Sampling sippers from south africa

Doug Sloan / Campbell River Courier-Islander
July 4, 2013 09:00 PM

Despite the swinging pendulum of trends in micro-oxygenation and marketing there always seems to be Blue Nun from Germany, Mateus from Portugal, Mouton Cadet from France and E & J Gallo White Zinfandel from California. Regardless of fads cults and fashions, these are wines that are easy to enjoy. Many people discovering wine still find these everyday favourites first.

A similarly dependable standby white from South Africa that

(+375709) $8.99 in it's squat and stubby bottle is 60 per cent Sauvignon Blanc, 20 per cent Semillon and 20 per cent Cape Riesling - also known in Australia as Clare Riesling. Where the wine grape originated in France, it is called Crouchen. This is an easy-drinking unpretentious kind of white wine most at home on the patio, in the summer sun, or pleasing a crowd of undemanding sippers.

Still busily re-inventing itself, the South African wine industry now has more than 250,000 acres under vine, easily 20 per cent more than 20 years ago. Less focused on Chenin Blanc for white and Pinotage for reds, today's South African wines are more likely to feature international varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz.

Proclaiming their favoured location between the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean and aggressively priced to take on all challengers from the wide world of wine, everyday quaffers like Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc and Two Oceans Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot are immensely popular crowd pleasers.

Blended from grapes grown east of Cape Town in the vineyards of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Robertson and Worcester, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc (340380) $9.49 comes on with a sprinkling of sweet kiwi fruit and finished with a squirt of bright, grassy refreshingly lemony acidity.

There's virtually no tannic "bite" in the blend of 60 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 per cent Merlot that makes up Two Oceans Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (340398) $9.49. This red seems remarkably full of soft, ripe blackcurrant on first sip, before sliding into sweet jammy damson plums.

The Cape's doubled oceanic influences, mountain ranges and varied soils create numerous combinations of microclimates - moist, dry, warm and hot and even quite cool -which results in a wide range of wine "types" and a

cornucopia of wine styles.

Given the homogenization of the global vineyard that encourages white winemakers worldwide to plant more Chadonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, it would be foolish to ignore affordable and relatively uniquely South African alternatives like The Wild Olive "Old Vines" Chenin Blanc (205922) $12.98. Ripe and concentrated "old vine" grapes overflow with apple and green melon flavours and aromas that meld into

Even more uniquely South African "The Grinder" Pinotage (883991) $14.98 is full of dense, sun baked black cherry and bumbleberry fruit. There's an undercurrent of fresh ground coffee beans and dark chocolate with a sprinkling of woodsy wet tree bark that really shows this sometimes funky and capricious variety at its best. Take this red to your next barbecue! "Painted Wolf " is the English term for what are also called "Wildehond" in Afrikaans, and "Mbwa mwitu" in Swahili - multicoloured African wild dogs. From The Painted Wolf Wine Pack (...whose business goals include supporting conservation efforts to maintain a wild population of Lycaon Pictus - the African wild dog) "The Den" Cabernet Sauvignon (768317) $14.99 sizzles with smoky black fruity currant and berry flavours over the base of soft ripe tannins that seems to be becoming a defining factor in well-made South African reds.

Generously oaked, Bellingham's "The Bernard Series" Old Vine Chenin Blanc (897710) $24.99, is a monster of a white wine oozing honeyed pear and sweetly spicy apple and grapefruit aromas and flavours. Mango, melon and lime add to the fruit salad. This astonishing wine's creamy vanilla and marzipan complexities might just come from aging in French oak barrels - half of which are new.

De Toren Fusion V (583831) $44.99 is a stunningly complex blend of the classic "Bordeaux" varieties that makes it overwhelmingly clear South African winemakers are more than ready to take their rightful place on the world stage. More than 50 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, Fusion V blends 14 per cent Merlot, 14 per cent Malbec, 10 per cent Cabernet Franc and seven per cent Petit Verdot into a magnificently drinkable red that will age for years and turn even more silky and seductive.

Doug Sloan is a Campbell River wine enthusiast. Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com.


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