Explore the depths of South African wines

7 August 2020


Discover why South African wines should be on your shopping list as our wine columnist John Kelman of Rutabaga highlights his must-have favourites.

Let’s take ourselves to South Africa on this week’s wine journey.

You’re guaranteed great bang for your buck with South African wines, and a big shout out to supporting the wine industry with lockdown really affecting wine sellers and cellars of Azania with domestic alcohol sales restrictions.

This week we explore a variety of grapes including Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir to name a few.

Pinotage is created using a certain grape which draws on the characters of Pinot Noir and Cinsault (Hermitage), while Chenin Blanc “Steen”, is the most established grape variety throughout the country.

The Rhone style of Syrah (Shiraz) is predominant when grown in South Africa and although limited vines of Pinot Noir are grown in South Africa, what they do cultivate is recognised as the highest quality worldwide.

When looking to find some wines for this column Virgin Wines, WoodWinters, Fountainhall Wines and Rutabaga came up with the goods, representing online and local independent retailers.

Drawing on our culinary knowledge, it was a pleasure to pair with these great wines with delicious food.

The Craftsmen, Pinotage, Swartland, South Africa, 2019 – 14% alc./vol.

A fruit-forward palate, this punchy wine with a light smoked paprika note has all the classic Pinotage characteristics. Paired with our own homemade fermented pizza dough and rich passata sauce, choose your own toppings, even pineapple (although this was nearly banned by the President of Iceland).

Cleefs Classic Collection, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, 2018 – 13% alc./vol.

This Chenin Blanc lingers long on the tastebuds so we can enjoy the zesty minerality. It is historically South Africa’s first cultivated and favoured grape variety. Try a cloche or wok lid over the barbecue and smoke some local fish that comes to hand, with a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil or cold pressed Scottish rapeseed oil over your salad.

Circumstance, Sauvignon Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2019 (vegan, organic and biodynamic) – 13.5% alc./vol.

From a biodiversity award-winning family farm, this crisp Sauvignon Blanc is packed with hints of sea salt and fresh peach. A Loire style medium bodied wine it is best paired with some traditional Scottish herring in oatmeal with buttery potatoes.

Bosman, Sauvignon Blanc, Hermanus, South Africa, 2016 (ethical and sustainable) – 13% alc./vol.

This wine is from ethically award-winning family and worker trust owned vineyards, and boasts exotic fruits with a long lush finish. Fresh bread, Dunlop cheese and seasonal gooseberry jam are a must.

Strange Bru, Ruby Cabernet, Swartland, South Africa, 2018 – 14.5% alc./vol.

Unoaked, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan is a hardworking wine bursting with blackcurrants and hints of dark chocolate. Good value and perfect for a midweek glass with earthy seasonal mushrooms if out on a forage.

Rickety Bridge, Pinotage, Franschhoek, South Africa 2018 – 14.5% alc./vol.

A little time in oak barrels adds to the big berry flavour for a lovely rounded wine. Plenty time to enjoy with your Sunday roasted chicken and all the trimmings, add a splash to your homemade gravy to deglaze the cooking tray for your perfect lazy day pair.

Alecia’s Pure, Pinotage, Swartland, South Africa, 2019 – 14% alc./vol.

A young wine with a slightly wooded, sweet bitter black fruit character. Look to some rose veal (as we strive to be more ethical with a no waste strategy, utilising the male calf from our milking herds, this helps to support our farmers) with a bramble jus. Truly delicious.

Billy Bosch Reserve, Pinotage/Shiraz Blend, Western Cape, South Africa, 2018 – 14% alc./vol.

A direct to your door blend with a slight Shiraz spice and soft Pinotage edge. The characteristic and smokiness of the Pinotage is there also. Crack plenty of black pepper over your burger and enjoy.

Spier Creative Block 5, Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot/ Cabernet Franc/ Petit Verdot/ Malbec Blend, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2015, – 14.5% alc./vol.

A multi award-winning wine from a very well established South African house. A well-rounded blend with plenty of long-lasting cherry flavours on the palate. Charred steak is the go-to with this please. Serve the steak as you like it. – BUY AT RUTABAGA

Iona, Pinot Noir, Elgin, South Africa, 2017, – 13.5% alc./vol.

A sophisticated Pinot Noir from Elgin – but not our near neighbours in the north this time. Lots to offer, this wine is a cut above with lovely savoury notes. Pair with some pigeon to bring out the woodland character. – BUY AT RUTABAGA

Aloe Tree, Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa, 2019, – 12.5% alc./vol.

A well-balanced full bramble fruit flavoured Shiraz with light tannins. Plenty to offer even on a budget. We suggest some antipasti as a simple light supper featuring charred peppers especially – a perfect pair. – BUY AT RUTABAGA

Trizan Signature Wines, Syrah, Swartland, South Africa, 2016 (Vegan), – 13.5% alc./vol.

A personal favourite, this well structured wine, while not being overbearing, boasts a lovely little oak. Pair with carpaccio of beef, or be bold with steak tartare instead and taste the Syrah’s effervescence. – BUY AT RUTABAGA