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30 Second Wine Tasting Tip:
Rediscovering South Africa

Politics and wine rarely intersect squarely, despite the occasional call for wine boycotts by pressure groups angry about nuclear testing, corporate exploitation of farm laborers or what have you.

But the international boycott inspired by South Africa's sad history with apartheid had a more significant effect on the world of wine. For many of us who came to know and love fine wine during the 1970s and 1980s, we had little exposure to, or opportunity to learn about, the excellent wines from the Cape of Good Hope.

Blessed by a Mediterranean (although hot) climate, South Africa's beautifully scenic coastal regions are well suited for fine-wine grapes, and a history of almost 350 years of European settlement gave its vineyard and wine industry plenty of time to prosper and grow. Producing a diverse array of wines ranging from excellent Bordeaux-style blends to the nation's unique Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut), ripe and juicy Chenin Blancs (locally known as Steen) and the first-rate Muscat dessert wine called Constantia, South Africa's wine industry earned a place of respect among the world's wine-producing nations.

And now, with apartheid having fallen in 1991 and South Africa returned to the world economic community, we're starting to see their wines again. Quite frankly, the early arrivals -- in the United States at least -- were generally mass-produced wines in the low-price range, palatable, but less than inspiring.

That's changing now, though, and South African wines of real quality and flavor interest -- like the two reviewed below -- are starting to turn up on retail shelves everywhere.

If you'd like to talk about your South African wine experiences, drop me a note at wine@wine-lovers-page.com. I regret that the growing circulation of the "Wine Advisor" makes it difficult for me to reply individually to every note, but I'll answer as many as I can; and please be assured that all your input helps me do a better job of writing about wine. Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like to comment on our topics and tasting notes, suggest a topic for a future bulletin, or just talk about wine.

If you're enjoying The 30 Second Wine Advisor, we hope you'll tell your wine-loving friends to register for their own free weekly copy at http://www.wine-lovers-page.com/wineadvisor.

30 Second Tasting Notes
Two from South Africa

La Motte La Motte Estate 1992 Franschhoek Valley Estate Wine ($14.99)
A Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55%), Merlot (36%) and Cabernet Franc (9%), this appealing wine is dark garnet in color, with cassis (blackcurrant) aromas and nuances of herbs and smoke. Full and bright black fruit and earthy notes show themselves in the flavor, framed by crisp acidity and soft tannins. A salute to Bordeaux with a South African accent, and a very fine wine. U.S. importer: Maisons, Marques & Domaines USA Inc., San Francisco. (Sept, 8, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: Works as well as a fine Bordeaux with grilled leg of lamb.

Warwick Warwick 1992 Stellenbosch Red Wine ($15.99)
Slightly hazy garnet in color, this wine shows black fruit and rustic "barnyard" notes that render it quite different in style from the similar Bordeaux blend above. Ripe and juicy fruit flavors and lemon-squirt acidity carry through the barnyard theme, with surprisingly youthful fruit and no obvious tannins. U.S. importer: American Wine Distributors Inc., San Francisco. (Aug. 9, 1999)

FOOD MATCH: The acidity and bright fruit make it surprisingly well-suited to a meatless pesto and green-pepper risotto.

30 Second Wine Link
South African Wine Directory, the comprehensive Website of the South African Wine and Spirit Exporters Association (SAWSEA), lists South African wines and wineries, news and events, maps and tour information, and offers links to companies that sell South African wine online.

Wine Lovers' Voting Booth
This week we're taking on a very serious subject indeed, asking the online world's opinions as to which current trends in wine, from marketing to wine making to legislation, you consider the worst. We've offered a dozen choices, plus the usual "other" and "none." If this topic piques your fancy, I hope you'll drop by the Voting Booth and express your opinion.

30 Second Advertising Partner
California Wine Club, this quarter's sponsor of The 30 Second Wine Advisor, offers members two different bottles of excellent, affordable wine every month (available where permitted by law), along with its monthly newsletter "Uncorked." You can reach the Club at the link above or, in the U.S., by calling 1-800-777-4443.

California Wine Club

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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

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