New World/Old World Wines: South Africa & Madiba On My Mind

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Like much of the world, I have been watching hours of programs about Nelson Mandela’s life and his example. He is so inspiring that one can only try to be joyous and cheerful when thinking about his spirit despite the fact that he has left our earthly domain. As this is a wine blog, of course, I am thinking about South Africans and the South African wine industry. I had the occasion to try a number of wines from South Africa paired with South African cuisine at the Institute of Culinary Education earlier this year. Jim Clarke led the lecture and the event was part of the Snooth PVA blogger weekend.

I also had the great fortune to work on a project for Stellekaya and to befriend the wonderful Ntsiki Biyela, their wine maker. All this to say that South African wines have a special place in my heart although I still have not visited that beautiful country.

At the Snooth luncheon we tasted through a number of wines made from international varieties and one Pinotage. I’ve never been a huge Pinotage fan but I was willing to be more open-minded.

I showed my open-mindedness by trying ostrich for the first time as I am already quite familar with Biltong, a South African cured meat.

Of the wines, my favorites were the following:

Graham Beck Brut NV with its refreshing, yeasty aromas and flavors coming from the 15 months it spends on its lees.

Raats Family Chenin Blanc 2009, a wine I know well from previous tastings. It was lush and rich with the right waxy, mineral notes I look for in Chenin. They also make great Cabernet Franc wines.

De Morgenzon Chardonnay 2012 was not my usual style, a big, oaked Chardonnay but something about it pleased me that day whether it was the pairing or the fact that they pipe Baroque music into their winery.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2010 interested me because I had never had a Pinot Noir from South Africa. As you would expect, it had mushroom, earthy notes and was lighter than most of the other red wines we tried.

Warwick Pinotage Old Bush Vines 2011 with its full bodied mouth and rich chocolate flavors made me think that Pinotage can have a place at the table. I might have put it at the end of the meal with dessert.’

Ken Forrester “T” Late Harvest 2010 was a delicious late harvest wine in the same style as many from Alsace. I am a crazy about sweet wines so this one fit the bill. Forrester is another winery that I know well, having tried much of his Chenin Blanc at previous tastings.

I will be toasting Madiba all week and keeping his exceptional lessons of perseverance and forgiveness forever in my heart.

One comment

  1. Reblogged this on avvinare and commented:

    Today at the Society of Wine Educators Conference I sat in on a seminar on South African wines with Jim Clarke. What strides these wines have made since I first tasted them years ago. I am still a fan of Chenin Blanc from SA more than other varieties but there was a blend with some Pinotage that was interesting as well. Wonders never cease. Still always think of Mandela when I see or do anything related to South Africa. Would that we had someone like him in the States in this divisive period of our history.

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