We’re all pretty familiar with varieties such as Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Cabernet and Pinot but there are actually a host of different grape varieties planted throughout France as well as hundreds of indigenous ones in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and more.
Gradually, SA is realising that our climate might be more suitable for these Mediterranean grape varieties with more and more people experimenting and coming up with new types of wine. Here are a few which have come my way recently...
De Krans Tinta Roriz 2013 (R85 from selected retailers)
Nowadays, you’ll often see this labelled as Tempranillo, but this hasn’t always been correctly labelled – the first vines planted here were subsequently discovered to be Tinta Amarella, a slightly different grape, oft mistaken for Tinta Roriz. I was lucky enough to be given an early bottle of it by Boets Nel, owner of De Krans, to compare with the current, correct Tinta Roriz and although it was interesting, I’m glad they’ve made the change and planted the right stuff now. Lovely and fresh with lively acidity and flavours of black fruit, polish and spice, it’s a great wine for people who want something just that little bit different.
Leeuwenkuil Cinsault 2014 (R100 from selected retailers)
Everyone’s raving about Cinsault at the moment (some people spell it without the ‘l’ but it’s exactly the same grape from the Southern Rhône and Languedoc) and with good cause because SA has some really great vines. It’s been a bit neglected and abandoned in the past, but when handled carefully as done here by the Dreyer family, it produces wines light in colour but packed with juicy drinkability which are an utter pleasure with charcuterie and pork terrines.
Fairview Petite Sirah 2012 (R105 cellar door)
No, this isn’t Syrah just made from smaller grapes! Petite Sirah is a crossing of Syrah and another French grape called Peloursin and it’s often found in the South of France – sometimes labelled as Durif. It’s really popular in Australia and the US and Charles Back, that Rhône-ranging innovator of note, first made one back in 2009. It’s a big, bold, upfront wine with dark fruit and lots of structure. Eat meaty things with it or try it with a good, crunchy, seriously-mature Cheddar.
Spice Route Grenache 2014 (R120 from selected retailers)
Everything about this wine screams France to me. It’s from bush vines (which is how Grenache loves to grow best), from un-irrigated vineyards (most vineyards in France don’t allow irrigation) and it’s aged in old oak giving softness but no overt wood characteristics, again very much more of an Old World kind of treatment. But the fruit flavours are definitely upfront and South African – lots of cherries and red berries with whiffs of pepper and tar. Yummy.
Thirst Gamay Noir 2014 (R120 from selected retailers)
Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais where it normally makes fresh, fruity and easy-drinking wines. Which is pretty much what it’s done here as well. This is a new range from the Winery of Good Hope and is made very naturally with minimal intervention from Jacques, the winemaker. It’s mostly clear but not bright – which is fine because it’s not filtered - which strips away lots of flavour – and it’s juicy, juicy, juicy. Lots of fat red berries with hints of pomegranates and watermelon – Summer fruit in a glass.
Spice Route Chakalaka 2013 (R150 from selected retailers)
So 50% of this is Syrah – ja well no fine. But it’s the other 50% which is interesting being made up of Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Carignan, Grenache and Tannat – bet there are a few new names for you there! This is a great Mediterranean blend using grapes from all over the south and south west of France. Seasoned with a hint of American oak, it’s a lovely, chewy, grunty, chunky wine with lots of chops, spice and punch. Fab with anything on a braai.
And a white – Thirst White Blend NV (R120 from selected retailers)
This is a really interesting blend of Clairette Blanche, Chenin Blanc and Verdelho and, like its partner wine above, it’s made with little intervention from Jacques de Klerk. What he has done though is to leave the skins in contact with the grape juice for longer than usual and this gives the wine a lovely texture and weight in the mouth. It’s throwing a bit of a deposit at the moment but don’t worry too much about that – this is all about the flavour of fresh yellow summer fruits with great acidity and a lovely mouthfeel.
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