A barrel of South African reds – WBW#6 round-up, Part I

Well, shops around the world have been emptied of their stock of South African wines, the corks have all been popped and rather a lot of good food has been eaten – yup, Wine Blogging Wednesday #6 has drawn to a successful close.  We had a not-too-shabby 22 25 contributors from around the world, and they tasted 26 29 different wines – I was quite surprised that almost every single person managed to taste something different.  Only one wine featured twice!  Speaking of being different – the award definitely goes to one participant who, in her rush to partipate, bought a rosé instead of a red – but since it was made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, it wasn’t entirely out of keeping with the event 😉 What pleased me most were the mostly positive comments on the wines and the number of people who thanked me for getting them to step out of their wine comfort zone – it was an absolute pleasure!

For each contribution I have mentioned the specific region where the wine was made – and if you want a quick summary of the areas, here is a good link.  For a quick visual orientation, check out this map at the Wine Anorak.  I have also taken the editorial decision to split the round-up in half – it’s just too intimidatingly long in one chunk!!  So, in no particular order, here goes Part I:

The first cork to pop was Andrew’s from Spittoon who was so keen to get going that he tasted SA reds two days in a row!  His choice for WBW was Flagstone’s 2003 The Berrio Cabernet SauvignonFlagstone is a relatively young winery (founded in the mid-1990s as far as I know) but their wines have been garnering awards left, right and centre, including a trophy case full of Veritas awards as well as international accolades.  They make various wines with beautiful names such as Noon Gun, Dragon Tree, Writer’s Block, Backchat blend, The Heartbreak Grape, In Cahoots and Ruby in the Dust – names to dream by.  But I digress. Andrew was very impressed with his wine and rated it 96/100 – how can you do other wise when he describes the aroma as “deep stewed black fruits with hints of spice, mint and chocolate, warm”?.  Sounds fantastic and apparently paired very well with a salami and tomato pasta.

Next in the tasting order was Rich broadcasting from The Wine Cellar in Chicago.  He chose a wine from Rust en Vrede’s Second label – the 2002 Guardian Peak Frontier– and praises their efforts to protect the ecology of the Kalahari desert.  Some of their grapes are grown in Namaqualand on the fringes of the Kalahari and if you’ve ever visited or seen pictures of the area you will be amazed that anything can grow there, especially grapes!  But with irrigation and careful canopy management (using the vine’s leaves to shield the fruit from the harsh sun) the producers in the area have found success. Rich found the palate to be complex, but ultimately felt that the tannic structure needed to support such intense flavours was missing.  Still, he rated it as 7/10, so it could not have been too bad…

Next on the winelist was Moira from Who Wants Seconds? who decided to leap into winetasting with both feet and tried a 2003 Beyerskloof Pinotage from the Stellnbosch region.  Kudos to her for sitting down, pen and paper in hand, to try and verbalise what it is she did or didn’t like about the wine, rather than just saying “Blech!” (like so many people do when they first taste Pinotage ;-)).  But Moira also points out an inportant fact – wines change completely once you serve food with them, and often a wine that’s too tannic or overwhelming tasted on its own becomes docile as a kitten when drunk with food.  Moira paired it with a lasagna and it turned from “cheesy” and burning the back of her throat to smooth and spicy.

Next up was Brenda at Culinary Fool was so taken with the theme that she tried not one but two wines! And to accompany the wines, she and a friend set up a fireside mini-buffet of admirable proportions – five kinds of salami, three cheeses including the intriguing Cambazola and mango-ginger Stilton, pizza, crepes, nuts…  everything you could wish for! The first wine of the evening was a  2002 Guardian Peak Shiraz (as mentioned, the second label from Rust en Vrede and made from Namaqualand grapes) which was found to be somewhat lacking in body, but it did open up and reveal fuller flavours after being open for a little longer and was definitely quaffable.  The second wine was a 2002 Onyx Shiraz Groenekloof from Darling Cellars in the Swartberg region, north of Cape Town and up the west coast.  This was a winner – jammier, fruitier and with more depth – to be drunk with food or sipped on its own by the fireside or as a sundowner.  Sounds like a very productive evening!

In a class of her own was the irrepressible Sam of Becks and Posh who apparently misunderstood the “red” part of “South African reds” 😉 and brought home a bottle of 2004 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé from Stellenbosch).  But hey, it is officially made from a red grape and besides, if I as the co-founder of EoMEoTE can’t be a little lenient, non-discriminatory and laid-back, who can??  So there’s to be no punishment doled out as Sam feared…  And who can resist when Fred has said such flattering things about the wine??

“It smells, exactly like a rosé should smell and it tastes like a pretty good rosé too. It tastes really, really good. Perfect, perfect. Rosé in Provence is fruity and the smell gives you a clue. This is just like a Rosé in Aix, in Provence, it smells like you are right there. It’s even better when you taste it, it tastes just like rosé in Provence.”

And coming from a Frenchman, I’d call that high praise indeed.  Paired with homemade ratatouille with basil and pine-nuts on a bed of couscous, it went down a treat.

Derrick from An Obsession with Food tried to get hold of some Pinotage over in California, but all the SA wines in stock around his neck of the woods were Shiraz.  He eventually settled on another Stellenbosch wine – a 2001 Mooiplaas Shiraz which he and Melissa enjoyed with chicken legs brasied in white wine on a bed of root vegetables and spinach – although he says that next time he may try something more robust, given the wine’s ample tannins.  He has also been in touch with the winemaker Louis Roos via e-mail who responded extensively to his questions – top marks for initiative!  Check out Louis’s interesting comments in his post.

And we’re back in San Francisco where Fatemeh of Gastronomie decided to remain in Stellenbosch and give a 2001 Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon a whirl.  I have a particularly soft spot for this wine – it’s name literally means “peace and quiet” and when I was little, every time we’d ask my dad what he wanted for Christmas, he’d say “rus en vrede!” – so one day as a student I drove to the estate, bought him a couple of bottles and finally gave him his heart’s desire :P.  But back to Fatemeh, who makes a very good point about decanting the wine – it’s not just for old ports: almost any red wine will benefit from decanting and a bit of air before drinking.  Fatemeh enjoyed this wine with a broiled sirloin steak and brown-butter & garlic broccoli rabe – in fact she enjoyed it so much that she plans to drink it again next time they have a steak dinner!

From Cincinnati we have Jens of Cincinnati Wine Garage who got so into the swing of things that he tasted not one, not two, but three South African reds!  First up was a 2004 Indaba Merlot, sales of which partially fund scholarships for previously disadvantaged South Africans pursuing a career in the wine trade.  In fact, the current winemaker at Indaba, Mzokhana Mveme, was the first recipient of this scholarship!Jens wasn’t overly impressed with the wine but thought would be fine with pizza – until he drank the 2003 Robert’s Rock Shiraz Malbec which was a better wine at a 30% lower price… Robert’s Rock is an affordable export label from the better-known KWV cellar and appears to deliver what it says on the label – fun and affordable wine.  Finally, along came the 2002 Brampton Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot with its “nice fruit nose”, “smooth flavors and tannic structure” – and Jens declared this to be highly recommended for a mere $14.  Brampton started off as the second label of the better known Rustenberg estate but seems to have built up quite a reputation in its own right. Unfortunately we don’t get to read what food Jens matched with these wines, but clearly pizza is on the menu if he ever has the first two again!

Alice from Tea Time has the unique distinction of writing a post as long as mine!  She had a really difficult time trying to figure out what exactly it was that she bought.  You’d think that would be the easy part but nooooo, there were export labels under different names, distributors labelling the same wine differently and extra varietals involved, and in the end it turned into more of a mystery than a wine tasting 😉 As far as Alice and I can tell, Tumara is the export label for Stellenbosch-based Bellevue estate, but from their site they appear to label the wine “Morkel Tumara” – Morkel being the winemaker’s surname.  And to confuse matters more, the tasting notes mentioned stuff like Cape fynbos and eucalyptus – neither of which were familiar smells, so that wasn’t exactly helping to clarify matters!  According to the label, she had the 2002 Tumara Malbec – but as you’ll see from the post, that may or may not be an accurate description… The truth is in there somewhere  [cue X-Files theme to fade…].

Still in Stellenbosch, Mulderbosch wines put in a second appearance in the contribution from The Confabulist, who gives us a very amusing explanation of how the world is divided into two types of people – Bordeaux and Burdgundy people – and how he switched camps.  The whole post would not be out of place in the film Sideways – and I mean that as a huge compliment!  The wine on offer here is the 2001 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound (an intriguing blend of 42% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec and 8% Petit Verdot) and the Confabulist gave it a big thumbs up, really enjoying the red fruit, mocha and spices on the palate.  He suggests giving a few years to mellow in the bottle or having it right now to accompany a steak topped with stilton.  I know which one I’d go for…

The last contribution for Part I is Lenn from Lenndevours, the great man himself and the one that we have to thank for creating Wine Blogging Wednesday!  Lenn bucked the Stellenbosch trend and went shopping in the Franschoek region where he came across the 2000 Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon.  As Lenn explains, Porcupine Ridge is the second label of the well-known and respected Boekenhoutskloof estate. Lenn got some ripe red fruit and some cigar box aromas on the nose, but thought the wine may have been slightly oxidised.  He doesn’t tell us what type of seal they used or if he thought this might be in any way to blame, which would be interesting to know as 5 years doesn’t seem awfully old for a Cabernet to start showing oxidation.  Still, he found the wine interestingly un-cabernet-like and would drink it again – with a better cork!

Phew!  OK, time to go and rinse your glasses and nibble on some Cream Crackers before we crack open Part II!

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  1. says

    Hi Moira!
    I’m thrilled everyone had such a good time and learned all kinds of stuff! I had a blast doing the round-up, even though it took forever – glad you liked it :-) See you next month!

  2. Vinography: a wine blog says

    WBW6 Roundup Has Been Posted: South African Reds

    The summary of this week’s Wine Blogging Wednesday #6 has been posted on Cook Sister. It comes in two parts: Part I, and Part II, as poor Jeanne was overwhelmed with the number and variety of wines being tasted from bloggers all over the globe. This wa…

  3. Spittoon.biz says

    Wine Blogging Wednesday – South African Reds The Roundup.

    So many entries to the latest and greatest (wine) blog-happening that everyones favourite Cook Sister has had to split the write-up into two. Some great wines selected across the world – informative write-up too. http://cooksister.typepad.com/cook_sist

  4. says

    What, nothing from Meerlust? I guess that’s a tribute to the wonderful wines South Africa has to offer…when even some truly great wines don’t get to enjoy a showing.

  5. says

    Brampton Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Petit Verdot these have to be the best in red wines I am still trying to get the taste for red wine must these have to be my favorite. I see that you have mentioned Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon, I am yet to try this red but their white are amazing.