Friday, June 10, 2011

South African Wines Debuts U.S. Tour at James Beard Foundation

South African wines make 2011 U.S. Debut

Wines reviewed Tuesday, June 7, 2011

  1. Dwight The Wine Doctor with Vernon Henn-Thandi Wines-Western Cape, South Africa
  2. Aja’ Robinson-Fever Clothing
  3. Emil den Dulk-De Toren Private Cellar, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  4. Ken Kotze- Cellar Master, Morgenster Wines
  5. The fauna among the floral wines at the James Beard Foundation Greens Wines of South Africa tour event

New York-Wines of South Africa Winemaker Tour 2011 kicked off in New York’s famed Village neighborhood near Washington Square with a tasting of 50 of their outstanding new wines in an event at the historic Astor Center hosted by James Beard Foundation Greens. In addition to sampling the best wines from South Africa, participants had an opportunity to nosh on South African inspired hors d’oeuveres created by South African native, Chef Hugo Uys of Paris Commune. The event was a foodie’s delight!

Some of the wines were familiar to American wine lovers, such as Henry Kotze’s Morgenster and Richard Kershaw’s Mulderbosch Estate. Others, such as Black African winemaker Vernon Henn’s Thandi wines, were new to the U.S. market. The event provided a cornucopia of tastes and textures unique to South Africa.

Nearly a dozen South African winemakers were present to pour their wines and describe, first-hand, and the verdant growing regions that are unique to their country. Stellenbosch, South Africa’s most famous winegrowing area, was well represented by such stellar labels as Raats Family Wines,De Toren, DeMorgenzon, Morgenster, Waterford Estate and Warwick Estate and Vilfonte, among others. Distributors were also on hand to let everyone in the toney crowd know where they could find the wines at their local wine shops.

Surprisingly, most of the wines I tasted and enjoyed the most were in the very comfortable $10-$24 dollar range. I was amazed at the quality of wine that was available, in abundance, under $30. The price and the wine's outstanding flavors and accessibility, makes for an ideal summertime value, especially for those interested in pairing wine with food. With summertime here, South African wines, with their bright, sunny flavors and easy drinkability are the perfect match for a picnic, a sailboat ride or an afternoon on the lawn, taking in a summer festival concert. Ravinia and Millennium Park, here I come, bottle of Mulderbosch in hand!

Some of my personal picks and favorite among the throng are:

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009 (Western Cape) -$13.99. This is what Chenin Blanc is all about and no one does it better than this venerable winemaking estate. The flavors are redolent with lush, vivacious tropical fruit. The aroma of perfumed flowers hits you before you even get the glass to your mouth. This wine is sex in a bottle!

Thandi Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 W.O. Western Cape-$13

Winemaker Patrick Kraukamp really nailed it with this youthful, fruit-forward beauty. The word Thandi meanings nurturing, loving care and that’s exactly the principal that guides both the winemaking a business models of this progressive winery. The Thandi project was one of the first Black Economic Empowerment projects set up by the post-Apartheid government. As a result, the workers now own 2/3rds of the shares of the winery. In 2004, Thandi met strict government standards to become the first Fairtrade certified winery and has become the model for subsequent awardees. The Fairtrade Premium provides money for education for the families that live in the community. This is a classic red blend that combines a rich, ruby-red color with semi-sweet fruit concentration, a bit of pepper plant spice and hints of roasted coffee on the nose. Its available at most local wine shops and, from the comments garnered at this tasting, it will be moving off the shelves fast!

Reyneke Reserve White 2009-Stellenbosch from Indigo Wine Group.-$15

Winemaker Norman Goodfellows knocked it out of the park with this one. It’s become my summertime white “go-to” wine. This Organic wine made from100% Sauvignon Blanc has intense notes of grapefruit and melon and a honeysuckle perfume on the nose. It is crisp and flavorful with an underlying note of the slate soil

that informs its rich character. This is a great wine with summer salads, seafood or just drinking alone on the patio.

As they say in South Africa, “Bakgat!” (Well Done!)

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