South African wine doesn’t feature on this page all that often for the simple reason that there is not that much imported here compared to other countries, and a lot of what I have tasted is either not worth writing about, or is too expensive for the quality.
As always, there are lots and lots of exceptions and the best producers make wines that will hold their own against anyone anywhere but as with all quality wines you will need to spend a little more.
South Africa is in fact leading the way in some very fashionable areas including the natural wine movement and organic production.
There are swathes of young (highly trained) winemakers determined to make their mark using dry farming and sustainable viticulture, utilising new varieties and ancient ones.
Viticulturist Rosa Kruger needs mentioning as she is responsible for finding a large number of very old plots whose farmers can now make an actual living by selling their grapes to the young guns.
She recently launched a website ( www.iamold.co.za ) that details all known vines in South Africa older than 35 years — a mammoth task.
She is also introducing new varieties into South Africa such as assyrtiko, mencia and aglianco — all grapes I suspect would thrive there.
In Swartland she found ancient plantings of chenin blanc as you might expect, but also semillon, palomino, cinsault and grenache.
Old vines are now a speciality of excellent producers like Alheit, R&R, Eben Sadie and the Mullineux Family (see below) — the latter two in Swartland around 50km north of Capetown.
Mullineux and Sadie were involved in founding Swartland Independent — a group of like-minded wine-growers with a code to ensure they use only suitable grapes, grown sustainably, and eschew added tannin or acidification and chemical processes.
I mentioned South African specialist Kinnegar Wines here last November and I tasted a few more from their excellent range in Galway recently.
Kinnegar is the pet project of Éilish Cryan who began importing wines from South Africa in 1998, essentially so that she could drink them herself and she funds this in part by selling to Independents and restaurants such as Aniar and Chapter One.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Mocha Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14% abv — €12.95
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls Ballinalough, Karwigs Carrigaline
South Africa seems to specialise in wines that taste of chocolate and coffee (Coffee and Chocolate Pintoage are both available).
This is from a producer called The Funky Wine Company and derives its flavours from American oak and ripe fruit.
Light smooth mocha and black fruit aromas, soft and smooth with lingering hints of spice. Fun and tasty.
Danie de Wet Chardonnay Sur Lie 2015, Robertson, South Africa, 14% abv — €14.95
Stockists: Independents (NOffLA members), Mitchells, Martins
This was a medal winner in the National Off-Licence Association Gold Star Awards earlier this year.
This has no oak but does have some richness from the lees aging where the wine is left on the spent yeast cells for a time.
Aromas of pear and tropical fruits, soft and ripe on the palate with a dry stony finish — try with some grilled chicken or pork.
Boschendal Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2014, South Africa 13.5% abv — €12.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Independents, www.winesoftheworld.ie
South Africa has huge plantings of Chenin Blanc a grape that should be more famous given the quality of the wines of Vouvray and Savennières and some of the best that South Africa can offer (when it is treated seriously).
This is strictly entry level but has good fruit and acidity and a pleasing tangy dry finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Running Duck Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, South Africa 13% abv — €15.99
Stockists: O’Donovans, Mary Pawle Wines; www.marypawlewines.com
Organic, fair trade, vegan friendly, and made without added sulphur this ‘natural’ wine is typical of the new South African wine scene.
Yes the nose betrays the lack of sulphur a little, but you will also find classic blackcurrant Cabernet fruit and a finely balanced purple fruited purity in this supremely drinkable wine.
Mullineux White Blend, Swartland, South Africa 13.5% abv — €29.95
Stockists: Mitchells and Son Dublin, Kinnegar Wines Galway www.kinnegar.com
A blend of Chenin Blanc (76%) with some Clairette and Viognier this is described by the producer as ‘honest’ with natural yeasts, no filtration or added acidity.
Complex rich aromas of peaches and warm straw, tense and ripe-fruit palate with more peaches and clean mineral-tinged finish.
Kershaw Clonal Selection Chardonnay, Elgin, South Africa 13.5% abv — €44.95
Stockists: Mitchells and Son Dublin, Kinnegar Wines Galway
Richard Kershaw has an impeccable pedigree as a former chef and a Master of Wine and makes pristine white Chardonnay in Elgin to rival just about anywhere.
This is one of just over 8,000 bottles made and has a restrained citrus, washed stone aroma with elegant complex pear and melon fruits and a long long finish.
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