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Inject a little African spirit into your wine glass

Fri 19 Feb 2010 09:49

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South Africa has simply got to be one of the most interesting wine producing countries in the world. A fusion of the Old World and the New, winemaking is an ancient tradition, with vineyards in the area dating back to the 17th century, planted by European settlers.

Yet its southern hemisphere climate gives South Africa similar winemaking conditions to Australia, Argentina or Chile.

Because of the apartheid years, South Africa was held back enormously in terms of producing wine, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, when trade sanctions by Great Britain, the USA and many European countries meant South African wines almost disappeared from our shelves, and the South African winemakers found it hard to source barrels and equipment from Europe.

Since the fall of apartheid in 1994, the Cape’s wine industry has been changing and improving rapidly, and today there are some fantastic wines emerging from some of the world's most beautiful vineyards in areas like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Constantia and Paarl.

If you’d like to investigate South African wines, here are Tom Cannavan’s top three picks to get you started.

1. Villiera, Brut Natural Sparkling Wine 2007, South Africa, priced at £9.99 from Marks & Spencer

This wine is as “natural” as possible, with minimum sulphur used at any stage of the winemaking process. It is 100 per cent Chardonnay, and is gently yeasty and toasty with a quality, soft mousse and some creamy depth into the finish.

With flavours of Asian pairs, citrus and toast, this wine goes excellently with sushi, sashimi, smoked salmon.

2. Nederburg, Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009, South Africa, priced at £6.47 from  ASDA
Nederburg is one of the Cape's oldest estates, dating back to 1791. This is the new face of Cape Sauvignon, proving what a success the grape is here, with all the vibrant punch of New Zealand's best examples, but a dry, mouth-watering finish.

Tasting cues of gooseberries, green herbs and grapefruit mean this wine goes nicely with foods like goats cheese, chicken or fish dishes served in a creamy sauce.

3. First Cape, Limited Release Pinotage 2009, South Africa, priced at £4.99 from Morrisons

Pinotage is South Africa's own grape, a crossing between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes by Cape scientists in the 1920s.

 It is a slightly controversial grape, as some people detect a 'rubbery' aroma and flavour, but the best are full of dark, brambly black fruit.

This particular pick has lovely strong flavours of blackberries, spices and liquorice, and goes really well with venison, beef – or ostrich if you can find it!

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