To be honest I know little about South African Wines and have not had the opportunity to partake in too many. What I do know is that they are relatively cheap and new to the business and art of wine making. Apparently lots of interesting flavors are coming from this area and their wines are slowly gaining popularity. So it was great to find that the tasting we went to this week featured this region. We tasted 6 wines from 4 different makers and got a brief introduction to Pinotage, a grape unique to South Africa. Here is a good article on South African Chenin Blanc from the NY times, WINES OF THE TIMES; South Africa’s Trove of an Elusive Grape
PS: We’ve actually held a South African tastings before – our second ever Dead Grapes Society meeting over a year ago now actually. I’ve included some information on that tasting my own journal over here, check it out: Wines of South Africa.
Niel Joubert Chenin Blanc 2003 (Paarl Valley, South Africa) $8 – Not Bad
The cheapest wine in the lot, I was pretty happy to find that this stuff tastes pretty good. Described by the wine seller as a “Lincoln Park, patio sipping wine,” this chenin blanc is simply tasty, but not watery and insipid. I have a cold so not exactly sure what I was smelling, I think it was floral and fruity with hints of citrus. On tasting, it was sweet, refreshing, clean, and light. It’s not amazingly complex, but its definitely worth having on hand, making it a higher end “not bad.”
Sniff- floral, fruity
Sip- refreshing light, fruity, citrus, simple, sweet
Eat- seafood, fruit, grilled meat
I’d agree with the “Not bad” rating. It is a pleasant wine to drink on a breezy evening lounging on one’s deck. I’m looking forward to doing that already! Certainly very crisp and refreshing.
Niel Joubert Chardonnay 2005 (Paarl Valley, South Africa) $9- Not Bad
I am not sure if this Chardonnay answers the question of whether or not good cheap chardonnays exist. This to me was good but not great. Still it does have nice qualities that would match well with a meal, but definitely not what I would say worth drinking independently. On smelling there are hints of grapefruit and olives. At first taste there is definitely a nice oakiness as well as a cleansing tart acidic finish. I would definitely love to drink this with a seafood dish or something in a rich cream sauce. Like an extra on a movie set, this wine would not be the star of a meal, but would definitely enhance the experience.
Sniff- Olive and grapefruit
Sip- Oaky, tart, acidic, grapefruit, clean
Eat- Seafood, creamy rich dish
This Chardonnay was certainly a ton better than the one I had last week. I’d be keen to do a under $10 tastings of South African and Australian chardonnays, just to get a sense of the differences in style.
Remhoogte Aigle Noir 2003 (Stellenboch, South Africa) $13- Ghetto Hooch
Honestly, I had a hard time finishing my 1/4 glass worth. Far too bold for my taste, the nose had an acetone, strong metallic quality and it had a taste to match. Spicy, acidic, and bitter all at once I felt my tastebuds burn and churn. This is a blend of the pinotage and several other grapes. There is definitely the metallic quality of the pinotage but somehow with the other flavors introduced by the other grapes, bitterness and spice, it does not seem to work. Like a bad American Idol contestant, it’s a garish mess.
This is certainly where our tastes differ. I’d actually rate it a “Not bad”. Granted, it is not an easy wine to sip, but I really liked the minerally, earthy feel of it (~30% pinot noir). It was a little too tannic though, but nothing some decanting can’t help. I liked the fact that even though it had only 3% of Pinotage, you could still taste a tinge of metal in it. A pretty serious, complex wine. I somehow think it could pair well with some braised duck. Mmm.
Withington Merlot 2003 (Paarl, South Africa) $19- Not Bad
For the price, I might go with something else, but it’s a pretty nice glass I must say. The nose was pleasant, rich, and buttery. The taste had nice tannins, and a very smokey, nutty quality. It reminded me of sweet pipe smoke and buttery leather chairs. The finish was nice and dry, leaving your mouth ready to receive any succulent food pairing. I definitely would love to open this puppy up with a thick steak and maybe slide into that buttery leather chair while I am at it. It’s a sophisticated glass, but does not have the complexity you would hope for in a bottle for 20 smackaroos.
Sniff- rich butter
Sip- smokey, nutty, tannins
Eat- red meats- steak, lamb chops
This Merlot was pretty pleasant to drink, but I don’t have my notes and I’ve already forgotten how it tasted… so I guess it’s not all that memorable. For $19, it’s pretty steep – I’d sooner spend that money on the Port, erm, which is precisely what I did.
Niel Jourber Pinotage 2003 (Paarl, South Africa) $11- Not Bad
Oh Pinotage….how stinky yet tasty you are. The smell wafting from the glass cut right through my cold and reminded me a little of gasoline and rubber, pungent with each whiff. On tasting you get this surprising spiciness with a great acidity and bitterness. The flavor of Pinotage is described classically as a rusty nail, and after experiencing it for myself I have to agree. It’s a great complex wine with a lot of guts and glory. Gladiatorial in nature (is that a word? according to spell check it is ), this wine is rough and bold with a metallic brashness too it. I think it would go great with red meat because it just screams blood. I would definitely bring it to a bbq or a meat eaters convention. No cowboy would be ashamed to drink this glass with his prime rib…well except that he’d have to pronounce the word Pinotage like a Frenchman…he he
Sniff- gasoline, rubber
Sip- metallic, sharp, acidic, bitter, spicy
Eat- Red meats, BBQ….MEEAAAT!
I’d go as far as to rate this a “Not bad – damn good”. It was thoroughly enjoyable, with a nose so distinct, I’m confident that I can sniff it out blind. I’m not sure I agree with the bloody allusions, but it certainly has some kind of raw, elemental nature to it. Some scent of freshly stripped wood? It’s pretty light though, very quaffable. I’d want to try it with sushi actually. Heh.
Allersverloren Vintage Port 2002 (Swartland, South Africa) $19- Damn Good-Orgasmic
Ok, this is semi-orgasmic largely because 1. its a great port and 2. its simply awesome for the price. I nearly squealed with glee when I realized how cheap it was. A tawny port can really burn a hole in you wallet, but this one has a lot to offer with relatively little monies. More importantly, the beauty of ports is that if you keep it in a cool, dark place you can hold on to it for years and slowly sip you way through the bottle. On first whiff I got hints of raisin, dark chocolate, and coffee, the first sip followed suit. There was a lot of complex rich dessert flavors that bring to mind decadent dark chocolate cakes and wine soaked plums. It tastes like a cross between a ruby port (bold rich fruity sweetness with less caramel and nuttiness) and a tawny (raisin, caramel, nutty, and coffee). The hybrid car of ports, its economic, fun to drink, and pretty damn good.
Sniff- raisin, coffee, dark chocolate
Sip- nutty, toffee, caramel, raisin, coffee, dark chocolate
Eat- dark chocolate, rich dessert, creme brulee
Yes, this was good. I’m a Port lover, and this one has got to be one of my favorites. I loved how it isn’t as sweet as most other Ports, though it’s definitely thick enough. Flavors of dark chocolate, raisins, and burnt caramel. It’ll be absolutely delightful with a molten lava cake.
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