By Dwight Casimere
South Africa has been making great inroads in the American wine coinsumer market. Two factors are at play: the wines are superb, with a juicy, fruit-forward taste profile and the wines are highly affordable, usually weighing in at well under $20.
For those not in the know, South Africa is home to one of the most ecologically diverse regions on the planet. The Cape area, which is where most of the countries vineyards are located, is also the site of the Cape Floral Kingdom, famous for having more species of plants than anywhere else in the world. Strictly protected under the world's most stringent conservation laws, 70% of the plant varietals in South Africa are only found within its borders. Suffice to say that sustainable farming practices are the rule for preserving this fragile biodiversity. Vineyard practices are no exception. Stellenbosch is South Africa's best-know wine region. A wide variety of wines are made there, totaling more than 20% of the country's total wine production. With its proximity to Capetown, it is the Cape's most famous wine district because of its high mountainous, granite soil and the cooling breezes of False Bay.
South African wines were virtually non-existent on American shelves due to the trade sanctions against the country during apartheid. With the end of apatheid in 1993/94, the wine industry experienced a renaissance, with dramatically increased production and foreign investment. Rapidly increasing foreign demand for South African wine and the adoption of modern production technologies have brought hundreds of label into production resulting in a real benefit to consumers. There are a myriad of excellent South African wines available at really fantastic prices.
Among the newly created wineries in the Stellenbosch region is Highberry, the creation of financial investment guru Andre Parker, who has purchased a substantial portion of the celebrated Mount Rozier estate in Stellenbosch. Mouont Rozier has some of the finest soil in the Schaapenberg terroir of the Western Cape. Rich in minerals, it combines the best elements of the region. The winery's proximity to the coast and its south-facing vineyards makes for the "perfect storm" of factors to create quality grapes and premium wines.
Highberry Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Stellenbosch is the newest entry to the United States in the growing number of South African labels to be found on the shelves of discriminating wine shops. Selling ar around $14, the wine is perfectly suited to the Holiday Table and beyond. With a fruit-forward flavor of bright citrus; Meyer lemon, a hint of ripe, white peaches and a touch of tropical fruit, mango and pineapple come to mind, this is the perfect accompaniment to turkey or pineapple-glazed ham. The wine, with its slight hint of minerality, derived from the shale soil and tinges of sea air, from its location at the confluence of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, has a sturdy spine that allows it to stand up to a variety of dishes. Served well-chilled, this is a wine that can carry through from a before-dinner aperitic, right through the main course and even a dessert of peach cobbler, lemon crunch pound cake or lemon meringue pie. It makles my mouth water just thinking about it!
Highberry Sauvignon Blanc is new to the U.S., so you might have to ask your local wine merchant to order it, if it is not readily available on the shelf. At just about $18 a bottle, it's worth ordering a case or two. Have a few with friends over the Holidays and save a few for next Easter.