I usually operate on a strict budget when it comes to my everyday tipple, generally paying less (and often much less) than R100 a bottle, red or white. But sometimes – sometimes – I like to push the boat out and when I do, I have incredibly high expectations. If you want to truly rock your lamb this Easter, I’ve found the best examples of 5 different types of wine, all offering amazing bang for your buck – and when the bucks are this high, trust me it’s a helluva bang!
Steenberg Merlot 2015 (R175 cellar door)
Merlot is a tricky grape to grow well in SA. We tend to either let it get over-ripe and jammy or get nervous with high sugars and pick it before it’s properly ripe and then it tastes green. To my mind, the best merlots in this country come from cooler regions where the sugars build up at the same time as the flavour, ending in a balanced wine. This is a lovely example from cool Constantia with delicious black cherry fruit, a touch of dark chocolate and sturdy, ripe tannins.
Raats Red Jasper 2015 (R195)
I’ve been teaching with a lot of Raats wines lately as owner Bruwer Raats is a big supporter of wine education and whenever I show this wine, it never fails to impress. I suppose you could call it the baby brother of the insanely-good MR de Compostella which is like hens’ teeth, but there’s nothing second class about this wine. A Cab Franc-led Bordeaux blend, it oozes class and sophistication. Dark berries, velvety texture and a fabulous herbal/minty note – perfect with lamb.
La Motte Pierneef Syrah Viognier 2015 (250 cellar door)
I’m a big fan of cool-climate wines all around, but Syrah is a grape which does particularly well with a bit of a sea breeze cooling down the vineyards and delaying ripening. This wine, from Franschhoek winery La Motte, uses grapes from Walker Bay and windy Elim as well as a sneaky tweak of 6% Viognier adding more perfume and character. It’s a wonderful wine with the heady scent of dark violets and pansies preceding elegant black plums and cherries with wonderful spice and leather.
Le Riche Cabernet Reserve 2014 (R550 from independent retailers)
When it comes to Cabernet, no-one really beats Etienne le Riche. He’s worked with this grape all his life and has set most of the standards for other Cab winemakers in SA and now his son, Christo, has joined the winemaking team, committed to continuing the excellence of these wines for the next lifetime at least. It’s almost a sin to drink this wine now when it will be so much better in another decade, but if you want to offset your Easter roast leg of lamb to perfection, this is your guy. If you want a less expensive version, can also try the normal Cab at R250 or the absolute bargain Le Riche Richesse 2014 (cab and a tweak of cinsault) for R150.
Ashbourne Pinotage 2015 (R755)
This is an extraordinary wine. The Ashbourne white is generally an easy-drinking, excellent value white blend and for many years, the red has been of a similar ilk. But 2015 was a stellar year and when winemaker Emul Ross tasted this Pinotage, he realized they had something special on their hands. Made using different winemaking techniques to add complexity, this is a multi-layered wine with incredible depth of cherry/berry flavour, lovely supporting tannins and an endless finish. If you thought Hemel-en-Aarde was only about the Pinot, take this as your wake-up call and splash out this Easter.
Have that bottle opener at the ready! Wine guru, Cathy Marston shares her top picks for a wine-fuelled month of long weekends. ALSO READ: Wines to pair with your Easter weekend far e I’m saying this is for Easter but actually, we have so many public holiday long weekends coming up, it could be for any one of them!