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Wine Tasting of South Africa Wines

South Africa Wine Tasting

South Africa Wine Tasting

This week we took a trip into the District of Columbia for a tasting of wines from South Africa. Like most of the East Coast we were bundled up in heavy coats, scarves and gloves. Surprisingly the sun was shining but the wind was cold. The location of the wine tasting was at the CORK Market and Tasting Room. On the first floor the shop sells wines from several countries. In addition, they have numerous varieties of cheese, sandwich fillings and chocolate. Everything is very nicely displayed. The  exposed old brick walls provide a good ambiance.We reached the event tasting area by stepping outside and entering the next door and following the steps up that led to a second floor room over the Cork Market shop.

The tables for the wine tasting were setup in a U-shape and each place setting had six glasses with printed materials about the South Africa wine industry. The materials included a colorful and detailed map of South Africa. The white wines were poured as we walked in.

Jim Clarke introduced himself. Jim is a sommelier and the sole US marketing person for South Africa wines. With a degree in classical music, Jim went to New York where he worked in a restaurant that had a wine program. A friend and sommelier talked to Jim about South Africa wines. Eventually Jim toured South Africa.

Jim began the presentation with a description of South Africa’s wine regions. The classic regions of South Africa have been producing wines for 350 years. Some vineyards were abandoned. These areas have been rediscovered and reestablished creating another region. South Africa also has new wine regions many of which were planted after 1992. A fourth region of South Africa is where bulk wines are produced.

As in other countries, South Africa has wine labeling requirements. Wines  designated as an appellation must contain 85% of the grape from that region. For the wines to be considered regional, 100% of the grapes must be from that region.

The first wine was made in South Africa in 1659. The Dutch thought wine would be good for their sailors as they believed it stopped scurvy. In the early 2000s  there was a resurgence of wine quality and wine marketing.

South Africa Wine Facts

  • The Elgin region is a new region that has a cool climate and is located near the ocean.
  • Sauvignon Blanc is the most popular white wine in South Africa.
  • Chenin Blanc plantings are 18-19% of the total vineyards.
  • 1959 was the first commercial Pinotage. Today Pinotage is the 4th most planted red grape at 6.9%.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted red grape.

 South Africa White Wines

Spioenkop Riesling Elgin 2013
Spioenkop is the winery name and Elgin is the region. The wine was a light yellow and offered notes of minerallity with a hint of petrol and some citrus notes. The crisp wine had 12% alcohol. The retail price is $20 plus.

Iona Sauvignon Blanc Elgin 2014
This wine was a light yellow. It offered lemon grass, mineral, lemon and grapefruit notes. The wine has 13% alcohol and sells for $16.

DeWetshof ‘Con Vallon’ Chardonnay Robertson  2014
This chardonnay was a light yellow with notes of minerals, apple and some citrus. The wine has 13.5% alcohol.  The wine retails in the mid $20’s.

Bellingham Chenin Blanc Coastal Region 2013
The Chenin Blanc with 14% alcohol was yellow with a medium body.  The wine offered notes of oak, vanilla and some tropical fruits. The wine sells for the mid $20 range.

Alheit Cartology Western Cape 2013
Cartology was a blend of 80% Chenin Blanc and 20% Semillon. The wine was 14% alcohol. This yellow wine offered mineral, apple and vanilla notes. The retail price is $40.

Seven Sisters ‘Odelia’ Bukettraube Western Cape
‘Odelia’ had 11.5% alcohol. The wine was yellow with mineral and floral notes. It was slightly sweet.

South Africa Red Wines

Simonsig Pinotage Stellenbosch
This  Pinotage was a dark ruby color. The wine offered notes of dark fruits and bacon with bold tannins.

Cederberg Cabernet Sauvignon Cederberg 2011
This Cabernet Sauvignon was 14% alcohol. The dark ruby wine offered notes of dark fruit including blackberries, cassis, a hint of leather, a hint of herbaceousness and tannins.

Ridgeback Journey Paarl 2012
This wine with 14% alcohol was a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The ruby color wine had notes of black fruits including blackberries and cassis. The wine had bold tannins. The retail price is $15.

Ken Forrester ‘Renegade’ Stellenbosch 2011
Renegade was a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre. The wine was a ruby color with a Sienna hue. This wine offered flora and black fruit notes including blackberries, plums, and black cherries. The wine had bold tannins. This wine sells for $35 to $40.

Sadie Family ‘Columella’ Swartland 2011
Columella had 14% alcohol. The dark ruby wine had dark fruit notes of black plums and black berries. The wine offered bold tannins. The retail price is $60 to $75.

If you haven’t tried South Africa wines yet, give them a try. Keep a sharp eye on the future of South African wines.



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