Roger Jones Autumn 2021
South African winemaking is on fire right now. The Springboks may be reigning world champions but having not played a Test match since beating England in the 2019 World Cup Final, whether the rugby team is also running hot we wait to find out.
The quality of the wines, the skill and enthusiasm of the winemakers and a laissez faire attitude are all contributing
to a real sense of excitement that is palpable, especially among Cape winemakers.
Lions supporters may not have the opportunity to tour the finest vineyards and wine estates this summer, so from the flames of Wiltshire in England, I will guide you through South Africa’s wine trends and tastes.
South African Sparkling can cause confusion as Sparkling in South Africa refers to the carbonated stuff, like Prosecco, The real deal is the MCC or Cap Classique which are made in the same way as English Sparkling or Champagne, with Graham Beck being the best value brand hovering around the £10 mark per bottle – fabulous bubbles to drink in the sunshine.
If you have not tried Chenin Blanc, now is the time. It is a bit like Chardonnay with a lovely bright zesty kick. One of the most successful grape varieties coming into the UK from South Africa, it is both perfect as an aperitif or with seafood. Expect to pay anything from £5.50 to over £50 (Ken Forrester’s Dirty Little Secret). Names to look out for include Stellenrust, Raats, Botanica and Beaumont.
Sauvignon Blanc may be a turn off for some, but South Africa produces Sauvignon more akin to Sancerre or Pouilly Fume from the Loire in France, so none of that gooseberry and cat’s pee effect; more a flinty, smoky elegant refreshing style. Among great names to look out for are Cederberg Ghost Corner, Paul Cluver, Tokara and Duncan Savage.
Chardonnay from South Africa is hitting superstar status at bargain prices with its matchstick, delicate white stone fruit, fresh and beautifully balanced. Try the likes of Restless River, Newton Johnson, Crystallum and Ataraxia all sourced from Hemel-en -Aarde near Hermanus, a two-hour drive from Cape Town.
South African white blends should be others on your wine lists, with the hipsters in Swartland highlighting the quality of these blends. Names to look out for include AA Badenhorst, David & Nadia, Mullineux and Eben Sadie. And for a bit of class go for a Viognier, with Sam O’Keefe Lismore’s Age of Grace a marvel.
Moving to reds as you fire up the barbecue or rather, given you’re recreating the life of a Lions supporter, a braai.
A few new grapes to sample are Cinsault, a grape also found in the south-west of France, but which excels in the heat of South Africa. It oozes charm with a bright raspberry fruit balanced by delicate cocoa. Try it with lamb kebabs.
Pinotage can be a difficult grape to understand and there is a lot of mass-produced bottles available, but I suggest you spend a bit more and go for a Pinotage with some age such as Beeslaar or Flagstone Writer’s Block.
Pinot Noir is growing at pace from South Africa with Hemel-en-Aarde again leading the way. Names to taste here are Creation, Newton Johnson, Storm and Richard Kershaw from Elgin. These wines are fresh and delicate with a lovely delicate perfume, making them hugely enjoyable and drinkable.
For later in the day Cabernet Sauvignon offers a juicy savory deep concentrated wine that is great with tomahawks steaks. These offer incredible value compared to the Old World. Wines to try include Bartinney, Delaire Graff, Rust en Vrede, Jordan and Tokara.
Shiraz/Syrah are more delicate than some other New World Shiraz, and offer a spicy, dark berry fruited wine with delicate perfume and a velvety finish. Names to look out for include Eagles Nest, Tokara, Lismore, Hartenberg.
As with white blends, red blends also offer a lovely alternative, combining some great grapes together. Look no further than AA Badenhorst Red Blend from the Swartland.
Now they may not be the easiest to find in the UK, but South Africa are masters at making brandy and of exceptional value and quality. Top names are Boplaas, KWV and Van Ryn’s.
Roger Jones held a Michelin Star for 12 years prior to retiring from running his own restaurant – The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in Wiltshire – at the start of 2020, to concentrate on his journalism and wine judging.
Jones has worked for Decanter for over 12 years and is one of its key judges for Australia at the annual Decanter World Wine Awards. He is a panel chair for the International Wine & Spirit Competition, ambassador for the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships and one of the founder wine writers for The-Buyer.net.
Jones also runs his own consultancy, advising numerous companies and bodies on marketing and food and drink matching.
“The wine chef bar none, Roger Jones has turned his passion for wine into a headline act, bringing great cooking and a deep knowledge of wines of South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere to the table doing much for the profile of New World wine and food compatibility” – Harpers’ Hot 100.
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