Tuesday, June 29, 2010

South African Wines

Spent the day exploring the wine regions outside Cape Town, South
Africa. I kind of felt like that French guy in the movie "Bottle
Shock" in that I knew nothing of the wines or region, was unable to
buy anything because of lack of luggage space (we are travelling
light), but wanted to learn and taste - and found wines that were
world class where we did not expect it. We skipped the tourist bus and
hired a knowledgeable driver to take us around after explaining that
we knew wine, just not South African wine. The wine regions around Cape Town are huge, far surpassing Napa/Sonoma in size and number of wineries. We visited the up and
coming Paarl region, the French influenced Franschhoek region, and the
Dutch influenced Stallenbosch region. Our guide took us to both big
and small wineries. Two notable varieties they produce in SA that I
have not seen elsewhere are the Chenin Blanc & the Pinotage. Chenin
Blanc is perhaps a cross between a Chardonnay and a Savignon Blanc,
while a Pinotage is like a cross between a Syrah and a Cabernet
Savignon. I can see how a pure Pinotage can be difficult for some
people to swallow but many vinters make delicious, more desireable
blends with it. One winery worth noting on our tour was Lynx in the
Franschhoek region. He's a German engineer who knew nothing of
agriculture and bought a grape farm (table grapes). He soon ripped out
the table grapes and planted wine grapes. His operation is small, only
producing 10-15 barrels per variety and all made by hand. Check out
his cement tanks pictured in the attached link. It's hard work that
definitely showed in the quality of his wines.


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