Whine Free Wine Zone

26 12 2009

Rijk's 2004 Private Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon

No whining here. Part of the excitement about coming over to South Africa was to explore this wine region. Thus far it has been a pleasure. We previously discussed the local small production champagne, Waterford. We’ll now update you with a few more (and more to come as the visit continues). I quite recommend trying any of these if you can find them, or if your local wine purveyor can order you some of these selections. All these were purchased from $10-$20 (US). As we mentioned in an earlier post, South African wine was under the control of a monopoly until about 1994. Since that the monopoly breakup at that time, the industry has flourished and become quite diverse. Previously, South African (SA) wine was often limited to pinotage (not a form of pinot noir). Today, there are tremendous varieties and blends to choose from the many different regions in SA. Here’s a list of some of the major wine  regions ( the information is taken from http://www.wineanorak.com/saregions.htm):

Historical region that’s tucked away in the smart southern suburbs of Cape Town (this is where the first vineyards were planted in South Africa), now undergoing a bit of a revival. As well as being a beautiful region, the vineyards are ideally sited on the slopes of Constantia Mountain, where they are cooled by the sea breezes. Just five estates here, all good: Klein Constantia, Groot Constantia, Buitervenwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg.

Newish cool-climate region east of Stellenbosch, which is still predominantly a fruit-growing area. Because of the altitude, it’s usually a good few degrees cooler than the main wineland regions. Leading producer is Paul Cluver, but some of the 12 other grape growers apparently have plans to bottle their own wines soon. 

The Franschoek valley is a small but significant region, inland (to the west) of Stellenbosch. Surrounded by the spooky-sounding Drakenstein mountains, the wide variety of soils and relatively high rainfall permits production of a wide variety of wine styles. It’s a hotter region than Stellenbosch, and with its profusion of trendy restaurants it can rightfully claim to be the gourmet capital of the winelands. An easy day trip from Cape Town.

Well known region north-west of Cape Town, and home to several leading producers, including Veenwouden, Nederburg, Fairview, Glen Carlou and Plaisir de Merle. Traditionally a white wine region, but with its Mediterranean climate and terroirs it’s now focusing more on reds. Hotter than Stellenbosch, so the very best wines come from the more elevated vineyards.

Some 120 km east of Cape Town, next door to Worcester, this hot region is rather paradoxically best known for its whites. De Wetshof, Springfield and Graham Beck are among the leading producers here.

Just a short distance east of Cape Town, this is the country’s leading wine area, and is home to many of the country’s leading estates. The town itself is dominated by the University, and despite its relatively large size has quite a relaxed feel. Vineyards fringed by mountains make for some lovely views, and the wine route, which takes tourists through several different trails, is well marked out. There are several different subregions, and the geology here is quite complex. Simplistically, the granite-based soils in the east are especially suited to the production of fine red wines, whereas the sandstone soils in the west are best for whites.

Large region to the north of Cape Town, mostly given over to wheat farming. Rainfall is light, so irrigation is usually needed. The cooperatives dominate.

Walker Bay
This cool-climate wine region, on the Whale Coast to the south of Cape Town, is on the up: just a few producers so far, but Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson are now making classy Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc shows promise.

Hot (thermally, that is) wine region located inland from Cape Town. Production here is dominated by several large cooperatives.

Now a few recommendations:

  • Durbanville Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (http://www.durbanvillehills.co.za/): Durbanville Hills is located just about 20 minutes outside of Capetown, with wine production dating back to 1698. Sauvignon Blanc has emerged as a signature variety within the Durbanville Wine Valley. We had a delightful Sauvignon Blanc that was filled with passionfruit, gooseberry and citrus. There was a slight hint of grassy notes and it was refreshing and delightful. Outstanding with oysters on the half shell (also local and fresh).
  • Buitenverwachtin Buiten Blanc 2008 (http://www.buitenverwachting.co.za/wines.html): An interesting blend of Chennin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. From the Constantia region, this was pale gold in color. It had crisp acidity with pear, grapefruit and honey overtones. It was delicious with fresh oysters on the half shell (theme here) and some freshly grilled prawns.
  • Rijk’s Private Cellar 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (http://www.rijks.co.za/): Finally for those red fans, a  choice from Tulbagh in the coastal region. An outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) with dark rich meaty plum, current and tabac flavors. The tannins are gentle enough to permit drinking now, although it could probably age a few years as well. An outstanding selection with some grilled meat.



2 responses

27 12 2009
Chef E

Our first EVER wine tasting in Dallas with my company was South African, and we do appreciate the good wines coming from there…I also worked with SA women in the retirement home as the head chef, and boy did they teach me a few things about their authentic foods!

Lovin’ your posts my friend!

27 12 2009

Thanks Chef!
The wines are amazing. Tasting new delights everyday and so affordable-these are $20 in the restaurants! Will be postings on wines throughout, in fact a few days in wine country in the next 5-7 days so look fo some cool in vino veritas posts shortly.

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