Archive for the 'South Africa' Category

AOC Swartland?

Callie Louw and Adi Badenhorst at Cape Wine 2012

Swartland, an area of the Western Cape where old bush vines abound while razors are apparently scarce, has taken an unusual step for a wine region in the New World: producers have promulgated a membership charter, complete with a code of winemaking. AOC Swartland, anyone?

The hirsute hipsters of Swartland have have taken it upon themselves not just to limit Read more…

South African cabernet franc: Bruwer Raats #video

What’s the best red variety for South Africa? Bruwer Raats would vote for cabernet franc. Listen to him explain why in the above video.

His wine, made from 25-year-old, unirrigated vines and stylistically more St. Emilion than Saumur, is a strong example of cabernet franc with meaty, floral character with perky tannins. Unfortunately, Raats’ enthusiasm for the grape hasn’t been infectious: I only came across one other example of it as a varietal wine. But since I didn’t get to try the one from Buitenverwachting, this makes the Raats the best cabernet franc that I tasted from South Africa!

Raats also makes the Mvemve Raats de Compostella with Mzokhona Mvemve. A fuller-bodied wine than the straight cabernet franc, the 2009 manages to strike an alluring balance between fruit, acidity and tannin. And, true to his passion, it’s a quarter cabernet franc. Read more…

Pairing pinotage with the elephant in the room

One of the questions that I had going to South Africa was what gives some red wines, notably pinotage, a smoky, burned rubber smell. Pintoage is quite polarizing in the US; Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal, for example, categorically states that she loathes the variety.

So I attended a pinotage seminar last week at Cape Wine 2012 with an open mind, hoping to learn more about the causes of these polarizing aromas. Read more…

Broadcasting Baroque to the vines at DeMorgenzon

Kobe beef cows may be jealous: the vines and barrel room at De Morgenzon winery in Stellenbosch have Baroque broadcast 24 hours a day.

The DJ is Hylton Applebaum, who owns the property with his wife Wendy (Hylton also owns the Classic FM radio station in Johannesburg). Hylton says that the mix includes no music “that annoys people,” ruling out harpsichord, energetic violin solos or organ, which sounded funereal. Opera and all human voice were excluded from the track because they could be too jarring for the staff and neighbors. The staff that I spoke with say the music has a calming effect. Only certain blocks have been wired for sound, including a block of syrah behind the winery.

Hylton says the vineyard with the music shows slower growth than adjacent vineyards that have no music. “We are able to achieve phenolic ripeness with lower sugars,” he said as we stood among the vines.

I asked him if techno would speed up the growth. He said that some experiments in central Europe had shown a variation in tomatoes with the type of music played; jazz worked well but heavy metal killing the plants.

De Morgenzon’s “DMZ” line represents good value at about $15 in the US; the standout of the line is the crisp chardonnay, which has just a hint of early Mozart on the nose. Their top wine, a 100% chenin blanc, presented a serious side of chenin. But more on that in a future post. Read more…

In South Africa for #CapeWine2012

I’m in South Africa right now, attending a biennial trade show called Cape Wine 2012. Although wine was first made in 1659, the industry has confronted numerous challenges from the weather, economic crisis, economic boycott, and phylloxera over the years. In the almost two decades since apartheid ended, the industry has changed a lot in terms of grape varieties vinified and how they are grown, wines exported, labor practices, and arrival of international capital. Today, the Western Cape remains a stunningly gorgeous region that has exciting local vintners as well as an international flair: I been in and around Stellenbosch the past couple of days and have already bumped into Bruno Prats, Hubert de Bouard, Charles Banks, and the view above is from Glenelly, the winery built by May de Lencquesaing of Pichon-Lalande. I look forward to exploring the wines, meeting vintners, winemakers and other journalists, and delving into various themes at the show in the coming days. Is there anything you are particularly interested in? What is your take on South African wines now?

In the name of disclosure, and for those who think press trips are nefarious exercises in brainwashing, my trip is organized by Wines of South Africa.

Keep an eye on my Twitter feed for my latest updates (where wifi permits!) including commentary and pictures (instagram handle: drvino).


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