Peter Ranscombe enjoys three great-value South African wines while hearing what their maker would serve alongside them.
THE Co-op in Melrose is perhaps the last place you’d expect to find a South African winemaker – but Alastair Rimmer has an affinity for the Borders.
The cellar master at Kleine Zalze winery enjoys fishing on the Tweed and, during tonight’s online tasting with Wine Events Scotland and importer Hatch Mansfield, he shared the story of finding one of his wines in the convenience store.
Given his choices of food to pair with his wines, it’s little wonder that Rimmer likes Scotland, and the Borders in particular.
His 2019 Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Bush Vines Chenin Blanc (£8.99, Luvians) is packed full of freshness, not just from the relatively-low acidity in the wine but also, he believes, from the minerality in the Western Cape’s granite soils.
Rimmer praised the way in which it matches smoked salmon because of the intensity of its fruit; while many crisp, dry whites can pair well with cured fish, a heavy smoke can knock out the flavours of lesser wines.
There’s no danger of that with the brand’s entry-level chenin, which packs a green apple, peach and floral punch on the nose, and then follows through with granny smith and more savoury lemon rind on the palate.
The bush vines that grew the grapes are mature – at 20 years old – but not quite in old vine territory yet, but they’re showing incredible promise.
Rimmer is also a lover of lamb – especially the more earthy breeds found in parts of Stellenbosch – and it’s one of his favourite matches for the 2018 Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (£9.99, Luvians).
It’s easy to see why; the cabernet has an interesting mix of redcurrant, blackcurrant and liquorice, with polished yet firm tannins, which – for me – definitely needed food.
The cellar master points to the portion of fruit from vineyards closer to the coast for adding the red fruit notes to the wine, and I agree that there’s a certain elegance and freshness to the bottle, despite the assertive tannins.
No arguing with Rimmer’s choice to pair with his 2017 Kleine Zalze Vineyard Selection Shiraz (£13.99, Luvians) either – game all the way.
He suggested venison or a more earthy bird would work well with the shiraz, thanks to its concentrated bramble flavours.
Rimmer explained that he’s already reduced the proportion of new oak barrels – down to 30% for the 2017 – during the six years he’s been at the winery, and I agree that there’s scope to lower the ratio again.
While the blackberry and black cherry aromas already come jumping out the glass, there’s still a lot of vanilla and woodsmoke alongside them.
There are also some delicious milk and dark chocolate notes coming through on the palate, but it would be interesting to see if the freshness of the fruit would shine even more if the mouthcoating lushness was dialled back a bit further.
What links all three wines is their incredible value for money; South Africa – alongside perhaps the Languedoc and parts of Australia – rules the roost in this £10 to £15 bracket, with wines that demonstrate the typical characteristics of their grape varieties but which are still accessible and enjoyable.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.