Writing in the middle of the World Cup in South Africa it is just as well this is about the country’s wine and not about football. Along with most of the other African teams, the home team could not get out of the group stage of the competition, though they did win their final game against France. Meanwhile England played poorly and departed in the most spectacular fashion. By contrast, South African wine has much of which it can be proud.
The history of wine production in South Africa is long and varied. Initially famous 300 years ago for the sweet white Constantia, the trade came to be dominated by the production of huge quantities of cheap wine destined for the distillation plant. But in recent decades a crucial section of the business has been concentrated on quality. And as this Andover Wine Friends tasting showed, that quality is available in everyday wines as well as in more expensive bottles. These wines were sourced from a Wine Society offer.
Bon Cap Viognier 2009 (£11.50): nice pale gold colour, rather neutral on the nose, not obviously fruity but full of flavour including a slightly salty note on the palate, decent silky texture.
Villiera Chenin Blanc 2009 (£6.75): an inexpensive example of South African’s star white grape variety. An excellent complex nose, floral and fruity the apples and especially pears register. An excellent wine at this price level.
Sequillo White 2008 (60% Chenin Blanc, 20% Grenache Blanc, 10% Viognier, 10% Roussane; £15.50) This classy white blends Chenin with some white Rhône varieties to produce a mid gold in colour, a fine expressive nose (honey, nuts, a bit of oak), lovely silky texture combined with real structure, fine and long. Outstanding.
In the Rosé department, we tasted Circumstance Cape Coral Mourvèdre 2009 (£8). This was many people’s favourite wine – a lovely pale salmon pink, nice perfumed nose, substantial and rounded in the mouth, slightly strawberry fruit, moderate to low acidity.
The reds were somewhat atypical as they were heavily weighted to top quality. While they were all more than drinkable, the last three would have a lot of development in them.
Douglas Green Shiraz Viognier 2008 (£5) – fully ripe rich fruit (cherries and plums), good balancing refreshment, easy drinking but with real depth of flavour and interest. You can’t really ask more for the price, assuming of course that you like the style.
Impressive levels of concentration here!
Kanonkop Pinotage 2007 (£17): a big price jump here in a top example of South African’s own grape variety, Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Deep purply red in colour, complex berry nose, brilliant sweet fruit on the nose and depth of flavour in the mouth, great acidity for keeping and development in the bottle, some good bitter notes. Excellent.
Boekenhoutskloof Chocolate Block 2008 (mainly Syrah with Grenache, Cabernet, Cinsault and Viognier; £18) Brilliant strawberry/raspberry/oak nose, the fruit-oak balance just right on the palate as well, full on and substantial in style, rich texture, excellent.
Meerlust Estate Rubicon 2005 (69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc) Super rich Cabernet nose, very ripe and full of blackcurrant and red fruit, mint, very substantial but balanced.
Congratulations to South Africa. The football team might need a bit more work, though perhaps not as much as England’s, but the wine already has star quality.