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Delhi Wine Club
Celebrating South Africa with delWine - 500

Posted: Tuesday, 15 May 2012 17:25

Celebrating South Africa with delWine - 500

The words ‘carte blanche’ are not necessarily those a guest writer wants to hear when asked to pen a contribution for a publication like delWine but taking the lead from the celebrations of 500th issue of delWine, Cathy Van Zyl MW lists five hitherto not well known reasons to celebrate South Africa out of a possible 500, hoping these would encourage our readers to include her country on their shopping list.

Click For Large ViewWhile some may revel in the opportunity to revisit a favourite topic, others like me would find it difficult to decide what direction to take. I took my cue from the reason for this contribution – celebration. I could quite easily list 500 reasons to celebrate South African wine – to tie in with the 500th edition of Delwine, but it would bore you to distraction. So you’ll have to make do with five reasons - which I hope are new to you and give an indication of why I think South Africa should be on your shopping list.

1. The controversial Pinotage

Let’s get controversial straight up – my first reason to celebrate South African wine is pinotage. Vergelegen winemaker, André van Rensburg, famously bundled the 1920s cross of pinot noir and cinsaut (known then as ‘hermitage’ in the Cape’s winelands) in the same category as a rapist.

I, however, firmly believe having its ‘own’ grape benefits the local industry. Made in a variety of styles from simply fruity to ambitious, smartly-oaked examples, pinotage is either loved or hated on its home turf, and abroad. I’m the first to admit that the estery, acetone aromas and bitter aftertaste of lesser examples are unpleasant. I’m also no fan of the latest manifestation, ‘coffee pinotage’.

However, well-cellared wines from the 1960s and 1970s have lifted my soul with their strawberry and earth complexity and soft, silky tannins. More recently, the European-styled Ashbourne (in the 2007, 82% pinotage, 9% each shiraz and cabernet sauvignon) captured my heart with its poise, elegance and savouriness. An industry without pinotage would be the poorer for it.

2. Swartland Revolution

Click For Large ViewThe Swartland Revolution also stirs my blood. It’s a weekend-long wine festival taking place in the picturesque town of Riebeeck Kasteel in the Swartland. Here, wheat and vines grow side-by-side, but grapes were historically trucked to the co-op and any distinctiveness lost in mediocrity. Today, a new generation of winemakers is hunting out precious parcels of gnarled old vines and making wine that everyone is talking about. These guys favour the Rhône varieties but also make stunning white blends using, well, anything but sauvignon blanc! Search them out – Mullineux Family Wines, AA Badenhorst, Craig Hawkins/EL Bandito, Lammershoek and DeanDavid.

3. Ouwingerdreeks

Also living and making superb wines in the Swartland is Eben Sadie. A few years ago, he and two friends – viticulturist Rosa Kruger and wine writer Tim James – embarked on a project which just has to be lauded, and supported. They developed the Ouwingerdreeks (‘Old Vine Series’) to highlight the existence of the country’s old vineyards. A set of six wines from fruit grown in six of South Africa’s oldest vineyards, like 45-year old cinsaut and 100+ year old hanepoot (muscat d’Alexandrie), it features labels created by William Kentridge, possibly South Africa’s most famous artist. It seems odd saying that ‘old is new’, but these wines truly mark the beginning of a new era in South Africa. They’re pure, focused and – most importantly – respectful of their roots.

4. Foreign Investment

Click For Large ViewContinued foreign investment is another reason to celebrate. A few years ago, there were only a handful of foreigners investing in our winelands. Today, there are many more; one of the more recent being American Charles Banks, formerly a substantial shareholder in the super-cult Californian winery, Screaming Eagle. Banks and Co acquired Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards in Tulbagh and Mulderbosch in Stellenbosch late in 2010. At the relaunch of Mulderbosch early in March this year, Banks was unstinting in his praise for the quality of South African wine across the board. Now I know we’ve lifted the bar considerably over the past decade, but having someone of Bank’s astuteness and business acumen recognise it and want to benefit from it is far more gratifying.

5. Wine tourism

My 5th reason for celebrating is that wine tourism is showing signs of becoming one of the most important contributors to the Cape’s coffers. Most of the wineries are members of well sign- posted wine routes. Cellar doors are attractive and welcoming, and knowledgeable staff eager to please. In addition to restaurants and accommodation, there’s hot air balloon rides, horse-back trails, hikes through vineyards, birding, whaling and art for sale, jewellery makers, olive oil bottlers and much more. Proximity to a sophisticated, cosmopolitan market is widely regarded as one of the three critical factors for a wine region's success. Constantia, Durbanville, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Hermanus, Worcester and Robertson are all less than two hours' drive from Cape Town. Now, they must make hay.

Cathy Van Zyl MW
South Africa

Cathy van Zyl MW started her wine journey on a bicycle - she asked her husband to cycle the Argus Cycle Tour in South Africa with her, he accepted if she attended a wine course with him. Since that race, she has ridden 15 more Cycle Tours and gone on to pass the Master Of Wine Examination. Cathy judges locally and internationally, occasionally contributes to wine journals and web sites around the world, but spends most of her wine-time as associate editor of the Platter's South African Wine Guide, which her husband edits.



Yegas Says:

A personalised and highly realistic assessment of the current day developments in South Africa, I could not have penned a more informative article. Thank you Cathy.

Posted @ May 17, 2012 10:15


Debra Meiburg MW Says:

Congrats again, Subhash! Cathy, Thank you for sharing these jewels and insights about South African wines. Debra Meiburg MW

Posted @ May 17, 2012 10:12


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