South African sips for the holidays

The Pavillioin; Petit; Nederburg; The Wolftrap (Photo: Pat McGrath)

I recently tasted most of the South African wines that are readily available in the LCBO/Vintages. Like any country’s offerings, they’re a mixed bunch in terms of style, quality and value. But I have to say that, overall, we’re getting a much better range of South African wines now than we have in the past. And they’re supplemented by the Vintages bi-weekly releases, which often include wines from smaller South African producers. Many of these are turning out extraordinary wines, as I saw when I was in South Africa a couple of months ago.

As far as the regularly available wines are concerned, most deliver good quality or better, and very good to excellent value. There’s no doubt in my mind that South African wines are often underpriced, and that’s great for consumers. These are excellent choices for the holidays, whether you’re entertaining a crowd, a small group, or planning for festive meals.

Apart from the four wines I review today, there are many more to look for. Among the whites: Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($10.25, LCBO No. 340380) is a very well-priced, crisp sauvignon with solid flavours, and Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2011 ($11.95, LCBO No. 22251), which carries a bit more weight. For South Africa’s signature white, put on Six Hats Chenin Blanc 2011 ($10.95, LCBO No. 266098), which is full of fruit and refreshing acidity. Another chenin blanc, less complex and very easy-drinking in style, is KWV Chenin Blanc 2012 ($8.45, LCBO No. 18689). For a nicely made pinot grigio, go to Flat Roof Manor Pinot Grigio 2012 ($11.25, LCBO No. 27128).

There are plenty of attractive reds, too. Look for Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($15.95, Vintages Essential 328567), which is concentrated and balanced, with soft, manageable tannins, and Boschendahl “The Pavillion” Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($11.95, 222299), a fruit-forward blend that’s very nicely paced. A third cabernet well worth a look is Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($12.95, LCBO No. 291724).

South African shiraz is often a good deal, and a straightforward example with plenty of flavour and good fruit-acid balance is Place in the Sun Shiraz 2011 ($12.95, LCBO No. 286088). For an inexpensive, easy-drinking shiraz, try Obikwa Shiraz 2011 ($9.45, LCBO No. 527499). Finally, an always-reliable blend of Rhône varieties is Goats do Roam Red 2011 ($12.95, LCBO No. 718940), which shows consistent, solid fruit from start to finish, with excellent fruit-acid balance.

There are plenty more where these came from, and it’s worth looking in the South Africa section for the brands you might not have seen before, as well as the more familiar. In addition to these still wines, there are also sparkling wines, which I’ll review in a couple of weeks.

Petit Chenin Blanc 2011

Made by Ken Forrester, one of South Africa’s foremost producers, this is an easy-drinking chenin that does not compromise on quality. Look for solid, nuanced fruit and fresh acidity. It’s great to drink on its own or with poultry and pork. 13.5-per-cent alcohol; $12.95 (266106)

Boschendahl ‘The Pavillion’ Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2011

The flavours here are fruity and concentrated, with some complexity from the viognier. The balance is good, with fresh acidity, and there’s some plushness in the texture. Drink this with spicy chicken or pork dishes. 13-per-cent alcohol; $10.95 (281311)

Nederburg Shiraz 2011

This is a popular shiraz that gives its Australian competitors a run for their money. The fruit flavours are rich and concentrated, the balance is very good, and the tannins easy-going. It’s a natural for roasted or grilled red meats. 14.5-per-cent; $11.45 (527457)

The Wolftrap Syrah/Mourvèdre/Viognier 2011

This is a terrific red blend from the Franschhoek region. Look for a lot of layered complexity in the consistent fruit, excellent fruit-acid balance, and a tangy, juicy texture. Drink it with roast turkey or pork. 14.5-per-cent alcohol; $13.95 (292557)

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