South African Reds

When will the wine wave break?


Every so often South African wine gets props, but it seems like there has to be some external impetus to remind people of these often-wonderful wines. The World Cup last year caused some minor ripples in the wine world, but we’ve all been waiting for years to see the South African wine wave crest and break.

I like this wave analogy, and sadly have been using it for too long when it comes to South African wines. You see, I think of people in the wine business, those jaded women and men (like me), who’ve been there and done that as surfers. We paddle out far from the shore and catch the wine waves way before they ever reach the shore and the general public. Now, the surfers may catch a great ride, and the wave breaks on the shore as well, but sometimes we catch a great ride, only to see the wave peter out just before it reaches the shore. I keep on getting the impression that this is the case with South Africa’s wines.

I’ve been hoping for their arrival for years, for no other reason than the simple fact that they are unique and an exciting addition to the vinous landscape. I hope I can drag some of you out to the surf to catch the next wave!
Top 3 South African Reds Tasted

Click to see a slideshow of Top 3 South African Reds Tasted

2007 Glenelly Stellenbosch Grand Vin (44% Shiraz, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot) 14%
Dusty and a little rusty on the nose with a sprinkling of white pepper and a nice beefy quality with a slow-to-emerge oaky undertone. There’s almost a strawberry fruitiness to the nose, with a hint of minty chalkiness, some herbaceous tones, a layer of sundried tomato and a faint pencil lead accent. In the mouth this is fairly fruity and rich, with black fruit tones. The tannins are a bit aggressive and angular, adding weight in the mouth but also distracting attention from the fruit. The wood spice is noticeable and a touch obvious today. There’s no doubt that the underlying material is fresh and juicy with fine notes of fruit, earth, and a lovely black, almost leathery/savory quality, with cocoa strewn all over the place, but today the oak is just a bit too obvious with drying tannins on the finish. 89pts

2006 Joubert-Tradauw Tradouw Valley Syrah R62 14.5%
Decidedly oaky and very candied coffee-scented at first, with a creep of oxidation adding to the rather evolved aromatic impression. There’s some ivy and plum here with a nice bacon fat hint and some cola/rootbeer accents to the fruit. The palate is bright and surprisingly fresh after the nose. There’s a nice bed of ripe tannins and good acidic cut that supports ripe but cool raspberry and red plum skin fruit. The finish is darker with a lightly oily coffee sheen but real persistence to the black raspberry fruit with a gentle seedy astringency. 89pts

2007 Kanonkop Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 14%
Really fairly vegetal on the nose but also well fruited. This packs in some impressive black currant fruit with sweet eucalyptus notes, hints of tomato leaf, tomato paste, and spicy oak. Interesting in the mouth. There are some seriously ripe flavors, juicy, sweet blackberries and some plum, but the texture remains rather linear with good acids and some astringent tannic notes. The fruit in the mouth is framed with some tobacco, spicy oak and a nice earthy streak, but the finish is a bit short and a bit tough. The nose is lovely though, complex and deep, and I certainly don’t mind the vegetal qualities. 87pts

2009 Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Doolhof Pinotage Dark Delight 13.5%
Smoky and vegetal on the nose with initial aromas of burning garbage, compost and cold coffee. Lots of pencil eraser and smoky bacon as well as spicy raw oak join in. Big and rich in the mouth, with rich, sweet dark berry fruit. The acid is bright and juicy and the tannins dusty and fine. It’s rich but a bit simple in the mouth with a spicy, persimmon note on the backend, cleansing sour cherry fruit on the modest finish with some sweet vanilla and mocha on the finale. Certainly better in the mouth than on the nose, but it’s still a bit out of the mainstream for most people. The finish, with its sour cherry note is appealing though, and this does sort of grow on you. 84pts

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