I was picking up my purchases from Taste of Italy last weekend and I happened to wander into the South African wine section. I was greeted with an array of “New Arrival” stickers on wines just listed locally. I picked up a half dozen, two white and four red, in the moderate price range, to give them a try.
My two white wines were The Wild Olive Old Vines Chenin Blanc 2013, WO Coastal Region ($14.98) and the Seven Sisters Bukettraube Odelia, WO Swartland ($16.04).
Chenin Blanc is not that common a grape variety in our wine selections here. Its home is the Loire Valley of northwest France, but it has been a dominant variety in South Africa, as well, where it comprises about 20 per cent of all production. Most Chenin products here are from South Africa.
The grape is quite versatile, as its high natural acidity allows it to be used for sparkling, dry, sweet and fortified white wines. In the sweet category it ranges from just off-dry (there is a lovely demi-sec Vouvray on our shelves) to full-fledged “noble rot” affected splendour.
When Chenin Blanc is over-cropped, it produces bland wines, like most varieties, and this is when it is best to send it to brandy production. In South Africa, some wine-makers have been improving the quality of their Chenin wines so that the characteristic quince, apple and greengage aromatics are abundant. Techniques such as malolactic fermentation and contact with the lees also add texture and body to the wine.
The Wild Olive did show a pleasant texture in the mouth with touches of honey, floral and apple bouquet. It proved a suitable match with a lightly spicy stir-fry dish. Score 14.5/Good.
Bukettraube is a completely new varietal for me. It is a vinifera vine that was created by crossing Silvaner with Trollinger in the 19th century. Although it is found in a few spots in Europe, South Africa is the main producer of wines from this grape. Its aromatic descriptors are all soft stone fruits such as pear, apricot and peach.
The Seven Sisters winery was created by seven real sisters. Each of the seven wines in their portfolio is named after one of the sisters (in this case, Odelia).
The winery points out, for a bit of fun, that the Seven Sisters of Greek mythology, the Pleiades, were the nursemaids and teachers of Bacchus, the god of the grape harvest, wine-making and wine.
This wine is produced in an off-dry style, perhaps in recognition of its muscat-like aromatics. For anyone who likes German wines of similar sweetness, this is worth a try.
It also has its place with certain food pairings, including some mildly spicy Asian or Mexican cuisine, and perhaps dishes such as lobster. We enjoyed it with traditional turkey dinner where it provided an interesting complement to the savoury dressing, in particular.
The wine was supple and mouth-filling, with attractive soft fruit aromas and flavours. My score was 15/Very Good.
Next week I will report on the four reds.
Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him
at email@example.com. Twitter: @delaneystephen