Peter Ranscombe revisits some of his recent favourites from South Africa as the country’s alcohol ban shifts direction once more.
YESTERDAY’S news that the South African government has lifted parts of its alcohol sales ban will provide some relief for wine producers.
Yet – as winemaker Bruce Jack warned in a recent article for The Buyer trade website – the restrictions have already taken their toll on the industry.
As I explored in a blog post last May, exports have been a lifeline for many wineries during the pandemic.
Lots of the country’s winemakers not only provide jobs for workers, but also support community health and education projects.
While all nations have been hit by the virus, the measures taken in South Africa to restrict the spread have been a particularly bitter blow to wineries.
In an international context, few bottles offer such good value when they reach the UK as those from the Cape – I often think you’d pay double the price for some of the wines if they came from Europe or California.
If you’re looking for South African inspiration then check-out these labels…
Albert Road Pinot Noir (£6.99 until 16 February then £9.49, Waitrose)
Exceedingly good value – either at £6.99 or £9.49 – this is a classic South African style of pinot, with wood smoke, damp dog, and cedar on the nose, plus fresher raspberry, strawberry, and spun sugar on the palate. Made by talented winemakers Duncan Savage and Thys Louw – it’s crazy to be able to get their creations at this price.
Klippenkop Chenin Blanc 2019 (£7.95, Jeroboams)
Chenin Blanc is South Africa’s flagship white grape and is really versatile, with great wines like this Klippenkop at entry-level price points, and then more sophisticated examples from the likes of AA Badenhorst. Here, the Klippenkop delivers bright and attractive green apple and peach aromas before launching into an explosion of richer red apple and peach on the palate.
KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2018 (arriving soon; 2017: £14.95, Slurp)
KWV was once South Africa’s state-controlled dominant winemaker and is still a big supplier of bulk wine. It’s also now forging a reputation for the high quality of its “Mentors” series of wines, produced in a special experimental winery. The petit verdot is one of my favourites from its range, with its blackcurrant, mint, and liquorice notes.
Journey’s End V5 Cabernet Franc 2017 (£15.20, Tanners)
Cabernet Franc can be a difficult grape to grow – if it doesn’t get enough warmth then its green aromas and flavours dominate over its pencil lead smells and intense fresh raspberry tastes. There are no such worries with the V5 from Journey’s End, which brings together rounded blackcurrant and raspberry jam flavours.
Lothian Vineyards Elgin Chardonnay 2018 (£17, Oddbins)
Don’t be confused by a “Lothian” chardonnay coming from a place called “Elgin” – we’re still in South Africa and not criss-crossing Scotland. There’s such a delicously-savoury nose to this wine, with lemon rind, wood smoke, cream, and a hint of nut. On the palate, the gentle butter and cream flavours wrap around the fresher green apple and lemon fruit, adding complexity. One that’s worth exploring for Burgundy fans.
Lismore Cape South Coast Chardonnay 2018 (£22.99, Majestic Wine)
Samantha O’Keefe is not only one of the best winemakers in South Africa but also a great communicator – her passion for her vines really shines through. I love the delicate wood smoke mingling with the peach and apricot on the nose of her south coast chardonnay, and the way in which its delicate texture ripples across the palate, with lemon rind and stone fruit flavours, plus well-integrated acidity. It won over my Chablis-loving parents at Christmas – without any interference from me!
Ataraxia Pinot Noir (£27.25, Wine Line Scotland)
The Hemel en Aarde region is home to some superb wineries, including Creation, Hamilton Russell, and Newton Johnson. Ataraxia is another site to which I keep returning time and time again. The area produces chardonnays and pinot noirs that can be mentioned in the same breath as Burgundy, including Ataraxia’s wood smoke and spun sugar-ladened blend of blackcurrant and cranberry.
Read more of Peter’s reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.