Two South African treats
Having spent a lot of time on Australia and New Zealand lately, let's switch our attention today to a different quadrant of the Southern Hemisphere.
The wines of South Africa are often to my liking - many of them offer an appealing style combination of New World fruit and Old World earth - but even to this day, a full decade after the end of apartheid and the international economic boycott that limited the market for South African products, the country's wines occupy only a tiny fraction of shelf space in many wine shops around the world.
Hereabouts, I rarely see more than a couple of dozen South African labels at any given time, even in our largest retailers, and these range from mass-market plonk to the occasional high-end label.
Happily, I've run across a couple of appealing items in recent weeks, and I share reports on them with you today. The wines of Charles Back, with their tongue-in-cheek labels related to his family's domestic goats, have become by far the most popular South African brand in the U.S., a position that Back has earned not only through publicity but value. Today's other wine comes from Warwick Vineyards, a South African estate that has consistently impressed me with its quality.
Charles Back 2001 Western Cape "Goat Rotí" ($13.99)
Very dark reddish-purple with ruby glints. Deep plum and anise aromas take the fore, but interesting smoky "bacon-fat" aromas in the background evoke the Rhone. Ripe and tart, black plum, anise and smoky flavors mirror the nose; food-friendly, snappy acidity provides structure in a long finish. Good fruit and balance keep exceptionally high (14.58%) alcohol from dominating. U.S. importer: Vineyard Brands Inc., Birmingham, Ala. (Sept. 21, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: The wine's smoky bacon notes make an unexpectedly good match with bits of crisp bacon in an Italian-style spaghetti carbonara.
VALUE: Appropriate price for value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink but could evolve in an interesting way with a few years of cellar time.
WEB LINK: You'll find the producer's fact sheet on Goat Rotí at
Warwick 2000 Simonsberg Stellenbosch "Three Cape Ladies" ($20.99)
This blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Pinotage shows a very dark garnet color in the glass, black at the core. Its forward aromas offer black plums and spice with a distinct, not unpleasant earthy back note of "rubber tire" that I often find in South African reds. Mouth-filling and textured, soft tannins and appropriately sharp acidity surround ripe, full fruit. There's a lot going on here in a balanced and complex wine; plum, black cherry and spice persist in a very long finish. U.S. importer: Broadbent Selections Inc., San Francisco. (Oct. 17, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: A wine made for red meat, it's a natural partner with a medium-rare rolled beef sirloin roast.
VALUE: At the $20 point it's rising past everyday-wine status, but it more than meets the international competition at this level.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, but I see no reason why it wouldn't reward years of proper cellaring.
WEB LINK: Here's the importer's fact sheet on Warwick Vineyards:
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This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles and features that I hope you'll enjoy:
Dave McIntyre's WineLine: Oh! Canada?
Wine Lovers' Voting Booth: Favorite wine opener
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
An Italian homecoming (Oct. 17, 2003) http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tswa031017.phtml
Hit the (local) wine road (Oct. 15, 2003) http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tswa031015.phtml
Screw cap gains momentum (Oct. 13, 2003) http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor1/tswa031013.phtml
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Dining out Down Under (Oct. 16, 2003)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, Oct. 20, 2003