South African wines offer impressively good value, and feature styles and tastes that are food friendly, blending elegance and power. South Africa has been producing wine since the first vines were planted in the 17th century, brought by the Dutch governors of Cape Colony. At one time, the sweet wine of Constantia was the most prized in the world.
The most important South African wine regions are around the two cities of Stellenbosch and Paarl. A range of wine styles are made, from stunning blockbuster reds to full bodied Chardonnay and crisp, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Chenin Blanc, also known as Steen, is the local white workhorse grape capable of making impressive dry and sweet wines. Pinotage, South Africa’s own red grape (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) still leaves wine critics divided, but can make great single-variety offerings as well as being a key component in Cape Blends. Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Bordeaux-style red blends are also among the country’s top reds.
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This was the first Bordeaux blend from the Cape, and remains one of the very best. This 2004 is stylish, very Bordeaux in its structure, yet shows a richness of fruit that Bordeaux can only envy. Black currants, dry tannins and a sense of great ageability—they are all there.
All the Bordeaux grapes are here, making this one of the most complete Bordeaux blends from South Africa. They go with the golfing legend of owner Ernie Els and the winemaking skills of Louis Strydom of Rust en Vrede to produce a very impressively elegant wine, which has delicious mint and smooth black fruit flavors over layers of dark tannins. Great aging…
A layered and complex wine, the 2009 Fusion V is one remarkable selection that’s delicious now, although it certainly shows the stuffing to age well for another three to five years, at least. Forward sweet-oak notes marry harmoniously with black-fruit aromas on the nose. The robust, dense palate offers ripe flavors of cassis, blackberry and plum, with accents of…
A lovely dessert wine, perhaps the pinnacle in South Africa. Concentrated and quite intense with full-bodied flavors of orange rind, clementine and dried apricot fruit spiced with notes of crushed yellow florals, roasted nut skin, toasted egg bread and pure honeycomb. Balanced acidity prevents the mouth from being too thick or viscous, while the endless finish…
A subdued, classic spice nose leads this impressive Bordeaux blend from powerhouse producer Ernie Els. The wine is structured but soft, vibrant but restrained—in short, an exceptional balance of leathery spice, plum and blackberry juiciness and delicate minerality. Very pretty but with a backbone, this wine can age for added elegance.
Powerful and assertive but poised, this exemplary Shiraz from Abraham Perold is a study in balance. Beautiful and subtle berry, pepper and spice mingle, set aloft by a restrained wave of minerality. The wine is structured but delicate, unfolding quietly on the palate. A lovely meeting of Old and New World styles.
Series C is the Cabernet-dominated version of a wine that brings together the winemaking talents of California winemaker Zelma Long and her viticulturist husband Phil Freese, along with Warwick Estate’s Mike Ratcliffe and San Francisco-based importer Bartholemew Broadbent. Coffee, chocolate and dark berry fruits dominate this brooding wine that shows intensity and…
Very ripe and powerful, this Cabernet is built for aging. Dry, firm tannins overlay cassis and herbal flavors, while cedar and toast aromas come from new French wood aging. Sourced from a top Franschhoek Valley vineyard, this is impressive.