South Africa has been growing grapes and creating wines for 350 years! According to the South African Wine magazine I just received it is the 350th Anniversary of winemaking! Amazing! Though due to Apartheid, South African were not well received in the world until Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990. Exports soared from less than 1 million cases in 1990 to over 11 million in 1996. And South African wine exports continue to grow with a 27% growth from 2007 to 2008. And now is ranked as one of the Top 10 wine producing countries in the world. Growth is largely due to modernization and advances in winemaking abilities. These modernizations are very relevant in several regions that create wine in South Africa, here are a few more notably.
Durbanville is just north of Cape Town is known for it’s Sauvignon Blanc wines. Nine wineries enjoy the maritime influence with the ocean being only 4 miles away, and therefore being a cool climate growing region with average temperatures being at 69 F. Nice cooling effects tend to create a Sauvignon Blanc that is high in acidity and boast tropical flavors with minerality and flint that pairs so nicely with shell fish and light food fare. Some growers are also working with Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Semillion along with Merlot and South Africa’s own Pinotage.
Paarl is just east of Cape Town has concentrated on more and more red wines. With the Bird River running through Paarl is able to concentrate on Bordeaux varietals such as Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, and Pinotage all are important grapes in this region. Pintoage is a cross between the Cinsault Grape and the Pinot Noir Grape that gives a unique flavor profile a rustic, smoky full flavored wine that pairs very well with wild game meat such as Elk, Deer, Antelope – especially when grilled. Also pairs nicely with the sweeter meats when grilled and BBQ’d – try with lamb.
Stellenbosch just south of Cape Town is where the US sees many of its imported South African wines coming from. And though in the past they were known for high yielding vines but low in quality, modern techniques and increased exports has allowed the wineries to focus more on the quality of the wine. One of the main varietals growing here is the Chenin Blanc grape. Chenin Blanc, the grape of the Loire Valley of France is well known for its high quality Vouvray wines. And in South Africa Chenin Blanc is 1/3 of all plantings – so it is extremely important. Still known as “Steen” in South Africa, producers have recently began using the Chenin Blanc name for exports to keep from confusing consumers.
Pinotage also makes up a large amout of vines in Stellenbosch. Look for these labels to experience South African Wines at their finest. These wines are available nationwide. But you can contact the importer: www.quintessentialwines.com for more specific direction.
Simonsig – Pinotage 2004 – Stellenbosch, South Africa
Full, ripe succulent berry and sour cherry fruit flavors. This wine is generous and complex, with a gentle, dry finish to balance the natural sweet fruit of this unoaked Pinotage…vintage a superb red wine. Wild fruit with a hint of gamey flavors on the palate allows this wine to pair perfectly with gamey South African cuisine like deer, antelope, elk, and even fish – fresh off the grill!
Simonsig Chenin Blanc – SuperQuaffer of the Year –
2007 and 2008 – John Platter @ www.platteronline.com
A tropical fruit bowl of aromas and flavors explode on your palate with nicely balanced acidity and just a hint of honeysuckle to give it a zing of sweetness but finishes dry. If the terrior was just right for the year there will be botrytis (noble rot) that pierces the skin of the fruit allows the water to dry up and leave a sweet and acidic juice. Simonsig likes to add just a hint of the botrytis into their Chenin Blanc for just that reason. Perfect nr a hot summer day paired with sushi, Thai food, shell fish and spicy Asian food.
Sparkling Wine from South Africa – you bet! Simonsig – Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose was given 90 pts by Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits Magazine! Great Press!
In 2004, Simonsig winemaker Johan Malan created the first ever blend of Pinotage with the two classic red varieties used in Champagne, made in the Classic Methode Cap Classique of fermentation in the bottle, pioneered by Frans Malan, founder of Simonsig and father of Johan. A mouth-filling roundness on the palate shows ample fresh fruit intensity and body, which is perfectly balanced by a subtle acid structure that leads to a crisp and refreshing dry finish.
2009 – Harvest Review from Simonsig Winery:
“After 11 weeks of harvesting fun and fears, we can happily proclaim that ‘life at Simonsig is indeed a beach’ as we anticipate an exceptional vintage of well-balanced, quality wines that show remarkable flavor, complexity and high acids. In addition to superb weather conditions Simonsig also celebrated a disease free year with virtually no sign of mealy bug, the main culprit in spreading leaf roll and other dreaded viral diseases which are shortening the lifespan of our South African vineyards. This year saw a 9% increase in the harvest from Simonsig’s own vineyards due to new plantings of Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer which made a worthy contribution.”