Andrea) winemaking team of Mullineux Family Wines who happened to be in the Bay Area. I was fortunate enough to try their Syrah some time back as part of a Hospice Du Rhone tasting event and welcomed the opportunity to try a broader range of their offerings. They were pouring three wines a Syrah, a white blend and a late harvested Chenin Blanc called the “Strawman” and the whole lot of them were outstanding. The white blend, old vine Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Clairette Blanche, really threw me for a loop. I couldn’t decide if it was rich or light/sweet or tart. It seemed almost chameleon like as it was ever changing and I couldn’t put my thumb on it. I’d like to spend an evening with this one to try and figure it out. Fortunately it looks like I’ll have the chance soon as it appears they are close to lining up an importer. Let me know when you do!

Thanks to the folks at Cape Ardor for putting on the event and having me! And likewise thank you to all your readers who actually managed to make it this far. A question for those of you that have, have you had South African wine? Do you have any favorites to share? I’d love to hear as this is a country I would like to explore further.

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13 thoughts on “Celebrate South Africa 2010!

  1. Nice post. It got me thinking to what I like to drink when I’m watching sports.

    Wine pairs very well with watching soccer on TV. Both can be slow developing, some of the best examples of each aren’t brash and explosive but filled with subtle nuances, and the true appreciation of both can take years to evolve. Just like some good wine is tight when you first open it up, a lot of great soccer matches are tight at first as both teams get a feel for each other before airing it out.

    Wine and soccer are intertwined throughout my memory, as my love affair for both started while I was living in Italy & Europe during my 20s. I have great memories of drinking bottles of simple and tasty reds while watching matches on TV.

    For the record, I think wine goes very well with baseball as well–at least the National League version of the game. Beer and hard A are better suited for the staccato nature of televised American football.

    Anyway, I can’t wait for the World Cup to start. Perhaps I should look into some of the wines you listed to enjoy during the matches!



    • This could be my favorite comment ever. Great story and comparisons! I haven’t been a soccer fan for as long as you but caught the bug during the 2002 World Cup. Your sport pairing notes are spot on, especially for NL baseball! Guessing we have a fair share of early morning games headed our way for the Cup, perhaps mimosas?

  2. Jason,
    Thanks for sharing your South African wine experiences. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t had a chance to try any that I can recall. I too have South Africa on the list of places to visit for a wine tasting adventure. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled and look for some of these. I’ll be sure to use that store locator link, since I’m on the westside with you!


  3. I first became aware of South African wine after a convivial visit to that troubled but naturally blessed country in the 1980s. The whites such as the mineral-laced and tasty sauv blancs are consistently good, and the chenin blancs especially are both consistently good and remarkable bargains.

  4. I got to meet the lovely people at Cape Ardor at the Vintner’s Market and I really liked many of the wines they had with them. Unfortunately I had to choose between this event and the Austrian one which was on my day off. Glad you had a good time!

  5. @Brian I’ll let you know if/when/where I am able to track some of these down. K&L Wines has a few but given you aren’t near the city that isn’t all that accessible. Stay tuned and thanks much for the comment!

    @Under Must have been a different world their in the 80′s. Were you able to visit any wineries then? Guessing they must have been in their infancy… Any favorites in particular to share?

    @Tom Thanks for the kind words Tom. It was great to meet you at the tasting. Congrats on the store launch! I’ll follow up with you offline to see if I can track these down locally first!

    @Angela Funny, I almost headed to the Austrian event but went to this instead. That said I did make a tasting last Monday (notes coming) that included the Blue Danube portfolio with a healthy portion of Austrian offerings. Did you have any favorites? I’ll be sharing mine soon. Would have been great to finally meet at one of these tasting! Hopefully sometime soon…

  6. Just a heads up that World Market (here in Illinois at least) carries the Man Vintners now. They’re going to be on sale here for $7.99. I look forward to trying the Chenin Blanc.

  7. Great post! Long time lurker but felt compelled to comment. I’m heading to SA for the World Cup in just a month and can’t wait to be back in the country (lived there for a bit in 2002). There are so many lovely wines from South Africa, but sadly since moving to CA from NY a few years back my consumption’s gone way down. You’re absolutely right- good value, quality South African wines are tougher to find on the West Coast!

    Every now and again I see some Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc at Whole Foods, and pick it up when I do- it’s crisp and clean, and a better example of South African Chenin Blanc than most of the dreck being sold at much higher price points. I’ve also enjoyed their Faithful Hound red, a Bourdeaux-style blend, though the last year I tried was the ’05 so I can’t vouch for newer vintages.

    I’ll pop back in after our trip and let you know if I find anything good!

  8. @ Jason: Didn’t see your reply post until today.
    Austria Uncorked was amazing and I’ll definitely go back next year.
    Brundlmayer 2008 Heilgenstein Alte Reben Riesling from volcanic soils had a wonderful tropical nose and excellent minerality. Yum!$60 is too rich for my blood though.

    Meinhard Forstreiter 2008 Reserve Tabor Gruner Vetliner (old vines) was delicious & distinctive. ($?)

    Stadlmann 2008 Anninger Zierfandler: Delicate, floral, very good ($?)

    Sektkellerei Gebruder Szigeti NV Gruner Vetliner Sekt: Love those Gruevy bubbles!($?)

    Headliner: Kracher 2008 Cuvee Eiswein (GV,CH)
    Nectarines & Peaches for days. Awesome!!!($?)

  9. Tasting Notes: 6/1/10

    2008 Hamilton-Stevens Russian River Pinot Noir: $8.99: Smoky cherries on the nose, light, quaffable

    2009 BV Coastal Pinot Noir: $7.49
    Sweet cherries, easy drinking

    2009 TJ’s Grower’s Reserve Petite Sirah: $4.99
    Light, fairly smooth with nice friut and a little floral on the nose. Crew Favorite

    2008 BLOCKS Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc: 5.99
    Tropical nose, nice, light, slightly bright,
    definitely drinkable

    2007 TJ’s Reserve Rutherford Meritage: $9.99
    Big & smoky blend with nice friut:85% Cabernet Franc & 15% North Coast Merlot. Pairs great with Mahon cheese.

    2009 VINTJS Mendocino County Sauvignon Blanc: $5.99: Way too sour for me. Buy the Napa Valley or the BLOCKS instead.

  10. @WordsAndSteel As you can see I was so jealous it took me some time to get over it and respond to you. Have an awesome time! Should be epic… Look forward to hearing about it. In the meantime I’ll keep an eye out for the Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc.

    @Angela Just checked my notes from my tasting and didn’t get to try any of your faves. Did you try and track any of them down? Have the Hamilton & Stevens at home, maybe I’ll open it tonight. Also saw your tip on the Meritage elsewhere and that is on the top of shopping list!

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