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South African Wines


VivreManger
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Any recommendations for good South African wines and sherries that do not regularly make it to the States? My wife is in Cape Town and I wanted to suggest what she might look for, particularly if there is a well-recommended wine shop.

She prefers steely whites, pino grigio and pinot blanc. I like all Burgundies as well as Rhone wines.

We don't care for zinfandels or exploding in the mouth, fruity Australian whites.

Nor are we interested in the burnt rubber that some South African reds have acquired.

As for sherries, any dry recommendations?

Thanks

Edited by VivreManger (log)
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I don't know what does or doesn't make it to the US, but here is a (rather long) list of wines that won awards at the Veritas wine industry awards last year.

I've had the Bellevue Pinotage which is near the top of that list. Pinotage used to be something of a joke grape (it was "invented" in 1926 by crossing pinot noir with cinsaut/hermitage) but this dispells that. I can't remember the specifics, but I found it a very well balanced wine which probably reflected the best ever value I've had from a bottle I've bought. It cost me R54 which was about £3.60 when I bought it a year ago.

Further down the list is the Neil Ellis "Sincerely" Sauvignon Blanc which is made in a Sancerre-like style (hence the name) which I thought your wife would enjoy, but I've just found it's specially made for a supermarket chain in the UK so won't be available in SA.

I'm sure she could ask someone in a shop about wines fitting your preferences... can't think of any wine shops to specifically reocmmend at the moment. Do you know whereabout in Cape Town she's staying?

Edit: Realised I couldn't divide... 54 / 15 = 3.6 not 5!

Edited by StephenT (log)
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There are supposedly some really good brandies made in the dutch style in South Africa. KWV makes a 20 year old brandy that is supposed to be really, really smooth.

BTW I also hear that they got wild boar salamis there that are outrageous.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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From what I remember, Vaughan Johnson's wine shop (in the mega-glitzy waterfront development) is a good bet.

I think the standard wine guide is John Platters, also online. This includes his best-of-the-best five-star wines for 2002 and 2003.

Pinotage rocks (Hamilton Russell is a respected producer [edit: but not of pinotage :wacko: ]).

Edit note: don't obsess too much about much older wines. The production has got so much better over the past years that the really old wines are on the whole not as exciting, relatively speaking, as they would be in other places.

Edited by Kikujiro (log)
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She is staying in All Africa House at the University of Capetown, Middle Campus, Rondebosch.

Ah, UCT. The old stomping ground. When I thought that good wine came in 340ml bottles and had "beer" written on the label. :wink:

Do have a look at the 5-star Platters lists to which Kikujiro posted links. I've tried hunting down 5-star wines before with little success, but it seems to be a general trend that wineries that produce good wines of one variety also produce good wines of other varieties so some of the names on there could serve as guides. Many South African Chardonnays are oaked and very new world in style so you probably don't want them.

You can often pick up fairly good bottles of wine at a run-of-the-mill liquor store (or "bottle store" as they're usually known in South Africa) and don't have to go to a specialist wine shop. There is one in Rondebosch, down the hill from UCT. If you look at this map then follow Grotto road (in the middle of the map) down to Main Road. Cross over Main Road at the traffic lights and continue, with a car park on the right. The bottle store is there on the left. I remember it as being somewhat grungy and frequented by students and hobos, but it's close.

I'm sure your wife will be visiting the Waterfront at some point (if she hasn't already) so she could go to the shop there that Kikujiro mentioned. There are some other wine shops there as well, this page lists them. Prices at such places will doubtless be higher, but she'd be more likely to get competent advice and they'll have a higher proportion of good wines.

Fairview is a fun winery to visit. They make cheese there as well, which you can taste along with the wines for a small fee. Almost next door is Landskroon which is producing some decent wines at good value. Those are two that I tend to visit regularly, but there are lots and lots of others.

If your wife has some time to get out and about, she should definitely pick up a Platters Wine Guide (probably available at most liquor stores and also in book shops) as it'll give her an idea of wineries to visit. In fact even if she doesn't go visiting wineries, it's an invaluable guide to the wines themselves so she can decide what she wants when she goes shopping.

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Kikujiro, I don't think Hamilton Russell makes a pinotage. They are probably SA's best-known pinot noir producer though. Fabulous spot, up the valley from Hermanus in the Walker Bay area. VivreManger: if you like burgundy, then try to get some of the pinots from Walker Bay - Bouchard Finlayson is the other well-known producer. It's quite cool by SA standards, and the wines are worth a try. I like Meerlust Rubicon, a very good Bordeaux-blend, a great deal too. And SA is getting big plaudits for its sauvignon blancs - they tend to be a cross between more restrained Loire SBs and the bigger, sharper NZ style.

cheers

Adam

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Kikujiro, I don't think Hamilton Russell makes a pinotage. They are probably SA's best-known pinot noir producer though.

HR make a pinotage at the Southern Right winery, which they own and is close to the eponymous one. Has won the occasional award. But you're right, I was thinking of their pinot noir. Duh. Sorry.

Bouchard Finlayson's Galpin Peak pinot is carried by Waitrose.

Wineries that actually do make pinotage: Fairview, Kanonkop ... ?

Edited by Kikujiro (log)
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From a South African oenophile friend:

Regarding the wine, unfortunately the South African climate is not that good for burgundy, that said we have 2 decent Pinot Noir's (Barefoot Pinot Noir and Topaz Pinot Noir - these are both produced by the Garagistes, a small group of independant winemakers who produce on a very small scale out of their garages!)

In terms of the whites, try Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Buitenverwachting SB and the Buitenverwachting Blanc de Noir (with this one the assistant winemaker accidentally blended some of the premium red with the white and the result is outstanding - not at all sweet, but nicely crisp and the strength of the red comes through very well. Not at all a typical "rose" in spite of its pinky blush colour.)

For the reds, we have some outstanding Shiraz's, being

Stellenzicht Shiraz

Kevin Arnold (premium label) and Waterford Shiraz (from the same farm.)

The other area we excell in is Bordeaux-style blends, and I can highly recommend

Pre 1999 Kanonkop Paul Sauer

Buitenverwachting Christine

Any Thelema wines

Unfortunately I'm not too clued up on the sherries.

The best wine shops are:

Picardi at Seef House near the Waterfront

Vaughan Johnson's (they have a good selection although they do recommend items just because they have stock.)

I believe that Caroline's is very good.

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In terms of the whites, try Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Buitenverwachting SB and the Buitenverwachting Blanc de Noir

I've had the Buitenverwachting SB at Buitenverwachting and it was very nice (this is stretching my wine description vocabulary to it limit).

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  • 2 weeks later...
Any recommendations for good South African wines and sherries that do not regularly make it to the States?  My wife is in Cape Town and I wanted to suggest what she might look for, particularly if there is a well-recommended wine shop. 

She prefers steely whites, pino grigio and pinot blanc.  I like all Burgundies as well as Rhone wines. 

Nor are we interested in the burnt rubber that some South African reds have acquired. 

As for sherries, any dry recommendations? 

Thanks

We don't care for zinfandels or exploding in the mouth, fruity Australian whites.

Given your palates, I think that you might find South African wines quite rewarding. The soil compositions down there are very similar to the great French regions, and the best wines, in my opinion, reflect this through an emphasis on complexity, elegance and food compatibility rather than the Parker recipe of extract, oak and alcohol. I think this is also why Steven Tanzer is a much more vocal proponent of SA wines than Parker.

One still has to choose carefully. The best producers are often new and the industry is still feeling its way out of the old mass-production co-op days. I don't know where you're located, but try and search out some Chamonix wines. Their Chardonnays are reminiscent of great Chablis. I believe that they are imported into the US but in limited quantities.

The best wine shop in Cape Town is Wine Concepts on Kloof Street.

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  • 1 month later...

Many thanks for all the good wine advice.

At the end of the day, my wife's trip in January to the wine country from Cape Town got abbreviated -- too many planes to catch -- so she did not manage all she intended. She got to only one vintner in Stellenbosch, Fleur du Cap, and selected two wines, one superb, the other forgetable.

The best wine was an unfiltered 2000 Merlot that had won a Single Gold Medal in the 2002 Veritas Competition. The wine is full-bodied, but does not overwhelm the mouth. It had a smoothy cream finish to it, that almost reminded me of a sherry without the heavy sweetness. It left a very satisfying aftertaste that all of us that evening about a month ago can still remember.

Obviously if this was only a single Gold winner, imagine what the double Golds must have been. The wine, by the way, cost less than ten dollars.

On the other hand the 2000 Pinotage was not to my taste. It is simply too thin and dull a wine to drink.

Fleur du Cap, distributed by Distell, provided her with a brochure that listed in addition to a website in South Africa, agents in the UK and in White Plains, NY. Unfortunately the White Plains number is out of service -- the office was located on 3 Gannet Drive. I have e-mailed the South African headquarters to learn if the wine is exported here, but I have yet to get an answer as to their current distributer, if any exists.

I would be grateful for any information on US availability of these and other South African wines.

I have found little in Massachusetts.

Is there any NYC store that stocks them?

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This is a spin-off from an earlier discussion on wines IN South Africa. However my question has changed to wines FROM SA available in the USA. The earlier topic description would not have gained the correct attention.

My wife brought home a superb and cheap (at least in SA) unfiltered 2000 Merlot that had won a Single Gold Medal in the 2002 Veritas Competition.

The label, Fleur du Cap, distributed by Distell, provided her with a brochure that listed in addition to a website in South Africa, agents in the UK and in White Plains, NY. Unfortunately the White Plains number is out of service -- the office was located on 3 Gannet Drive. I have e-mailed the South African headquarters to learn if the wine is exported here, but I have yet to get an answer as to their current distributer, if any exists.

I would be grateful for any information on US availability of these and other South African wines.

I have found little in Massachusetts.

Is there any NYC store that stocks them?

For more on other wines I am seeking you may wish to consult the website that listed the Veritas prize winners,

http://www.veritas.co.za/gold.html

as well as the earlier thread where these and other wines were discussed,

http://forums.egullet.org/index.phpact=ST&f=24&t=15096

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In New York City, I know of two stores that have a pretty decent South African section.

67 wine has a really good selection run by Bart, their south of the equator buyer/salesman. They have a nice website as well.

67 Wines

Crossroads, on 14th street, has always carried an eclectic bunch as well.

Hope this helps!

Howie

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I don't know if any of the wines you're interested in are coming from KWV International, but I recently inquired about one of their liqueur products. I contacted

Sabina Dhani (CustomerCare@57Mainstreet) at the importer and got an immediate answer as to where I could make a retail purchase locally. She also mentioned that Opici is their NY distributor.

-- Jeff

"I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members." -- Groucho Marx

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Not sure of shipping laws where you are but assuming you can receive wine shipped from out-of-state, visit this website:

http://www.sawineco.com

John Gorman, the owner, imports and supplies many restaurants and retailers in Southern California and elsewhere. I've bought from him directly and been very satisfied. He is a friend to many wine collectors.

Bob Sherwood

Bob Sherwood

____________

“When the wolf is at the door, one should invite him in and have him for dinner.”

- M.F.K. Fisher

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I like Meerlust Rubicon, a very good Bordeaux-blend, a great deal too.

I thought Meerlust's balance of backbone and nuance speoke to formidable strength and character of SA wines. Had it at Morell's by the glass. Met many S. Africans sailing in the Carib: they all seemed to be leaving home in sailboats stocked with South Africa's divine whites. Steely and big. Weren't they to your wife's palate?

Edited by lissome (log)

Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons: That is all there is to distinguish us from the other Animals.

-Beaumarchais

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  • 7 months later...

Had a pretty decent Nederburg 2000 Pinotage this evening that matched well with the NY Strip Steak we had for dinner. Fruit bomb with soft tannins, controlled oak, good acid, but a bit boozy at 13.5. Still can't complain for a $7.99 wine at Stew Leonard's.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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