Wines of South Africa (an organization which promotes the exports of all South African wine) is hard at work to change what I would only call a sentiment of “weirdness” toward SA wines throughout our fickle wine trade. I will fully admit that I too am guilty of spreading my distaste for SA wines…particularly the reds. What I would call too much animally, burnt hair, unpleasantness. Sure it doesn’t help that almost all of the SA wines we see on our glorious BCLDB shelves are from mass production wineries such as Obikwa, Two Oceans, KWV, Tall Horse, Tribal, etc. I have tried one higher end Pinotage from Liberty ($45 price range…can’t recall the producer) a couple years back, but still couldn’t get on board (this wasn’t a blind tasting mind you). That has been all the feeble effort I’ve given South Africa. Needless to say, I’ve been eagerly waiting for this tasting. I want my paradigm to shift…I know it’s unfair to cast such a wide net on the entire South African wine industry – an industry that is after all, the original “new world” wine region.
So WOSA tabled around 80 wines to the BC Liquor Board that they wanted to see brought into our market. From there, the BCLDB selected 9 wines to offer this fall as a trial. First off, I was pleasantly surprised that all of these wines are less than $25 and most less than $20. I’m sure if they brought over a few of their highest end wines and we’d all agree that they were good, but no one would buy them. This less-than-$20 price range is what people are buying right now. I was a little disappointed there was no Pinotage, which I’m sure was only because the BCLDB didn’t choose to put any more Pinotages on their shelves. But God please just give me one to try that I might like!
These are the 9 wines with my brief impressions:
Moreson Blanc de Blancs Brut Method Cap Classic NV
A Traditional Method bubble made with Chardonnay grapes originating from Franschhoek (The “French corner” orignially settled by the French 300 years ago and located within Paarl).
Nice fine-ish mousse with expected biscuity, crab apple and citrus characters. It also had a slight tropical fruit and coconut edge. Not razor sharp but decent acidity. I quite enjoyed it and relished in the subtle differences that I don’t typically get from this style of bubble. $25
Vinum ’08 Chenin Blanc From Stellenbosch.
Quite buttery/milky/puffed wheaty. Some hints of fruit – green apple and pineapple. Interesting texture, but too dressed up in Chardonnay’s clothes and make-up. Not for me. $18
Graham Beck Gatekeeper’s Reserve ’08 Chenin Blanc From Franschhoek.
Medium weight, creamy texture, balanced acidity with tropical fruit and gooseberry. Easy drinking, but nothing spectacular. $20
Thelema Sutherland ’08 Sauvignon Blanc From the cool and high vineyards of Elgin.
Interesting contrast between its dominating green aromatics (green beans and asparagus) with its bright and crisp palate of citrus and minerality. I found the New Zealand-esque green characters too dominating, but many other people enjoyed it. $23
Boschendal 1685 ’08 Chardonnay From Stellenbosch.
Creamy, buttery, oaky style Chard with some tropical fruit, and med+ balanced acidity. I didn’t want to like it, but it’s definitely well made from some good quality fruit. For 19 bucks I think this is great value if this is the style of wine you’re after.
Winery of Good Hope ’08 Pinot Noir From Elign & Stellenbosch.
Cinnamon hearts, spiced red fruit – a touch smokey and minty. Nice structure, not super silky but pretty decent Pinot. Good deal at $19.
Golden Kaan ’04 Winemaker’s Edition Shiraz From Stellenbosch & Paarl
Possibly lighter in colour than anything I’ve ever seen called Shiraz. Plethora of red fruit with bright acidity. Not showing its age much at all. Good summer red? It’s okay, nothing offensive about it. Not really much else to say. $20
La Motte ’07 Shiraz Blend of several regions.
Dark flavour profile – black and purple fruit, cassis, dark chocolate, and a strange hint of pine resin. Structured with med+ tannin and quite age worthy. Good. $25
Glen Carlou ’05 Grand Classique
From Paarl. A Bordeaux blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with small amounts of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Glen Carlou is owned by the Swiss family Hess…which explains why this label looks very similar to the Californian Hess wines.
Nice concentration of dark purple fruit, smoke, leather, and cedar box with med+ tannin and a nice lengthy finish. I know it sounds like I just rattled off some descriptors from a Bordeaux 101 textbook, but this wine is very good and obviously well made. Plus, it’s only $20 which is a fantastic deal. Kurtis and I both agreed that this wine was the star of the show.
So, what did I take away from the tasting?
First off, none of the reds had any funky disagreeable aromas, but we all knew none of them would. I was also pleased that none of the reds were over-extracted fruit bombs. Most importantly, I believe WOSA’s number one goal was achieved: I saw some value in these South African wines that I hadn’t seen before. Did I leave the hotel waving a South African flag and singing Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika? No. Will there soon be value priced South African wine on the shelves that I would consider buying from time to time? Definitely. Particularly the Winery of Good Hope’s Pinot Noir and especially Glen Carlou’s Grand Classique. Now, can someone please suggest a Pinotage I might enjoy??