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South African Wines


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  • 3 months later...

Having looked through the discussion groups I am amazed to see the absolute lack of mention of any South African wines. I recently tried an amazing Pinotage - a cross breed of Pinot Noir and Cinsault by a company called General Bilimoria. It was absolutely wonderful with a most complex finish; and I guess since it was from a relatively unknown label/country the price was exceptionally modest 11.99 Has anyone else got any good reccommendations for other South African Wines in a similar price category - I'm searching. Also has anyone else tried this Pinotage and got any additional comments?

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I have once tried the Roodberg it was a bit too fruity for me, the Pinotage I tasted had a better robustness to it. I also tried an interesting colombard chardonnay blend lovely silkiness in the mouth with good pear in the nose

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Tommyf, I just got back from the wine store (Tuesday is 25% case discount day -- we're there every week) and couldn't find the pinotage you described. I've asked them to get me a bottle or two, though. I'll post notes when I get a chance to taste it. Any other SA wines we should know about?


Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks


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Lack of acid in the reds and mouth hurting astringency in whites keeps me running from this region.

If you see it in your neck of the woods, try the Malan pinotage, which sports a sleeker profile and an almost-Italianate acid structure. It remains true to the variety, and comes in below US$10.

Kriss Reed

Long Beach, CA

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I realy enjoy a lot of South African wine though all at the mid-range and up so far.

Following are some fairly priced recommendations:

Down to Earth, Villiera 2001

Chenin Blanc Villiera 2002

Gewuztraminer Villiera 2002

Malbec, Fairview 2000 / 2001

Pinotage, Berskloof 1999

Pinotage, Swartland 2000

Roodeberg, KWV, 1997.

the famous Goats do Roam, Fairview.

Boland Kelder Shiraz and Cabernet

Bovelei [ belongs to KWV ]

Two Oceans [ 2000, 2001]


Andre Suidan

I was taught to finish what I order.

Life taught me to order what I enjoy.

The art of living taught me to take my time and enjoy.

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You're right; don't see much discussion of South African wines. Guess it's hard to do when so much is being said about Turley this or Loring/Siduri that. And, generally the South African wines are so inexpensive.

Here's a couple I've had lately that I really liked...

- 2000 Muddy Water pinotage (Stellenbosch)

- 2000 Steytler pinotage (Stellenbosch)

- 2001 Lavenir pinotage

- 2001 Morkel Bellvue Estate pinotage (Stellenbosch)

Since there are rarely more than a couple at any one time at retail (Whole Foods here keeps a few on the shelf), I tend to buy them from Southern Hemisphere Wines in Huntington Beach, California. They're importers of loads of South African wine as well as wine from Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina.

Southern Hemisphere Wines

Then there's the always terrific South African sauvignon blanc, Mulderbosch.

I probably buy four assorted cases a year for every day, good drinking.

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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Hi - I can't claim significant expertise in South African Wines, or any wines for that matter, but we do like our Sauvignon Blancs. We, also, have really enjoyed the 2002 Mulderbosch SB. Another SB that 's claimed our affection is Springfield Estate's "Life from Stone" 2002. I was lucky enough to nab a case of it when Vintages (LCBO) had it on offer earlier this year.



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  • 10 months later...

Quite by accident, I know of two. The chef at Grapevine Mkt here in Austin recommended a Boschendal chardonnay, and then later when it was out of stock, the manager rec'd a Bartho Ecksteen Sauvignon Blanc. Both were lovely, and I sincerely hope not part of the "peppering up" scandal mentioned in earlier threads. I'm giving the latter as a Xmas present to father-in-law, in hopes we'll get some relief from the Coppola and Lindeman's.

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I'm currently serving the Robertson Vineyards Chenin Blanc by the glass at my restaurant. It's quite reasonable and very crisp and off-dry. Lots of tropical fruit and good acidity. Pretty mouth filling for a medium bodied glass. Gives a good autumnal alternative to Riesling or Vouvray for a glass pour.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Bit surprised not many people drink SA wines. In Vancouver we seem to have a fairly large selection in the public aend more so the private wine shoppes.

One of my faves is always deToren's Fusion 5.

Bordeaux blend of the usual suspects.

Big and tasty.


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Lack of acid in the reds and mouth hurting astringency in whites keeps me running from this region.

That characterisation of South African red wines is exactly the OPPOSITE of what they have always been observed to display.

In fact until the late 90s, they were always relatively easy to pick out in a blind tasting, as the reds all had fairly high terminal acidity, second only to traditional Italian wines.

More recently, both areas have been producing more international styles that are a bit more challenging to pick out blind.

I can only assume from your statement that your experience with South African reds is limited to recent lower end wines like Roodeberg, which by the way was not always the South African equivalent of Beaujolais. In the 70s and 80s Roodeberg was an ageworthy red for laying away.

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It appears that South African wines continue to have fairly limited distribution in the United States, with most of the mass-market brands that have been showing up primarily focused on infiltrating the low-cost, low-quality Yellow Tail niche carved out by the Aussies. This, unfortunately, obscures the vast increase in genuinely top-notch product now coming out of the country, as the inward-looking legacy of decades of economic and cultural isolation begins to mercifully fade away. The sharp appreciation of the South African rand against the dollar over the past three years hasn't helped much, either, but there remain some good values if you know where to look for them.

One resource I use myself is the Southern Hemisphere Wine Center, a California-based, mail-order outfit that maintains a portfolio of well-selected and reasonably-priced South African product. Another indispensible reference for anyone interested in the range of the country's offerings is the John Platter Wine Guide, an online database maintained by South Africa's version of Robert Parker.

As far as selecting individual wines, South Africa has traditionally employed an estate system, with certain select producers always representing a fairly safe bet. This has begun to change, with an invigorating explosion of small-scale boutique producers in recent years, but some names are definitely worth remembering:

Fairview: You've probably seen their Goats Do Roam mass-market blends. Those are OK, but do yourself a favor and check out their premium, single-vineyard Shirazes if you ever see them on the shelf. Dynamite.

Ken Forrester: The prophet of Chenin Blanc. Makes superb wines from South Africa's most widely planted, but little valued, varietal.

Rust en Vrede: A top producer that has been whittling down their range to concentrate on a single, flagship estate blend. It's very, very good and, at around $35, can pass for really serious Bordeaux.

Saxenburg: These guys have been getting better and better. Their Private Collection Shiraz is a dead ringer for a full-throttle Northern Rhone Syrah.

I could go on and on about one of my favorite topics, but for those who just want a pocket guide to the best producers, here is South African Wine Magazine's shortlist of their top rated bottles over the last few years. Enjoy.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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In this weekend's Observer (UK), there was an article on the doctoring of SA wines.

I don't know anything about South African wines, either, but there's nothing like a good scandal to get my attention! :wink: So much more interesting than drinking wines everyone approves of. I'd forgotten all about the Austrian Antifreeze Scandal until now.

Thanks for the great links, everyone. I enjoyed Chad's link to the previous discussion as well. Although still limping through my Italians (in a countryside filled with big, zin-drinking boys it's hard to find an Italian drinking buddy), I will now start adding an occasional African to my armchair tours.


Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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As some of you may know, I've been in the process of starting a small wine import company to bring in some wines from South Africa. We have nine producers (eight estate and a tiny negociant) and the wines should start hitting retail shelves in January.

Below is a (brief) characterization of the South African wine scene that I wrote a few months back on another board:

During apartheid, South Africa had little, if any, access to new clones and rootstocks and little revenue to make capital changes (i.e. replanting/regrafting, new equipment) to their operations. "Wine farms" were either small operations that served as tax shelters as much as they did wineries, or bulk operations for cheap wine or rebate spirit. Phylloxera was an issue up until the turn of this century, and most vineyards are still dealing with leaf-roll.

Over the last 10 years, as money from Tesco (bulk wine) and the EU has poured in (and the rand has gotten stronger), wine farms have started the process of optimizing their operations. The farms with great terroirs (including some unusual soils and soil combinations) have become much more intentional about rootstock/clonal selection and vineyard management, and have been making great and expressive wines, usually with good acidity and aging potential. Many of these farms are able to hold back wines for release a year later than otherwise normal, to allow further integration.

The farms with less-great terroirs have concentrated (at least for the US market) on making good, cepage-expressive wines, usually not over-oaked, for the mid-end ($9-13/btl US retail) negociants such as Fairview, or partnering with one or two other farms to build production for $13-$16/btl US retail wines.

The message here is that there is still a lot of room for improvement, but that many SA farms have resisted the urge to go completely international-style and understand the need to be price-competitive.

As for Pinotage, the Cape Blend movement, which requires pinotage to be the largest component along with CS/CF/M/Syrah, has allowed farms to keep their best Pinotage plots going while still making exportable wine.

Also, the use of native yeasts is extremely rare. This may be a by-product of the use of inferior rootstocks over the years (do inferior roots/clones attract inferior yeasts?). Most top-quality farms are still too bootstrapped and scared to try native yeasts, but things are slowly starting to change.

Cepage-wise, what really impressed us across the board on our last trip was, shockingly, merlot. SA is using merlot much the same way California is using syrah--they only plant it in the good sites. People in SA never really learned to make crappy merlot, so they don't. The movement for varietal merlot and merlot-based blends is growing, but no one sees merlot as the cash cow that the Californians did in the 1980s. It also goes very well with the local food.

The soils in Stellenbosch are primarily gravel-clay, with some sand/chalk near Somerset West (closer to the sea), and some sandstone/schist near the Simonsberg mountain. Paarl is almost all gravel on the good sites. This is quite a Bordeaux-like profile, which helps alleviate some of the heat. The close-in mountains create cool pockets and emphasize exposures.

The Cape Winelands themselves are stunningly beautiful, with wonderful restaurants and B&Bs, and incredibly cheap (even with the very strong rand). It's just such a long flight .

The producers in our book, btw: Avondale, BWC, Hartenberg, Le Riche, Louisvale, Monterosso, Muratie, Vergenoegd, and Vriesenhof (Paradyskloof). More information on these producers can be found on the website http://www.wine.co.za (and on our website, when we get it up).

Jake Parrott

Ledroit Brands, LLC

Bringing new and rare spirits to Washington DC.

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  • 1 month later...

Some recommendations:

Rustenberg's second wine label Brampton is good value.

Vergelegen - pretty much anything - the Mill Race red is v. good value

Cederberg - good shiraz

Goedverwacht - very good value shiraz.

Through historical connections no doubt we are fortunate to get good selections of SA wines in the UK and I think they are highly underrated and generally very good value. For UK readers I recommend Stone Vine and Sun as the best merchant: http://www.stonevine.co.uk


"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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  • 2 months later...

The Vancouver International Wine Festival is a wonderful opportunity to meet the principals of many wineries and discuss the wine, how they are made, how they mature, and new directions for the wineries. I gritted my teeth, took 2 days off from the office, giving my secretary instructions to advise client’s trying to find me that I was on a study session, and headed out to study for all I was worth. There are more than 500 wineries in South Africa today, and I was keen to add some new and interesting finds to my list of old stand-bys.

This year the featured region was South Africa, and for me, the first event was a 9 AM tasting of Cape wines with a seminar on the regional variations and differences. Prices where indicated are Canadian dollars.

2004 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin – soft sweet melon nose didn’t make one expect the very dry high acidity wine you experienced on palate. This wine showed a mineral aspect that was much more Loire than California. The only give-away in a blind tasting would be that it was richer in the middle than a typical French Chenin, yet with none of the awkwardness of many Californian examples. $20

2004 Springfield ‘Life from Stone’ Sauvignon Blanc – OK, get over the New Age sort of name, and you find another great white wine – no cat’s around this one, but a gooseberry and flint nose, silky smooth in the middle, finishing crisply. I HAD to pick up some of this for future blind tastings, to see if people would be fooled into thinking it a well made Sancerre. The vineyard for this wine is composed of 75% quartz, and they had to learn how to plant – ending up with jack-hammers to punch enough of a hole in the stony soil to lodge the young vines. They harvest 3 times, - to get a green component, then for body, and finally for ripe aromas and sugar, then blend the 3 batches together. They say that they get a better result than simply harvesting all of the fruit at the same time.

2002 Stellenzicht Semillon Reserve – this was also impressive, though at about $38 a bit lower on the QPR totem pole. Given full malolactic fermentation and lots of new oak, it ends up showing a soft oily nose, was soft on the palate, full flavoured with good length and significantly lower in acidity than the previous wines.

2004 Bellingham Maverick Viognier – a relatively new varietal in SA. Mango and lime nose, and a pretty tasty wine with lots of flavour that lingered. They soak on the skins to add character and although this wine has some RS (about 8 gm/l) it comes across as only very slightly soft rather than sweet.

2000 KWV Cathedral Cellars Triptych – into the reds, with a blend of 36% cab, 24% merlot, and 40% shiraz.. This wine was purple, with a chalky nose. Sweet entry, with lots of immediately apparent oak, well balanced. It drinks well now. $25

2003 Winery of Good Hope Vinum Cabernet – fairly intense warm ripe fruit nose, soft tannins, good structure and acidity – needs some time. I suggested that they advertise by selling T shirts saying “I’m a WOGH” but for some reason they didn’t think it would be a good idea.

2002 Graham Beck Old Road Pinotage – this is their top end wine, made in relatively small amounts (800 cases) from an ‘old vines’ vineyard (1963). Dark, with an earthy, smoky nose, a hint of mint on palate, the wine still tough and feisty, needing time, and very dry at the end. I am not a big fan of this grape, an ill-conceived cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, but this was a decent example.

2001 Vergelegen Flagship Red – 76% cab sauv, 20% merlot, 4% cab franc. A capsicum nose, good balance with a nice sweetness in midpalate, medium length and tasty now and for the next 5 years or so.

2001 Delheim Grand Reserve – Delheim makes a lot of average quality wines, but their reserve wine has always been excellent value. I worked my way through a case of the excellent 1990, only to find that it was just hitting stride as I finished it off at about 10 years of age. The first one was made in 1981. This one is 98% cab sauv, and 2% merlot. Plum and vanilla nose, the nose a bit reticent (better when I retasted later in the open tasting sessions) high initial acidity masks the moderate levels of tannin. Good wine, needs time. I went out and grabbed a few of these, with a resolution not to drink them too soon.

2002 Fairview Jakkalsfontein Shiraz – killer little wine from the people that make Goats Do Roam (they’ve added a Goats Do Roam in Villages to their line recently). Very dark wine with intense warm shiraz nose, tons of fruit and extract, very good but needs time. Great fun to bring this to an Australian Shiraz tasting some day. They crop at 3.5 tons per acre, use 18 months o f new French oak, and their winemaker has worked at Chapoutier, so Oz probably wasn’t what they were specifically aiming at. Like some of the Chilean examples, this lands somewhere between the Rhone and Australia in terms of style.

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