Wine region: South Africa

A couple of years ago I wrote: “If you had to hold up a country as an example of how not to do it, vis-à-vis wine, then South Africa would be in pole position.” Most of the reasons were historical. During the eighties, before apartheid came to an end, other countries were able to invest heavily in vines and technology, whilst South African growers were left out of the loop. Secondly, the co-operative system which for so long determined prices and production, although it established security for the industry, neither promoted quality nor encouraged innovation. There had to be a major undertaking to abandon the age-old habit of growing as many vines as possible on the same estate on easy-to-cultivate land. Sensible measures, such as planting higher up on hillsides in search of cooler climates, are only a comparatively recent phenomenon. Having said all that there are encouraging signs: the Coastal Region has an ideal climate to produce quality grapes and there are some fascinating examples of Pinotage. And the IPW (Integrated Production of Wine) system officially launched in 1998 has set benchmarks for quality that are beginning to bite. My sneaky feeling is that more growers should experiment with Rhone and Italian grape varieties rather than adding to the world’s brimming reservoirs of Chardonnay and Cabernet.

And so to 2008. That chomping noise you hear is me eating my air-dried words liberally barbecued with humble grape pie. Within the past couple of years strong identification of terroir allied to a sensitive organic approach to winemaking has driven quality of South African wines remorselessly forward. I’ve tasted great Cabernet, Merlot (and blends thereof), Shiraz is improving and Grenache, especially where there are old vines, is a star. Synergistic (yes, it’s the revival of that buzzword) blends are in fashion, oak is being used to highlight rather than obliterate the fruit, the approach to winemaking is certainly more considered at every stage of the process.

All is not rosy, however, and there have been critical murmurings of a discernible greenness in South African red wines. Is it a winemaking fault, a characteristic of the region (or certain grape varieties) or something else?

The (Fun) Winery team encompasses everything characteristic about the ‘New South Africa’. A diverse cultural and racial mosaic, combining indigenous South Africans with Northern Hemisphere adoptees - a blending of ideas, of values and of purpose, creating a natural dynamic for innovation and success. The Winery’s distinctive range reflects entirely separate styles. Each range has its own raison d’etre, independent of the others, though complementary to the bigger picture. The wines have a pleasing restraint from the Burgundian Radford Dale Chardonnay to the very mineral wines from Black Rock and Vinum.

The Winery is a winery to watch, so to speak. This year they have been recognised by the respected John Platter which garnishes virtually all the offerings with plentiful stars – and quite right.

If The Winery covers many bases extremely capably then Niels Verburg’s Luddite is a one off speciality. This is a knock-your-socks-off-and-marinate-your-toes-in-it-Shiraz, a wine so generous you’ll be smiling for days.

Posted by admin on 31-Jul-2008. Permalink

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