04 September 2013

Cape Classics Wines of South Africa

This particular batch of samples came as a result of my participation in the Snooth PVA Wines of South Africa tasting in New York City. It turns out that the PR specialist who contacted me for these wines was in the room that day, but because things were a bit rushed, we didn't get a chance to meet. I will make a note for all future encounters with winemakers, public relations personnel, and salespeople: even if I look serious and determined (perhaps even unintentionally grouchy) while tasting, I am always happy to meet people in the business and exchange cards. In that particular instance, I missed out on great opportunities to talk about my collection of African stamps and my love of the adventure novels of South African author Wilbur Smith.

2011 Raats Original Chenin Blanc Unwooded
Coastal Region
100% Chenin Blanc
$15, 13.5% abv.

Known as Steen in South Africa, Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted grape in the country. This unoaked version is light, crisp, and mineral with a touch of bitter lemon peel. I found myself craving fried calamari, which I think would be a pretty decent pairing.

2012 Indaba Chardonnay
Western Cape
100% Chardonnay
$12, 13.5% abv.

Light peach aromas and flavors, low acidity, round body, and a long floral finish. Fairly delicate from this historic winery, and highly recommended for a simple roast chicken and potatoes dinner.

2012 Bayten Sauvignon Blanc
100% Sauvignon Blanc
$15, 14% abv.

Bayten is the new brand name for the more traditional, yet less pronounceable Buitenverwachting. Full of grapefruit but with more complex tropical fruit notes as it warms up. Time to break out one of those salads that has golden beets and goat cheese.

2013 DeMorgenzon Cabernet Rosé
Western Cape
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
$12, 13.2% abv.

This winery plays Baroque music throughout the vineyards 24/7 with the belief that the tunes help the vines. I can't speak to that scientifically, but it sounds like it would be pleasant to take a stroll through the property. This rosé has delicious light fruit flavors of watermelon and crabapple. On the palate it is dry and mild with a clean and quick finish. I think that it's a perfect appetizer wine that would pair well with a wide range of flavors.

2011 Kanonkop Kadette
57% Pinotage, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc
$15, 14% abv.

Solid, strong red with the Bordeaux grapes providing a nice balance to the Pinotage. Elements of plum and spice with hints of leather and coffee. Excellent with a little breathing, and great with a good rare steak.

2009 Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon
100% Cabernet Sauvignon
$41, 14.5% abv.

Major complexity from a single grape. The wine opens up early with a nose of tobacco, coffee, and licorice. Chocolate and blackberry flavors follow with medium tannins and a long, dark finish. If ever a wine was made for winter, it was this one, and while it was cold in the Southern Hemisphere when I tried it, I think this one would be perfect up here in November or December with something rich and decadent like roast lamb shanks and a rich dried fig sauce.

Note: These wines were provided as samples.


fredric koeppel said...

nice survey of some interesting wines. are these generally available in the US or mainly in big markets?

Ben Carter said...


It looks like United is their local distributor, so it should be possible to get them. I know I've seen Indaba available locally, but the Thelema and DMZ are definitely worth a search.