1st Wine Explorers’ world wine tasting…

“Exceptional guests for a unique journey around the world of wine“

1ere_Degustation_M93A0747_EDT 

On June 16, seven professionals from the wine industry did us the honor of joining the WINE Explorers’ team, in order to share the discoveries of the first part of the trip, which began in January 2014. A unique tasting, where 12 countries were represented, as that we are very happy to share with you today!
A complicated choice because after a year and a half of peregrinations and 180,000 kilometers traveled, over 2,250 wines had been tasted and listed.
 Some wines were tasted conventionally while others were served blind, to give some surprises to a public of connoisseurs.
The idea was not to judge these wines, but to assess the potential of each of the selected wine regions and discuss the notion of terroir.

1ere_Degustation_M93A0787_EDT
They attended the tasting  : Patrick Schmitt MW, editor in chief of The Drinks Business (UK), Debra Meiburg MW, consultant (Hong Kong), Jean-Claude BerrouetSandrine Garbay, cellar master of Château d’Yquem, Thomas Duroux, CEO of Château Palmer, Stéphane Derenoncourt and Rachid Drissi, purchasing manager of the prestigious negotiant Duclot.

24 wines from 12 countries were tasted

DRY WHITE WINES
Kristall Kellerei, 2013, Rüppel’s Parrot Colombard, NAMIBIA
Aruga Branca Pipa, 2009, Katsunuma Jozo Winery, JAPAN
Virtude Chardonnay, 2013, Salton, BRAZIL
Skyline of Gobi Chardonnay Reserve, 2013, Tiansai Winery, CHINA
Tasya’s Chardonnay, 2011, Grace Vineyard, CHINA

Planisphere_dégustation_VI-01
RED WINES
Pinto Bandeira Pinot Noir, 2014, Vinícola Aurora, BRAZIL
Nouveau, 2013, Château Mani, SOUTH KOREA
Cuvée prestige, 2014, Castel, ETHIOPIA
Grande Vindima Merlot, 2008, Lidio Carraro, BRAZIL
Don Manuel Petit Verdot, 2013, Tacama, PERU
RPF Tannat, 2011, Pisano, URUGUAY
Don Manuel Tannat, 2012, Tacama, PERU
Juan Cruz Tannat, 2012, Aranjuez, BOLIVIA
Cuvée Ameena Syrah, 2010, D’Orrance Wines, SOUTH AFRICA
Cuvée Violette, 2012, Le Vieux Pin, CANADA
Emma’s Reserve, 2012, Silver Heights, CHINA
Kerubiel, 2005, Adobe Guadalupe, MEXICO
5 Estrellas, 2009, Casa de Piedra, MEXICO
Le Grand Vin, 2012, Osoyoos Larose, CANADA
Ensemble Arenal, 2010, Casa de Piedra, MEXICO
Raizes Corte, 2010, Casa Valduga, BRAZIL

SWEET WHITE WINES
Vendange Tardive, 2012, Vignoble du Marathonien, CANADA
Vin de Glace, 2011, Vignoble de l’Orpailleur, CANADA
Tomi Noble d’Or, 1997, Suntory Tomi no Oka Winery, JAPAN

1ere_Degustation_M93A0796_EDT
TOP 3 OF THE JURY – WHITE

1Aruga Branca Pipa, 2009, Katsunuma Jozo Winery, JAPAN
(100% Koshu, 6 months in French oak, then 2 years in bottle)
” Bright wine, slightly gold. Nose of vanilla and acacia ; even more complex after opening, slightly smoky. Mouth with a round, smooth and fresh attack. Very delicate and subtle ”
Food & wine pairing : fish and beurre-blanc sauce

2Virtude Chardonnay, 2013, Salton, BRAZIL
(100% Chardonnay, 6 months in French and American barrels)
” Beautiful clarity, light yellow color. Fresh nose with some floral notes. On the palate a pleasant acidity and an interesting balance. The volume comes from the grape. A wine that displays some personality ”
Food & wine pairing : fresh tagliatelle with salmon

3Vendange Tardive, 2012, Vignoble du Marathonien, CANADA
(100% Vidal, noble rot, slow cold pressing)
” Intense gold color. Pretty nose, deep, notes of pineapple, apricot and mango. Smooth in mouth, with candied peach and apricot. Beautiful wine, dense, rich and sweet but still harmonious ”
Food & wine pairing : vanilla ice cream and hazelnut feuillantine

Two other wines also got the attention of our jury…
Rüppel’s Parrot Colombard, 2013, Kristall Kellerei, NAMIBIA
(95 % Colombard, 5% Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin)
A very aromatic wine, light and pleasant… that seduced by its “drinkability “.
Tomi Noble d’Or, 1997, Suntory Tomi no Oka Winery, JAPAN
(100% Riesling, noble rot)
Undoubtedly an unusual wine…

Degustation_vin_blanc
TOP 5 OF THE JURY – RED

1Cuvée Violette, 2012, Le Vieux Pin, CANADA
(100% Syrah, 14 months in barrels with 19% new)
” Intense deep red color. Green pepper notes on the nose with herbs, olives and blackcurrant. Beautiful mouth, slightly herbaceous with a tapenade and red berries profile. Nice tannins, light oak and very good length. A wine full of elegance and finesse ”
Food & wine pairing : veal chop

25 Estrellas, 2009, Casa de Piedra, MEXICO
(Blend of Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Cinsault, aged for 12 months in French and American barrels)
” Complex and earthy nose. Black olive, plum. Mouth well structured, balanced and harmonious. Good length with an aromatic finish. A wine with lot of finesse ”
Food & wine pairing : chili con carne

3Kerubiel, 2005, Adobe Guadalupe, MEXICO
(38% Syrah, 16% Cinsault, 16% Grenache, 6% Tempranillo, 3% Viognier)
” Garnet color, early evolution. Intense nose of jammy fruit (plum, strawberry, gooseberry). Very nice, evokes childhood. Mouth also on black and ripe fruit. Beautiful and dense structure in mouth. Seductive and very well made ”
Food & wine pairing : sautéed veal and wild rice

4Le Grand Vin, 2012, Osoyoos Larose, CANADA
(50% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec, 20 months in French oak barrels with 60% new and 40% of one wine)
” Nose of spices and wild herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme), combined with ripe black fruits. Round mouth, full, balanced. Elegant and harmonious tannins. Remarkable density and length ”
Food & wine pairing : lamb

5Pinto Bandeira, 2014, Vinícola Aurora, BRAZIL
(100% Pinot Noir, 6 months in French oak barrels)
” Light color, quite dense. Nose of modern Pinot noir, woody, ripe and fruity with notes of blackcurrant. Quite fine. Nice texture on the palate. Precise extraction, long length. Beautiful final ”
Food & wine pairing : white meat or marinated red tuna.

Degustation_vin_rouge
A few words about the countries presented

ASIA

China : a giant which is just beginning
World’s 5th biggest producer and current largest consumer of red wines, China remains primarily a country of extreme conditions of production, with temperatures ranging up to +40°C in summer to -40°C in winter in many central regions, forcing the vines to be buried each winter. The vines are quickly damaged and it is impossible to keep old vines in many regions. Quite an important problem for the elaboration of super premium wines. However, the size of the country offers many different mosaics of climates and soils, allowing hope for a nice future for a production which is so recent. Some top winemakers, as Emma GAO in Ningxia, have already shown us that it is possible to make some very fine and elegant wines.

South Korea : too much moisture for Vitis vinifera
A unique Korean wine presented during the tasting has helped us to highlight the fact that in very wet cultivated areas (90 to 100 %) – as here in South Korea or in Taiwan, for example – wine production requires the planting of hybrids vines other than Vitis vinifera. This seems to suggest that quality wine production is compromised in regions relatively close to the equator, where the humidity is constant and the cycle of the vine is continuous.

Japan : great elegance in the land of the Rising Sun
Japan is a country with generally difficult weather conditions, with a wet climate. The meticulous care of the vine still allows them to produce some very nice wines, especially from the Koshu, Riesling or Pinot Noir grapes. The tasting has shown that Japan can produce very elegant and aromatic wines, both dry, like the delicious « Aruga Branca Koshu » from Katsunuma, or sweet like the cuvée « Tomi Noble d’Or » from Suntory, a surprising botrytis Riesling (moisture combined with an altitude of over 700 meters here becomes an asset).

1ere_Degustation_M93A0794_EDT
AFRICA

Special mention for South Africa
A terroir already well known by connoisseurs for decades now, this tasting was the confirmation that South Africa can produce magnificent and elegant wines, especially from the Syrah grape variety, as here in the Robertson region with the cuvée « Ameena Syrah » from Dorrance Wines which was unanimously appreciated.

Ethiopia : a country as beautiful and endearing as atypical and confusing
11 million bottles produced per year, including 1 million by the CASTEL winery. Real potential in this wine region located 100 kilometers South of Addis Ababa, the capital. You can find here beautiful poor soils perched at 2,000 meters above sea level, with cool nights that allow the grapes to gently reach nice maturity, especially for red wines. Rainfall, often low, but offset by drip and controlled irrigation (as in Chile or California), allows the plant to receive just enough water. The global impression of the wine tasted is positive, even if it is strongly marked by its aging in new oak barrels. We guess a real potential for this young wine country… to be remembered.

Namibia : a confidential production
This country has only four wineries, less than four hectares each! Located North of South Africa, viticulture remains anecdotal there.

1ere_Degustation_M93A0782_EDT
AMERICAS

Brazil : a real potential
The country opened its borders only 25 years ago and is just beginning to reveal its potential. The region of Serra Gaucha, situated around the 29° parallel South, is already promising, both for sparkling and still wines. A topography which reminds us of Tuscany, a rather temperate climate, plenty of sunshine, a moderate but good altitude (700 meters on average), combined with expertise thanks to the Italian immigration and strong technical investments, promise a bright future for the Brazilian wine industry.

Bolivia, a land full of promises
Wine production exclusively in altitude (1,600 to 2,800 m) is probably the main secret of Bolivia’s success with quality wine production; mainly for red wines. Because despite the semi-tropical location of the country around the 21° and 22° parallel South, the region of Tarija (the country’s main producing region), benefits from drier conditions at over 1,600 meters and has a remarkable terroir, mainly composed of well drained sandy loam soils and schist dating from the Jurassic period.
In many Bolivian wines we found freshness, elegance and some complexity, like during the tasting with the cuvée « Juan Cruz Tannat » from Bodega Arranjuez.

“Coup de Coeur” for Canada
The classification of this first WINE Explorers’ tasting is telling: the Okanagan Valley, in British Columbia, is full of treasures. Near the 49° parallel North, the climate is governed by a coastal mountain range that protects the region from cold and wet depressions swept by the Pacific Ocean, 400 km to the west. The result : a warm and dry climate with annual rainfall of 200 mm and an average temperature of 22°C during spring and summer time. The region produces fantastic red wines, fresh, with beautiful elegance and finesse. Another great discovery – at the other end of the country, some 4,400 km to the East : the sweet white wines of Quebec, from hybrid varieties such as Vidal or Seyval. A very small production offering very nice wines with concentrated aromas, thanks to a cool climate and grapes harvested (very) late by a few irreducible passionate winemakers.

1ere_Degustation_M93A0746_EDT
Mexico : the beautiful surprise
The region of Baja California, South of California, was one of the best surprises of the first WINE Explorers’ tasting. Located on the 31,5° parallel north, this semi-desert region lacks of water (less than 200 mm of rain per year in good years) and does not forgive any approximation. It results in solar wines, powerful and balanced, meticulously blended, combining up to six grape varieties in the same cuvée and show how important it is to consider Mexico as one of the next stars of tomorrow’s new-world red wines.  A nice recognition for a country that was, in 1554, the pioneer of the Americas in terms of viticulture…

Peru, a great terroir
The Ica Valley is the main region of production of the country. The climate is dry and hot. “A bit like Chile“, some said. And even if we are here on the 17° parallel South, this region is suitable for producing wines in exceptional conditions, ” thanks to the characteristics of its unique climate and its alluvial soils”, loved to emphasize great wine figures like Max Rives and Emile Peynaud. At the foothills of the Andes, red wines made from Petit Verdot and Tannat grapes can give very good results.

Uruguay, to follow very closely
Despite a fairly dense and rather concentrated annual rainfall, very conscientious wineries know how to produce very nice wines, especially red, with rather early varieties such as merlot, or other less early as tannat. It is the case of the Pisano winery for example, which benefits from clay and limestone soils with very high pH (7.5 to 8), giving mineral and complex wines. In the land of meat lovers (52 kg consumed per year per capita !), wine knows how to find its place with style.

1ere_Degustation_M93A0752_EDT
THE FINAL WORD

All regions of the world are not conducive to viticulture. Yet, many factors such as soils, altitude, climate, grape variety or climat can create special conditions for the production of very nice wines. A protective mountain barrier, a South-facing hillside… are sometimes the ingredients for an elegant and complex wine. However, what can make each of these wines some ‘great’ wines is above all the skill of the winemaker and his meticulous knowledge of its terroir.
Understanding a terroir is adapting its cultivating system, choosing the appropriate plant material, making the right choices in the vineyard and in the winery. Jean-Claude Berrouet reminded us during this first tasting of this wise definition of terroir, given by Olivier De Serres in the 17th century and which aptly illustrates this final word : ” Air, land and complant are the foundation of the vineyard“. Let us not forget that.

The conclusions of this first WINE Explorers’ tasting still remain relative because unfortunately we do not have the chance to visit all wineries of the countries we explored (it would take although 10 generations of explorers to try to visit them all!). And as we all have a different palate, it is possible that we sometimes lacked objectivity. That is why it was very important for us to be surrounded by leading experts in the world of wine, with various backgrounds and experiences, to balance the impressions that we had when tasting these wines the first time.

This experience remains primarily a humbling lesson and of open-mindedness, for wines sometimes “outside of the usual standards” but with an undeniable potential and personality. We will renew it with joy next year!

The world of wine is far from having revealed all its secrets…

WineExplorers’cheers,
Amandine Fabre & Jean-Baptiste Ancelot


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS :
We thank our partners to believe and follow this project : the VIDELOT Group, DB Schenker, Château Lafon Rochet, Château Calon Ségur, Château La Conseillante.
Thank you to Elisabeth Jaubert, Ariane Khaida and Jean Moueix for having made this tasting possible.
And thank you to all the people close to the project and who encourage us every day.

Christophe Durand, a South African Norman in the vineyard

« I love wine but it must be good »

Former mannequin model and passionate about karate, nothing pre-destined Christophe Durand to viticulture. However, meeting with a self-educated wine lover.

Christophe Durand in his vineyard @ Perdeberg

Christophe Durand in his vineyard @ Perdeberg


WINE EXPLORERS : Before becoming a winemaker for Wines d’Orrance, your vineyard, it seems that you’ve had a thousand lives. What brought you to South Africa ?
CHRISTOPHE DURAND : I discovered this beautiful country in 1989 when I was here for six months modelling and I have always vowed to return one day. It was only a few years later, after my separation from my first wife, South African herself, that I decided to drop everything to be with my first daughter , Ameena .
Arriving from my native Normandy with my clogs to start from scratch wasn’t easy. So I started by picking up small food jobs from server to bodyguard. Life is made of beautiful encounters and opportunities that must be seized. My meeting in Cape Town with Claude Gillet, owner of a Burgundian cooperage, was my first turning point in wine and an upheaval in my life. Believing in me, he not only chose me as his South African agent but above all, he gave me his passion for wine and his love for Burgundy. My passion and my curiosity for the cooperage industry were such that my company was an immediate success. In just three years I already had 10 % of the market.

WE : What lead you to make your own wine ?
CD : During these first three years in contact with South African producers, I had the chance to make wine experimentations for fun. I found my style and I took my chance in 2000, making my first wine under the name Cuvée Ameena, the name of my first daughter who is now 20 years old. I didn’t grow up with winemakers or wine people in general, so I had to learn fast, very fast and from scratch. I discovered a passion that would never leave me. I read a lot, tasted a lot to train my palate and always listened to any advice, good and less good.

WE : What is your philosophy regarding the wine you produce and wines you like to drink ?
CD : Unearth beautiful terroirs and let the nature take its course, that’s my philosophy. Working in the vineyard, harvesting the finest grapes possible, and once in the cellar, do as little as possible, simply by monitoring the harvest, like taking care of a child taking its first steps.
I love fruity wines, easy to drink, which reflect their terroir, the sexy wines of Burgundy, the great ladies of Bordeaux, the finest of Rhone Valley, the precision of Alsace, the minerality of Sancerre. I love wine but it must be good.

WE : Can you give us details on your 3 wines ?
CD : The Cuvée Ameena is a pure Syrah. Half the vines are bushvines in the Swartland region, more specifically in Perdeberg, a terroir providing good structure and a black fruit character to the wine. The other half is coming from the Elgin region, closer to the sea and offering elegance, spices (white pepper) that I always look for in the Syrah. Both plots, once harvested, will undergo their fermentations separately and then be blended to age in French oak for 18 months.
The 2nd wine is named Cuvée Anais, name of my second 9 year old daughter, is a 100 % Chardonnay coming from two beautiful vineyards, one in Elgin, the other one in Franschhoek, regions which bring elegance and minerality to the whites.
Kama, the 3rd wine, is a Chenin Blanc, in honor of the Indian origines of my wife. Kama, in Sanskrit language “the pleasure of sens”, comes from a bush trailed single vineyard, allowing the Chenin Blanc to give the best of itself. This wine is my favourite and I like to take care of it because Chenin Blanc is more fragile and sensitive to oxidation .

WE : Was your meeting with Claude Gilois, founder of “Vins du Monde“ and “Chasseur de Crus“ the turning point of your wine life ?
CD : The meeting with Claude Gilois, who I like to call my ” Spirits father “, was the begining of my wine life. He first discovered me through my wines. Then in 2003 he started importing my products in France, and step by step, thanks to word of mouth, we now export to 14 countries. He guided me, exposed me to the world of wine, meeting a lot of great personalities, which was a unique opportunity for me, not coming from a vineyard setting. It helped me to affirm my style. I owe him a lot.

Christophe Durand & Claude Gilois - Waterfront, Cape Town

Christophe Durand & Claude Gilois – Waterfront, Cape Town


WE : Your greatest emotion on a South African wine ? On a world wine in particular ?
CD : My first great emotion was for a South African Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 from Neil Ellis, a nice and balanced wine with grapes from Stellenbosch. Ornellaia 1992 or a Charmes Chambertin 1949 from Laporte and more recently a Château Clinet 2007. I constantly discover with excitiment the world of wine…

WE : Can you tell us more about your new  cellar in the center of Cape Town ?
CD : We were, my wife and I looking for a place in the center of Cape Town for four years, to be able to produce and raise our wines, but also to offer tastings and sales of our products on site. Something that wasn’t always evident in the past because I rented a place from another producer.
We luckily found a 300 years old place being part of Heritage Square building, officially dated from1771, right in the center of the city. This is an incredible opportunity to have got hold of this 320 square meters place full of great history, with a natural freshness and constant temperature of 20 degrees (60cm thick walls), perfect for wine.

WE : Any project in the future ?
CD : As we say in English, “the sky is the limit“… This year I will have some Roussanne, an exciting Rhone varietal, and next year I start to produce Pinot Noir.

Wine Explorers’cheers,
JBA

More information about Vins d’Orrance : www.vinsdorrance.co.za

Top 5 South African wines tasted !

(outside Pinotage)
CompoBouteille_AfriqueduSud_1
1-    Strandveld Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Strandveld Estate
M93A9051_EDT100% Sauvignon Blanc
A winery located in the Elim area, the most southerly wine region in South Africa and whose vines are named “cap front”, as they are close to the ocean (at Strandveld the estate’s vines are on average 6 km from the sea). The sea air brings freshness to the wine.  I like to dream – it is a very personal opinion – that the air charged with iodine gives a salty taste to the wines, especially the whites.
Tasting:  nose of fresh herbs and asparagus characteristic of the SB316 clone, sometimes seen as a defect, but which in reality is a marvel of purity.  Beautiful freshness in the mouth and good length. It is flexible and it ends with notes of pear and citrus.  It makes you want to eat grilled fish and Greek dishes … A delight!
Winemaker: Conrad Vlok, since 2004.
Cellar price: R98 (about 6.90€)
More information: www.strandveld.co.za

2-    Kama Chenin Blanc 2013, from Dorrance Wines
M93A7352_EDT100% Chenin Blanc
A very nice Chenin Blanc originating from the Swartland region, which is known for its more continental climate, offering elegant and fruity wines.
Tasting: nose of exotic fruits (pineapple, passionfruit), very nice, with little notes of white peach and apricot on the finish. Nice palate, ample. Good freshness and length.  An elegant bitter finish that supports the wine.  Delicious.  Why not enjoy a lobster salad or a tuna carpaccio with it ?
Winemaker/Owner: Christophe Durand. His 1st vintage dates from 2004.
Cellar price: R100 (about 7€)
More information: www.vinsdorrance.co.za

3-    Morkel Malbec 2010, Bellevue Estate
M93A7333_EDT
100% Malbec
The estate is located in Bottelary in Stellenbosch – Stellenbosch being generally considered as the most famous wine region of South Africa. Bellevue Estate has beautiful clay and sandstone soils. The uniqueness of the area is to be surrounded by trees, the “Blue Gum” trees, which give to wine scents of blackcurrant.
Tasting: nose of cassis, blueberry and eucalyptus, slightly minty finish. A taste of candy and a very delicate cassis finish. Fine and supple tannins and good length. Would go very well with a rabbit with prunes.
Winemaker/Owner: Dirk Morkel
Cellar price: R95 (about 6.65€)
More information: www.bellevue.co.za

4-    Trilogy 2010, Warwick Estate
M93A7538_EDT
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Cabernet Franc (30%) and Merlot (10%)
Warwick, a “Biodiversity and Wine Initiative Member“, is also located in the Stellenboch region.
Tasting: nose of red fruits (gooseberry) and also blackcurrant. Slightly grassy. Very nice wine with soft and fleshy tannins. Can age very well (up to 10 years). Freshness and balance in mouth. Decant for 2 hours. Nice match with roast beef and mushrooms for example.
Winemaker: Nic Van Aarde ; Owner: Mike Ratcliffe
Cellar price: R275 (about 19.25€)
More information: www.warwickwine.com

5-    Integer Syrah 2007, Hoopenburg Wines
M93A9456_EDT
100% Syrah
Hoopenburg is located on the R101 in Stellenbosch, 30 minutes from Cape Town. It enjoys a temperate microclimate which brings freshness to the wines.
Tasting:  nose of flowers (violet) and licorice with subtle spices on the finish.  Intense and fresh on the palate. Soft tannins, ample. Fleshy fruit supported by spicy notes (black pepper). Serve with marinated venison stew… sublime!
Winemaker: Helanie Olivier, since August 2013
Cellar price: R110 (about 7.70€)
More information: www.hoopenburgwines.co.za

Well … impossible to limit myself to 5 wines … not after drinking Crystallum Paradisum!

* Crystallum Paradisum 2011, Crystallum Wines
Paradisum 2011
The wine is a blend of Shiraz (50%), Grenache (38%) and Cinsault (12%), produced in the Walker Bay region.
Tasting: aromas of cherries, strawberries, blackberries and a hint of leather, cloves and cardamon to finish.  Great intensity of flavour on the palate with well-integrated tannins and a balanced and refreshing finish.  Nice depth.  Drink within the next 2-3 years.
Owners/Winemakers: Andrew and Peter-Allan Finlayson, sons of the legendary South African winemaker Peter Finlayson, who was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley.
Average price on internet : about 39€
More information: www.crystallumwines.com

Wine Explorers’cheers,
JBA

Braai vs Pinotage

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page“, said St Augustin.
Sout Africa is the first page of our book…for the moment.

First of all a touch of history…important to understand the wine culture.

The roots of the South African wine industry date back to the XVII century, in 1659, when the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, produced the first wine recorded in the country. His venue was linked to the explorations of the Dutch East India Company which established a supply station in Cape Town.

Kaapzicht vineyard in summer

Kaapzicht vineyard in summer


However the boom of the South African wine industry is very recent. In 1918, growers in the Western Cape founded the “Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging“ (KWV), in order to increase the production and the quality of wine. But production quotas were only abolished in the 1990s. Prior to the end of Apartheid in the 1990’s South Africa was very isolated.  When Apartheid was abolished the boycotts of South African products were dropped and the world’s export markets opened to us.
« The real changes in terms of winemaking and production came about in the last 20 years », according to Helanie Olivier, winemarker at Hoopenburg Winery, in Stellenbosch. « We have come a long way since those early days.  South African winemakers nowadays are generally well travelled and innovative.  We draw from many different influences, as creative people tend to do, and find joy in creating elegant wines that truly express our unique terroir. », she added.
In 2012, South Africa produced  870.9 million litres of wine, becoming word 9th biggest wine producing country. Exportations are increasing every year. In 2013 South Africa’s wineries exported 525.7 million litres, beating the previous record achieved in 2012 by 26%, according to Chris Mercer (Decanter, Monday 13 January 2014).

A splash of geography…also very important.

Wine Regions of South Africa (copyright SAWIS)

Wine Regions of South Africa (copyright SAWIS)


Two important points to remember.

South Africans don’t have an “AOC system“ like in France. The wine regions of South Africa are defined under the “Wine of Origin” act of 1973. All South African wines listed as “Wine of Origin” must be composed entirely of grapes from its region. As a result, the WO does not place adjunct regulations on wine regions such as delineating permitted varieties, trellising methods, irrigation techniques, and crop yields. It only divides growing regions into four categories.
The largest and most generic are geographical units (such as the Western Cape region) which subsume the smaller, but still broad spanning regions (such as Overberg). Under these are clustered districts (like Walker Bay, Stellenbosch, Paarl or Swartland) and within them are wards (such as Elgin).
South Africa is located at the tip of the African continent with most wine regions located near the coastal influences of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as you may know. These regions have mostly a Mediterranean climate that is marked by intense sunlight and dry heat. In many South African wine regions irrigation is essential to viticulture.
For more information : http://www.wosa.co.za/sa/

Now that you have some information in your hands to become an expert on South African wines, let’s talk about what excited us the most during our stay: Braai & Pinotage. Two lovely discoveries from the South African culture, which goes extremely well together !

Braai = Friends, Meat & Wine (or beer)

Braai @ L'Avenir Wine Estate

Braai @ L’Avenir Wine Estate

 

Any Braai is a unique moment. A social experience. A sweet way of relaxing yourself after a long day of work, around a fire, chatting with your friends, a drink close to you. Braai means “barbecue” in Afrikaans and the traditions around it can be considerably different from our european barbecue.
According to Helanie Oliver, « using gas is cheating.  The use of charcoal and briquettes is common, mainly due to their convenience, but using wood for the fire is the tradional way of preparing a braai.  The additional bonus is that it makes good use of alien plants that have been removed in aid of preserving biodiversity. For a bit of background: the Cape floral Kingdom has the greatest non-tropical concentration of higher plant species in the world and is located entirely within the borders of South Africa.  Most of the region is covered with fynbos which is home to an amazing diversity of plant species ».

Braai Masters' book

Braai Masters’ book


Braai Day is a celebration of South Africa’s rich cultural heritage and its unique national pastime, the braai. South Africans are known as the rainbow nation, and across race, language, region and religion, they all share this common heritage, celebrated on 24 September (South Africa’s Heritage Day).
We had the chance to experience several Braais with friends during our stay in Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Orange River. It was always a fantastic time !

Pinotage, a red grape made in South Africa

Pinotage Grappes - Stellenbosch

Pinotage Grappes – Stellenbosch


Pinotage is for the South African wine industry what the Eiffel Tower is for French tourism : a signature. Pinotage is a viticultural cross of two varieties of Vitis vinifera, Pinot noir and Cinsaut (also known as “Hermitage” in South Africa) and created in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. It represents 6% of the total South African wine production as well as more than 95% of the world Pinotage cultivation. In addition Pinotage is also grown in Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States and Zimbabwe. It is a required component in “Cape blends“, red wines with a proportion of Pinotage blended with other grapes (30-70%).
The vines are vigorous like their parent Cinsaut and easy to grow, ripening early with high sugar levels. Pinotage can be grown via the trellised system or as bushvines. The older Pinotage vineyards are predominately planted as bushvines and it is perceived that these lend a higher concentration of fruit and more depth to the wine. This cultivar  is naturally high in tannins which can be tamed with limited maceration time but reducing the skin contact can also reduce some of the mulberry, blackberry and damson fruit character that Pinotage can produce. Tannin management is key.

2 delicious Pinotage we had the chance to test :
Compo_Bouteille_Pinotage1_SouthAfrica
Pinotage Grand Vin 2012, from L’Avenir Estate
Comes from the Stellenbosch area. Nose of berries. Smoke, leather and spice enlivened by distinctive floral notes. Harmonious mouth with elegant tannins, nice freshness. Black fruit on the palate. with a juicy plum fruit. Nicely balanced. Good now with decanting for two hours minimum but also long term potential. Fine match for game and braai in general ! 3,000 bottles produced/year.
Winemaker : Dirk Coetzee
Cellar price : 250 rand (about 17.5€)
More details : www.larochewines.com

Le Vin de François 2011, from Chateau Naudé
Produced in limited quantities and made from only the best examples of Pinotage found in the Cape Winelands, le Vin de François is the pinnacle of Chateau Naudé Wine Creation’s range. Comes from seven Stellenbosch and Bot River producers. Complexe nose of ripe mulberries and plum with a touch of licorice. Fresh and juicy mouth, well composed with enough tannin to reward extended cellaring. Fine match with a chocolate cake.
Owner/winemaker : François Naudé
Auction price: up to 5 200 rand for a case of 12 (about 30€ a bottle)
More details : www.levindefrancois.com

Thank you South Africa for your warm welcome.  Now there remain 91 pages – countries – for us to write and we will be able to complete our “wine world experience“ book.  

JBA