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Richard Kilgore

South African Wines

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In the New York Times, an interesting article by Eric Asimov on South African wines.

FORGIVE me if I’m excited, but I can’t help it. I want to tell you straight out that South Africa, of all places, is one of the greatest sources for moderately priced cabernet sauvignon on the planet today.

It would be tempting to characterize these wines as more Bordeaux than California, but I think that’s too easy. A more accurate and meaningful comparison would be to liken these wines to Napa Valley cabernets of 25 to 30 years ago, a time before so many California producers began picking grapes that were riper than ripe, thus producing Napa red rather than Napa cabernet.

In recent years I have been drinking mostly Spanish and French wine, as well as some Italian, American, Australian and South American. But have yet to open a bottle of any South African wine. Anyone here have experience with the cabs? Recommendations?

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I've only had a few of their cabs and wasn't impressed with most of them. But , if you have never tried pinotage there are some really nice ones. Spier Private Collection is usually pretty good, say in the 89+ range. I've also had some nice chenin blanc from there.

Best,

Mike

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Some good South African Cabernets - Vergelegen are always pretty hot their V Cabernet Sauvignon is cracking. The Meerlust Rubicon is pretty iconic though it's a Bordeaux blend (the name represents their being the first people to stray from straight varietals). Ernie Ells makes a Cab S that whilst good is rather optimistically priced. Cederwood estate is from memory quite tasty. Errm - this is late at night without my tasting note books hands and I've not sold a lot of SA wines for some time.

Over all I've long felt that SA reds whilst pretty great havn't quite hit the top yet, there are still a lot of people looking to be the first to get the icon wine status, and that has led to a lot of (at the top end) extraction and some real loss of subtlety, maybe they've just not quite found the sites yet. After all however many years of KWV controlling the market didn't really lead to any experimentation or pursuit of absolute quality so I guess there's a bit of catch up to do.

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