South African Wine is So Fine

Recently WineTastic hosted another great tasting featuring wine from South Africa. WineTastic is owned by Terry Burney and offers a great variety of wine tastings and classes, as well as an awesome selection of wines for purchase by the bottle, glass or taste. As I have written in the past, WineTastic is one of our favorite wine drinking venues in Dallas. For more information on WineTastic see my post on June 30, 2014.

cape classics logoThe South African wine tasting was hosted by Cape Classics, a premier importer of French and South African wines to the United States. Cape Classics was established by Andre Shearer in 1992, with a mission of bringing the crème de la crème of South Africa’s then-fledgling boutique wine industry to the American market. In 2013, Cape Classics expanded its portfolio to include wines from France, and now proudly represents 21 of the finest estates and labels from the regions. Cape Classics’ mission is to provide a unique range of selections that are exciting and delicious and that offer outstanding value. In addition to receiving the “Best Wine Importer” accolade in Food & Wine magazine’s Wine Awards, Cape Classics was the focus of a ‘Spotlight On’ feature in Robert Parker Jr.’s The Wine Advocate, and has been hailed a “Name You Can Trust”/”Reliable Importer” in Food & Wine’s annual Wine Guide for ten consecutive years. The evening included six lovely South African wines. Since this was a tasting I did not pair the wine with food.

Indaba Chenin BlancIndaba 2013 Chenin Blanc: This lightly golden wine met the nose with an inviting bouquet of fresh summer fruit. On the palate it burst forth with tropical fruit, citrus of lemons and oranges, Asian pears and white peaches. This 100% Chenin Blanc wine was light, crisp and refreshing; I thoroughly enjoyed it. Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in South Africa. This was my first time to sip Chenin Blanc; if you enjoy a tropical fruit Sauvignon Blanc you will like this wine! SRP $14; alcohol 13.5%. Grapes were sourced from select vineyard sites characterized by soils of Table Mountain sandstone, decomposed Dolomite granite and shale. The look and spirit of Indaba reflects both South Africa’s position as a leader in sustainable production and the handcrafted approach found in the country’s art world. A commitment to social responsibility has always been a key part of the Indaba philosophy. A portion of the proceeds from the brand’s global sales funds the Indaba scholarship, awarded to financially needy and academically deserving students.

Bartinney ChardonnayBartinney 2011 Chardonnay: This straw colored Chardonnay met the nose with an array of stone fruit and citrus. On the palate it followed up with flavors of lemon, nectarines, apricot and a slight honeysuckle on the back of the tongue with a hint of toasted almonds and minerality. The wine offered a nice acidity, a comfortable dryness and a hint of terroir. This was a pleasing Chardonnay that offered less butter and more fruit and minerals on the palate. The grapes in this 100% Chardonnay were handpicked in early to mid-February. The bunches were de-stemmed and crushed. The free run juice was inoculated with yeast cultures and run to French oak barriques (1/3 new and the balance second and third fill) for fermentation and aging. The wine was matured in barrel for 10 months and spent an additional six months in stainless steel tanks before bottling. SRP $29; alcohol 13.5%. Situated on the high slopes of Helshoogte Pass (“hell’s heights”), Bartinney overlooks the picturesque Banghoek Valley in Stellenbosch. The estate was established in 1920 by a retired director of Harrod’s, the famed London department store, who described it as “the most beautiful valley on Earth.”

DMZ Cabernet RoseDMZ 2013 Cabernet Rosé: This beautiful salmon colored wine met the nose in a bouquet of flowers, fresh berries and melon and spice. On the palate its dryness met the palate with flavors of strawberries, watermelon, roses, camellias and spice. It acidity was high, which I like, and would pair well with summer grilling. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was a bigger rosé than I am accustomed to drinking. Although this was not my favorite rosé, it was highly preferred by many palates at the tasting and I would drink it again. SRP $15; alcohol 13.2%. The fruit for DMZ Cabernet Rosé was selected from premium trellised vineyards located in cooler areas of the Western Cape characterized by well-drained soils of weathered granite. The juice was left in contact with the skins for about three hours, until a soft pink hue was attained. The must was settled overnight, then cool fermented in tank to maintain a fresh fruit profile. It was lightly fined and filtered before bottling. DeMorgenzon is Dutch for “the morning sun,” a fitting name for this boutique property high on the Stellenboschkloof, which is the first to be touched by the rising sun’s rays. DeMorgenzon embraced the philosophy that a biodiverse and ecologically sensitive environment produces infinitely better grapes.

Indaba Mosaic Red BlendIndaba 2012 Mosaic Red Blend: This light garnet beautiful red blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 4% Malbec and 1% Petite Verdot met the nose with an array for dark berries and spice. On the palate flavors of dark cherry, blackberry, dark chocolate, leather and a hint of menthol coated the mouth in the medium acidic, medium dry wine. Those flavors may sound heavy but it was actually a lighter body red wine that is perfect for warm weather. I really enjoyed this wine! Grapes were sourced from select vineyard sites with soil composed of decomposed granite, clay and sandstone soils. SRP $14; alcohol 14%.  The grapes were handpicked at peak ripeness, then de-stemmed, crushed and left to cold soak for 2-3 days. The individual components were then fermented on the skins in stainless steel tanks until dry, with gentle pumpovers performed twice daily. The wine was then pressed and returned to tank for malolactic fermentation and aging. 10% of the blend came from the 2011 vintage and spent 18 months in 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels. This small component adds significant character and complexity to the final wine.

Thelema Mountain RedThelema Mountain 2010 Red Blend: This soft garnet blend of 29% Shiraz, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Grenache, 11% Petite Verdot, 11% Merlot and 3% Cab Franc was a wonderful offering of dark fruit, earthiness and spice to the nose. On the palate the flavors continued with blackberries, cherries, plums, leather, baking spices and pepper. Although this wine was slightly heavier than the Indaba Red Blend, it would still be excellent in the summer as well as fall and winter. It was a delicious jammy red that I thoroughly enjoyed! The grapes were de-stemmed, hand sorted and crushed, and the must was pumped into stainless steel tanks for natural fermentation, using only indigenous yeasts. Periodic pumpovers were performed for the first eight days of fermentation. The wine was left on its skins for three days of post-fermentation maceration before pressing. It was then racked to 225 liter French oak barrels (second, third and fourth fill) for malolactic fermentation and aging of 18 months. SRP $19; 14.5% alcohol. Thelema takes its name from a 16th century French tale by Rabelais. According to the tale, a unique religious order was established in the land of Thelema, near the Loire River. The Abbey of Thelema was governed by one simple law: “Do what thou wilt.” This rule was not an open invitation to chaos, but a call for true self-examination.

Rudi Schultz SyrahRudi Schultz 2010 Syrah: This deep garnet Syrah allured the nose with aromas of dark fruit, spice and earthiness. On the palate the Rhone style Syrah danced on the tongue with flavors of black berries, black currants, black cherries, followed by baking spice, dark chocolate, leather and leafy tobacco. Although it lead with fruit this was not a jammy red; rather, it was a fresh, lovely Syrah that did not overpower the palate. The medium body and well balanced acidity would make it a great grilling wine for summer. I thoroughly enjoyed my first South African Syrah! Grapes were sourced from a single vineyard in the Bottelary Hills ward of Stellenbosch, located 22 km from the ocean at an elevation of 106 meters above sea level. The rows were planted northeast to southwest. The soil is a granite based “duplex” form which consists of coarse sand on gravel with a small percentage of wet clay. The grapes were de-stemmed, hand sorted, crushed and pumped into stainless steel tanks, with 15% of the stems being added back to the must. Fermentation occurred naturally over a period of 6 days, with submerged cap. The wine was left on the skins for an additional five days before pressing. It was then racked to barrel for malolactic fermentation. The wine was aged for 18 months in 225 liter French oak barrels (15% new, balance second and third fill). SRP $32; alcohol 14%. It was his first taste of top Rhône bottlings that inspired Rudi Schultz, winemaker at the heralded Thelema Mountain Vineyards, to pursue a winemaking career. So when he decided to create an eponymous label, Syrah was the natural varietal of choice.  Hailed as a “small production gem” and a “delicious fruit-driven Syrah” that “maintain[s] a sense of freshness and minerality,” the wine has earned a 90+ Wine Spectator rave in every vintage since its 2002 debut.

My first introduction to South African wine was quite a treat. Each of the six wines I tasted was excellent. I honestly recommend each one of these wines. Clearly Cape Classics imports wines of exceptional quality and variety.  Additionally, the Cape Classic representative Jared Guzick was friendly, knowledgeable and attentive to all at the tasting. Overall it was a great experience.  I have included not only Cape Classic’s link but also links to each of the wineries. The price points make each of these wines an exceptional value. I encourage you to view all the web sites and learn more about South African wine.

My song selection: The song I have chosen to pair with this awesome night of South African wine tasting is Trip through Your Wire by U2. Joshua Tree is one of the best albums ever recorded! This song has a lot to offer: Bono’s sultry voice, The Edge’s signature guitar, sexy harmonica rifts, and thoughtful lyrics. Whenever I listen to this song I turn it up loud! It is hard to pair one song with six uniquely different yet all outstanding wines; however, this song sums up a great night of South African wine tasting because like this great song, each wine had a lot to offer. So press play on the screen below, turn it up and dream of (or sip!) great South African wine.

Get your own bottles of all six of these excellent South African wines and let me know what songs you would pair with each.  Cheers!


2 responses to “South African Wine is So Fine”

    • I have to tell you I am so impressed with these wines. These are the only SA wines I have tried so I do not know if Cape Classics imports the cream of the crop or if all SA wines are this good. My journey continues. Please let me know what you find too. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: