Although South Africa (or Sith Ifrika as it’s known in Afrikaans) has had several ups and downs in its history, one thing that’s been on the up and up for a while now and shows no sign of abating is the quality of their wines. So neatly side-stepping any political minefields let’s get straight to the wines.
Ken Forrester Workhorse Chenin Blanc (M&S £8.50)
Originally a grape known synonymously with France and particularly the Loire Valley, Chenin Blanc has, like Malbec’s move to Argentina, found its new spiritual home in South Africa.
Ken Forrester is the king of Chenin and if you see any wine with his name on it you’re pretty much guaranteed a tasty drop at a bargain price. This wine is not at all cloying like some cheaper examples but has beautiful honeyed pear and apple flavours kept in check by crisp acidity. Great on its own or with simple pork nibbles (dare I say home-made pork scratchings a la Tom Kerridge).
Bellingham Bernard Series Rousanne (Sainsburys usually £9.50 but currently £8)
Here is a veritable fruit salad of a wine but one with beautiful subtlety amongst the peach, kiwi, lemon and pineapple flavours. There’s also some subtle oak ageing providing a nice roundness and weight to the wine making it very satisfying whether being sipped in the garden in the summer or by a fireside on a cold winter’s evening.
This is not only lovely on its own but makes a spectacular pairing with game birds and poultry. It could even be your new ‘go to’ wine for Christmas dinner but personally I wouldn’t wait that long to discover this. Move over Chardonnay, there’s a new kid in town.
Tesco finest Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc (Tesco £6)
Stellenbosch have been knocking out top notch Sauv Blanc for a while now but, as the world has yet to catch on, you can pick up some really delicious stuff for a song (I mean, £6 for Christ’s sake!)
This has all the classic gooseberry and lemon flavours with clean refreshment all the way but, unlike some of the lesser Kiwi Sauvignons, this has a smooth roundness so there aren’t any potentially sharp acidic edges which can make this grape a bit of a chore. Brilliant with green vegetables and steamed fish. Or fried fish which, let’s face it, is much nicer.
Cornelia Shiraz, Grenache, Cinsault (M&S £10)
The M&S website says this isn’t available but I went to my local store in Bristol last week and they had a fair few bottles kicking about so don’t be alarmed. Here’s a wine choc-full of blackberries and plums with a fragrant herbal freshness to balance the wine out just before the mellow spicy edge wraps things up and you dive on in a for another sip.
Quite excellent on its own but as the weather warms up this would be ace with grilled bangers, burgers and whatever else you fancy charring on the barbecue. The white’s a juicy, delicious blend including Chenin Blanc and Viognier and well worth picking up, especially when one of M&S’s 25% any 6 deals pops up.
Beyerskloof Synergy (Sainsburys usually £8 but £7 at the moment)
I couldn’t do a piece on South African wines without mentioning Pinotage. The South African red grape of choice (a hybrid of Cinsault and Pinot Noir which oddly tastes nothing like either, being quite burly and brambly) makes up the majority of the blend here.
Fat chocolate covered berries spring to mind and the addition of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot adds a beautiful, soft fruity edge. This is important as often Pinotage can be a bit rubbery and coarse on its own, this could not be better than those ropey reds (Origin Pinotage at Tesco is a particularly foul wine – avoid). Drink whenever you want to be happy, basically – at this price it’s a steal.
Graham Beck Chardonnay Pinot Brut (Waitrose £10 until 18 April 17, usually £13.49)
And finishing off let’s celebrate with a delicious, elegant bottle of awesome fizz. Here’s a wine made with classic Champagne grapes and it knocks spots off many Champagnes at double the price.
It has a lovely fine mousse of elegant bubbles harnessing flavours of warm brioche, apple and pear with brilliant depth of flavour. Apparently Nelson Mandela himself used to enjoy this and I can think of no higher recommendation than that.Leave inferior bottles of Champers, Prosecco and Cava where they belong and drink this, you’ll be in good company.
Gesondheid! (no, I didn’t know that either…)