As South Africa lifts its ban on wine exports – again – Peter Ranscombe picks bottles to kick-start some armchair exploring.
FEW countries have had such an intense rollercoaster ride through the lockdown as South Africa.
First wine exports were banned. Then they were allowed again. Then they were banned again.
Last week’s news that exports can resume will come as a relief to grape farmers, winemakers and everyone else involved in the industry, which is not only a major contributor to the country’s often troubled economy but also a supporter of social justice projects, especially in rural areas, from Creation Wines working with the Pebbles Project to deliver education in Hemel en Aarde through to Journey’s End supporting the work of its local church pastors in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village.
Now that exports can resume, winemakers can continue to build markets for their wines – and we as drinkers can enjoy the fruits of their labours.
Here’s a selection of exciting bottles to explore during lockdown and beyond…
Creation Wines Pinot Noir Reserve 2018 (£32.46, Buy Great Wine)
Hemel en Aarde – or “heaven and earth” – is not only a beautiful valley but also an amazing place for pinot noir and chardonnay. Jean-Claude Martin’s pinot are always fabulous and his 2018 reserve delivers in spades, with a combination of crunchy redcurrant and cranberry and sweeter spun sugar and raspberry jam. For a real treat, upgrade to the 2018 Art of Creation Pinot Noir (£55, creationwines.co.uk), which is even more complex, with darker fruit flavours and a delicious smoky note – I’d love to see how the wine develops.
David & Nadia Grenache 2018 (equivalent to £20, Justerini & Brooks)
Always a highlight at Justerini’s tastings, David and Nadia’s grenache hails from the Swartland, arguably South Africa’s most exciting region thanks to its old vines and innovative winemakers. Don’t be fooled by its pale ruby colour; this wine packs a punch, with tangy acidity, redcurrant fruit giving way to raspberry, and enough tannic grip to sit alongside a sirloin steak.
AA Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2019 (£13.75, L’Art du Vin)
Chenin blanc has become South Africa’s calling card and, in the hands of expert winemakers like Adi Badenhorst and Hanneke Botha, it’s easy to see why. This is cracking value, with intense aromas of tinned peaches and a twist of lemon leading into green apple flavours joining the peaches. It was one of the highlights of last week’s online tasting hosted by Soma Jennings of Princess & The Pinot and Amelia Singer of Amelia’s Wine – their Catalan wine tasting this Thursday looks good too.
Blankbottle Offspring 2017 (£19.90, L’Art du Vin)
Pieter Walser is one of my favourite South African winemakers and his Blankbottle range performs an interesting trick – by not mentioning on the label which grapes are in the blend, it encourages us to explore beyond our preconceptions about certain varieties. His Offspring white blend combines concentrated peach, apricot and lemon flavours with a creamy texture and a touch of woodsmoke to balance its acidity.
Lismore The Age of Grace Viognier 2018 (£18.29, All About Wine)
The coronavirus lockdown comes as a second blow for Samantha O’Keefe, whose winery, home and some of her vineyards were destroyed by a fire back in December. Her wines are – to put it bluntly – superb, and now is the ideal time to explore her 2017 and 2018 vintages, as a way of supporting her as she rebuilds her business. Her whole range – from chardonnay through pinot noir to syrah – is worth a look, but I’ve always had a soft spot for her Age of Grace viognier, with its savoury lemon and apricot nose, rounder texture and balanced acidity.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s blog entries about whisky, wine and other drinks on The Grape & The Grain at https://www.scottishfield.co.uk/grapegrain/