Sumptuous South African Wines to Savour this Autumnal Season

Old world and new world, what do these phrases even mean? I am sure you have seen signs in supermarkets and wine shops displaying them, but what is the difference? In a nutshell, the Old world countries such as France, Italy, and Spain have been producing wine for thousands of years. Chile, Argentina and Australia are considered ‘New World’ wine countries. New Zealand, for example, has only been exporting wine since the 1970’s. But where does South Africa fit in?  Well, South Africa’s winemaking tradition dates back more than 350 years to the epicentre of Stellenbosch, however, it is still mainly recognised as being part of the New World.

The South African wine industry has had their fair share of ups and downs; trade issues, overproduction which in turn led to bad quality wine and their International reputation suffered. The whole South African wine industry has seen exciting developments and changes leading to remarkable improvements in the wines being exported. In recent times, there has been a considerable financial investment in wineries and a pivot in mindset.

A Look into the Backstage of Winemaking - The Journey of Wine from Grape to Glass

Many winemakers have adopted some new world winemaking practices such as temperature-controlled fermentation, the use of oak and a better understanding of vineyard management and terroir. These factors and the surge of new wave modern talented winemakers on the horizon, producing superior quality wine are helping to re-establish South Africa’s position as a serious contender in the world of wine.

The beauty of the country is not just its spectacular views, rolling hills and breath-taking landscape; it is that so many grape varietals can flourish in its Terroir and diverse wine regions. There is a quest to create wines that reflect the country with an emphasis on elegance and quality.

Fabulous French Wine

Although they are known for their signature grape varietals Chenin Blanc (Steen) and Pinotage (a crossing of two grapes Pinot Noir & Cinsault created in 1924). South Africa produces world-class wines from almost all the major grape variety including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and even sweet wines made from Riesling.

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Pieter Walser founder of BLANKbottle winery. BLANKbottle bizarrely does not own any vines or vineyard area in South Africa. Instead, Pieter sources the grapes he uses to create his cult wines, from trusted wine growers from many different wine regions within the Western Cape. He is a charismatic and innovative individual that does not like to be labelled; hence the name of the winery. The philosophy of his wines is ‘driven by quality, excitement and mystery.’

BLANKbottle wines are iconic and a must try for the experimental wine lover that craves individuality and finesse. According to Pieter, ‘It is what is in the bottle that matter’s not the grape variety that is on the label.’

One of his wines I enjoyed recently was ‘Moment of Silence, 2017’, I did what the ‘label’ instructed and took some time out to savour its uniqueness. At Pieter’s request I ‘got to know the wine’, it was exceptional, a very special wine. BLANKbottle wines are memorable for many reasons, Pieter designs many of the wine labels himself which are as quirky as the names ‘Orbitalfrontal Cortex’, ‘Nothing to declare’, ‘Master of None’, ‘Shin a Bhfuil’ and ‘Retirement at 65’.  I am not going to write a tasting note for this wine or even tell you the blend of grapes!  Are you curious or adventurous enough to try the BLANKbottle range?  I for one, cannot wait to try his newest creations.

BLANKbottle range available from: Good independent wine merchants including Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 2; Blackrock Cellar, Green Man Wines, Lilac Wines, Fairview; Martins Off Licence, Fairview; Mitchells, IFSC, Sweeney’s, Glasnevin. From €25.00

Jordan Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, Stellenbosch 2016

Gary & Kathy Jordan produces a stunning range of wines, their Barrel Fermented Chardonnay is one of my all-time favourites. Deep yellow in colour with vibrant aromas of ripe peach, melon and whipped cream with a sprinkling of mixed nuts. The wine is dry in style with balanced acidity, the fruit is at the forefront; ripe peach and stewed pear with a dollop of cream, hazelnut and spice. As the wine has been fermented and aged in French oak barrels, it displays a full body and a creamy textured mouthfeel. Leaving a delicious long luscious lingering finish.

The Jordan winery describes this wine perfectly, ‘Fruity accessibility of the New World with the Classic Elegance of the Old’.

I have enjoyed this wine on many occasions with a traditional roast chicken dinner with all the trimmings. When pairing oaked Chardonnay with food you need to choose dishes that are also rich in flavour. Foods that are roasted, grilled or smoked or have toasty flavours work well. Try creamy risotto or chicken and broccoli bake with crusty pastry. Roast chicken with butternut squash and sweet potato is also a fabulous combination. Experiment with pork chops and a creamy sauce or dishes with nuts, wild mushrooms and slow roast tomatoes. For the season that is in it why not try pumpkin ravioli?

Available from: Baggot Street Wines; Bradley`s Foodmarket; Donnybrook Fair; Jus De Vine

Kellys Wine Vault; Lilac Wines; Londis Malahide; Martins Off-Licence; Mc Hughs Off Licence,

Kilbarrack; O Donovans Off-Licence; On The Grapevine; The Corkscrew Wine Merchant;

Redmonds; Sweeney Glasnevin. RRP €19.95

Kanonkop ‘Kadette’ Cape Blend 2016

A unique blend of South Africa’s signature grape varietal Pinotage with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Cabernet Franc. In the glass, the wine is deep ruby in colour. Pronounced aromas of ripe juicy dark berries, coffee and mocha jump from the glass.

On the palate, you savour the blueberries and mixed fruit flavours with hints of dark chocolate and spicy notes. The wine is distinctive with a rich full body, but soft silky tannins and has a really long lingering finish. I would decant this wine for an hour before drinking and enjoy it with slow cooked beef, veal, meat stews, casseroles, hard mature cheese or charcuterie.

Available from: Fallon & Byrne Wine Cellar; Mitchell & Son; Redmonds, Ranelagh; Sweeney’s, Glasnevin. RRP €19.00

Spice Route ‘Chakalaka’ Swartland 2015

Chakalaka, is a Zulu word that implies togetherness. This wine consists of 6 grape varietals blended together after ageing for a year in French & American oak. The wine is made up of the varietals; Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Petite Sirah & Tannat. The wine is complex with layers of aromas; brambles, loganberry, plums, spices which lead onto the delicious palate of a fruit explosion and elegant spice.

The wine is soft and velvety with soft well-integrated tannins and a luscious medium body and hints of vanilla oak. This wine is drinking fabulously now but will keep and improve over the next few years. Enjoy it with grilled dark meat such as beef or lamb and cured meats. I love it on its own or with good quality dark chocolate.

Available from: Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 2; JJ O’Driscoll, Cork; Red Nose Wine, Clonmel; Wine Well, Dunboyne. RRP €26.00

SPIT is a wine event that will be held in The Chocolate Factory, Dublin on 11th October. Another one of my favourite wines are from the Keermont winery, their Syrah wines are incredible. Their winemaker Alex Starey will be at the event. I would recommend popping along to sample them and so many more wines that will be available to taste. SPIT tickets are now on sale on Eventbrite. I hope to see you there.

FEATURE BY LYNDA COOGAN

Hi, I am Lynda Coogan owner of Wine Tasting Ireland, I am delighted to be part of The Taste team where I can passionately share my love and knowledge of wine with you. I hold a WSET Diploma in wine, I have ten years’ experience in the wine trade and I am a member of the Guild of Sommeliers. Wine Tasting Ireland, specialises in hosting fun, interactive wine tastings for groups. I believe that by going back to basics, wine can be appreciated by everyone, a little knowledge goes a long way! We come to you, bring all that’s needed to set up a unique, bespoke wine tasting event in your offices, your home or any venue. They are ideal for team building at work, a social gathering or a special occasion. I would love to hear from you, so please get in touch.

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