Tag Archives: south africa

Still loving California, but growing more adventurous!

The customers of Wine.com were California Dreaming in 2010, according to the numbers – the region topped our list of most bottles sold and came in with about 40% growth. And why not? California represents some of the most delicious wines in the world, from value to collectible, and the diversity of varieties is so broad, it pleases a Pinot lover as well as a Zinfandel fanatic. That said, we still saw a lot of Napa Valley purchases – that region’s growth was up 92%. Guess that goes with the numbers that show Cabernet Sauvignon was the number one grape variety as well.

But beyond the California borders, we’re excited about what other regions people are trying, like Beaujolais. Often associated with only Beaujolais Nouveau, drinkers are discovering the delicious diversity and quality of Beaujolais Villages and Beaujolais Crus. Not to mention, 2009 was a fantastic vintage for the region, so great wines at great values were good for all. Bordeaux was also up – another region that enjoyed the 2009 vintage. Portugal came in third at 79%, and that was not just for Port. Dry reds from Portugal, as well as refreshing whites, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. South Africa rounded out the top 4 growth regions – maybe a World Cup boost?

So it looks like 2010 was a year of both traditional drinking and adventurous tasting. We look forward to what 2011 brings!

Reasons to love South Africa

World Cup 2010! It started over the weekend and is being hosted in a world wine capital – South Africa.

My husband and I got to see the stadium being built in 2008 when we were in Cape Town on our honeymoon. Though we can't make it this year to watch the games, it was still pretty cool.

While down there two years ago, we drank a LOT of South Africa wine. South Africa has been making wine for centuries – from the time the Dutch settled it in the 1600s, there have been vineyards planted for winemaking. Apparently, the colonial governors of the time really liked their wine. Then the French Huguenots arrived and lent their wine making knowledge and the industry flourished.

While wine has been made there for quite some time, it's only been in our backyard for a couple of decades. The US did not allow any South African products into the states until 1990, when apartheid was abolished and Nelson Mandela set free. Since then, South Africa has grown in both its wine presence and its wine quality.

Here's what I love.

Chenin Blanc – this is a grape South Africa does VERY well. It's dry, crisp, mineral-driven, tropical, delicious… it sometimes reminds me of Sauvignon Blanc, but with a bigger tropical kick. It's the perfect wine to drink if you love a good, crisp, refreshing white, and the values are fantastic – most of these bottles come in well under $15. My favorites include Mulderbosch, Kanu and Indaba.

Pinotage – a bit of a polarizing grape, Pinotage is finally coming into its own in quality. Some people can't stand it, and when you drink a bottle that reminds you of bubble gum and burnt rubber, you'll understand why… But a good Pinotage delivers the positive aspects of both parents grapes – the bright red fruits of Pinot Noir and the structural undertone of Cinsault. Plus the smoky-meaty characteristic of South Africa… yes, Pinotage is definitely its own varietal. Favorites include Kanonkop and Southern Right.

Shiraz– They call it Shiraz and Syrah around these parts. Either way, it's making fantastic wine. From value styles (like Indaba) to more boutique and expensive versions (think Mulderbosch), to blends of all kinds, this grape is starting to show its stuff.

Watch our video below to find out more!


Pinotage Party: Southern Right 2007 Pinotage

My goal was to taste and blog about a Pinotage that I have not yet tried. Alas, a long week and not enough time to go searching led me to my cellar where my old Pinotage standby lives… Southern Right from Walker Bay. But it’s a good wine to right about because it was the Pinotage that got me back into trying Pinotage and the winery has a story behind it. And we love a wine with a story.

The story behind Southern Right is a good one. Founded by Hamilton-Russell, a winery known for their walkerbayoutstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the premise for Southern Right Cellars was to create stellar Pinotage – not the burnt rubber, bubble gum Pinotage so maligned by wine lovers, but a wine that expressed the true essence of Pinotage and South Africa. This second label for Hamilton-Russell was started by Anthony Hamilton-Russell in 1994 when he took over the winery from his father.

Both Hamilton-Russell and Southern Right vineyards are planted just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean in the Walker Bay appellation. The home of Southern Right Cellars is right outside of Hermanus, a town where people come from all over to watch the whales. The name Southern Right actually comes from a baleen whale of the same name, hence the label. The other cool thing about Southern Right Cellars is that with each sale of Southern Right wines, they make a contribution to Southern Right Whale conservation in the Walker Bay.

So that’s the company. How about the wine? I actually got to visit this property in South Africa when I was there on my honeymoon in 2008. It was stunning and the wines were excellent (don’t get me going on how much I love Hamilton Russell Chardonnay). The Pinotage stuck out in my mind because it was really quite good – and while I’ve never hated Pinotage, I never quite loved it either. This one made me want to give the grape another chance. I tasted some other Pinotage on this trip that stood out as well. Spice Route Pinotage was a huge winner in my book, giving tons of fruit forward deliciousness, with very subtle smoke undertones. I believe “Christmas” was how I described the nose.

I’ve had it since that trip and always enjoyed it. So I opened another bottle for this tasting. I have to say, at first I was disappointed. Something was missing – the wine seemed thin and the smoky nose was leaning towards that burnt rubber aroma.

So I waited and let it open up in my glass for a while, and when I returned, the Pinotage I remember was back. Whew…

southern rightSouthern Right Pinotage 2007

Color: Deep ruby purple, with a light ruby/purple rim

Nose: Smoky! As so many South African wines are, especially Pinotage. Smoke and roasted meat was definitely prominent, but also wild berry and currant.

Taste: That South African smokiness comes through on the palate as well, with ripe berry fruits and a touch of spice. Tannins are in check and the acidity is excellent here, making this a perfect food wine.