South African Beauties


Bafana, brother, here is the good news. Too many of us avoid South African wines, some because they are header_logotoo exotic. Others heard stories of burned rubber as a prevailing aroma. Well, I must admit I was among those and carefully chose not to pick wines from the land of Mandela, Rugby champions and the great five.

That until Andre Morgental, communications manager of Wines of South Africa, guided us through a flight that went from a bubbly all the way to rich Shiraz and Merlots. The contentious issue of burned rubber was brought up and Andre gave us an insight on the matter. In spite of tremendous efforts to pinpoint the nature of this smell that has created a bad reputation for some of their wines, South African researchers have not been able to determine a single compound responsible for it. Furthermore, studies show that in blind tastings, subjects find the smell in wines from all over the world. It may have a strong psychological component and perhaps, once the consumer knows the wine is South Africa, he “finds” the odour. True or not, we had eleven wines and not a trace of the said stench.

Graham Beck, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, sparkling. A lovely wine with a yeasty, biscuity nose, subtle floral aromas and creamy palate, accentuated by fine fizz. Definitely worth a try. $25

MAN Chenin Blanc 2008. Inexpensive white wine, filled with ripe banana and dry pineapple aromas. Granny apple and mineral flavors, good acidity and overall, a very nice everyday white. $12

Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc 2008. Another great value white, lighter than the MAN, with tropical fruit and a nice long finish.

Excelsior Paddock Viognier 2008. This Viognier surely has no low self-esteem issues. Big nose, leesy and tropical, some floral notes and a nutty, lemony medium-bodied palate. $15

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2007. A good rendition of this controversial grape, which seems to be adored in South Africa but does not have the same following overseas. Smoky, medicinal notes on the nose, coffee and honey, juicy palate.

Saxenburg Private Collection Merlot 2005. Gamey aromas and a juicy, fleshy, mineral palate. Soft tannins, rich with good finish.

Stormy Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This one stole the show. Black currant galore, pepperleaf, game and resin on the nose. Sweet, ripe fruit and soft tannin for an excellent value wine. At 13.99, this is a winner.

MAN Shiraz 2007. Deep purple robe with a minty, diesely nose. Palate peppery, medicinal notes and a bit puckering. Not my favorite but for the price -11.99- does quite well.

Boekenhouskloof The Wolftrap Shiraz 2008. Never had coconut on the nose of a Shiraz before. This one has plenty, plus toasty, gamey notes. Rich palate with tchai spice, lots of ripe red fruit and peppery minerality. A dash of Mourvedre and Viognier makes this Shiraz a serious contender in the price range. 14.99

Leopard Frog Vineyards Midnight Masai Shiraz 2002. A juicy, fruit driven, rich broth. Tannins firm and mouth puckering, in a agreeable way. 24.99

Thelema Reserve Merlot. A Mafuta (BIG) Merlot, with plenty of fruit, velvety texture, flavorful and convincing. Great way to close the tasting. 29.99

I would recommend any of the wines described above. Plus visit the Wines of South Africa website, for information on their very interesting food. Mafuta Bafana!

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2 Responses to “South African Beauties”

  1. Faye Says:

    We’re tasting South African wines at our store this week and you’ve reviewed lots of wines we carry. They’re great reviews! We’re going to tag your blog onto our fbtasting promotion for our tasting if that’s ok! We’re located at Denman Place Wines in the West End. Keep up the great work you do here!

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