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 email@example.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.
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Two from South Africa
La Motte Estate 1992 Franschhoek Valley Estate Wine ($14.99)
FOOD MATCH: Works as well as a fine Bordeaux with grilled leg of lamb.
Warwick 1992 Stellenbosch Red Wine ($15.99)
FOOD MATCH: The acidity and bright fruit make it surprisingly well-suited to a meatless pesto and green-pepper risotto.
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