Protea Wines employs a curious brand strategy. The fronts of the bottles say nothing about the wine, and a small, removable label on the back just lists the required details and UPC barcode. The rest of the bottle is printed directly with a floral design courtesy of South African fashion designer Mark Eisen. They promote the beauty of the leftover bottles with the Save Your Bottle campaign, encouraging people to re-use the glass for storing olive oil, vinegar, for use as candle holders or vases, cut into drinking glasses, etc.
Protea (PROH-tee-ah) is named after a group of South African flowers that were in turn named after the shapeshifting Greek god Proteus. This is due to the fact that the flower comes in many different forms. The most well known is the King Protea, which like many of its genus, requires going through a wildfire as part of its life cycle.
Continuing with the attention to commercial design, the samples included a bottle coaster made by American ceramics designer Jono Pandolfi. If you've never used a bottle coaster, it's for keeping stray drips from staining your table or tablecloth. You see them in silver, some folks use their leftover crème brûlée ramekins from the dessert case at Whole Foods, or the less classy wad of paper towels. I like the earth tones in this one and look forward to using it for its intended purpose for years to come.
2013 Protea Chenin Blanc
Coastal Region, South Africa
100% Chenin Blanc
$18, 13.5% abv.
Once you peel off the label you can call it Steen and be true to the region. This is a delicate summer sipper with a profile of lime zest and pear, light white fruit, low acidity, and a gentle finish. Perfect for mild seafood dishes like steamed mussels where the salt will bring out the flavor in the wine.
2012 Protea Red Blend
Western Cape, South Africa
53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 47% Merlot
$18, 14% abv.
This wine brought back a lot of memories from my South African wine tasting and dinner in NYC. Luscious aromas of dark cherry and coffee with hints of chocolate. Dark berry flavors and medium tannins with a long, lingering finish. Highly recommended for grilled lamb dishes.
Note: These wines were provided as samples for review.