30 September, 2013

Quarters - The Wine Show: South African Pinotage

Last month's Quarters the Wine Show, focused on Pinotage, a wine as often misunderstood as it is delicious.  I nearly developed a phobia for the variety after getting a particularly bad clunker in the WBC Speed Tasting round. Mud.  Trucker brakes.  Ick.  I never sought it out after that.  Then turns out, it caught up with me after I won a raffle to attend the Wines of South Africa's wonderful event in London.  I gleefully swilled Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Bordeaux blends, but gingerly avoided the Pinotage table.  Lucky for me, I met up with a dynamic gentleman who not only advocated strongly for Pinotage but guided me around the crowded room to try example after example of delicious Pinotages.  Cherry. Chocolate. Coffee.  A white Pinotage (it tasted like a Condrieu) even a delightful sparkling Pinotage.  Tasting all those wonderful wines changed my mind and made me begin to seek out Pinotages.  Not an easy task in Northern California.

For last month's episode, I opened a wonderful sample I had received from Silkbush Vineyards in the South African Western Cape's Breede River Valley region.  The growers experimented for several years finding the best conditions under the dramatic vistas of the towering Silkbush Mountain to plant the vines.  Wines made from their fruit began to collect awards.  Now the fruit is produced and sold in the US under the label, Lion's Drift.  , I found this to be a delicious example, with aromas of lush vanilla and red fruit.  These were echoed in the flavors, with red fruit and baking spice that wove into elements of blackberry and a touch of cocoa.  Nice acidity and color too.  It made me want to locate Oaxacan food, rich with spice but not heat, to pair.  At under $20, a bottle, this reminded me of a Beaujolais more than anything else.  Ripe, fresh, and an easy pairing, easy on the budget wine. In looking for a source to buy more, Alana Gentry also turned me on to a great resource for South African wine: Cape Ardor Wines passionate importers who cull their lists to present great examples of South African wine to make your shopping easy.

An speaking of resources, I later found out my London wine guide was the notable Peter May, whose excellent book: PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine
provides a 360 degree look at the past , present and future of Pinotage along Peter's interesting journey to discover the variety in South Africa and beyond. A lively read that illuminates.  If you are interested in the history of Pinotage as well as a great armchair travel adventure, this book is a great venue.

South Africa is an exotic location for wine, where vines grow on windswept plains and baking heat, but where winemakers with a sense of history and their eyes on the future are producing wonderful wines.

Next week, our upcoming episode will focus on blends.  I can't wait to discover more!

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