A Selection of Red Wines From South Africa

This is the second post reviewing a group of South African wines we received as tasting samples from Cape Classics, an importer of South African (and French) wines in to the US, with distribution in 49 states. We dedicated the prior post  to the white wines in the selection.

The weather can be more than a bit chilly this time of year and as a result we tend to cook heartier meals. Hearty, meaty dishes pair nicely with red wine and as a result that is mostly what I reach for this time of year with meals. We tasted each wine without food, then because we mostly drink wine with food, we tasted them with the dishes we prepared to enjoy with the wines.

We prepared two dishes to taste with this selection of wines. Cochinita Pibil is a Yucatán dish prepared by slow-roasting pork that has been marinaded in a spicy achiote seasoning that is covered with roasted chilies and onions, then wrapped in banana leaves prior to roasting. The tender meat is then shredded, added to small corn tortillas and topped with pickled red onion.

The second dish is one of my favorite wintertime meals, Boeuf Bourguignon. I used Julia Child’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is rich and flavorful, absolutely worth the time it takes to prepare.

Now, let’s learn about these South African wines.

2009 Kanonkop Paul Sauer

Kanonkop is located on the lower slopes of Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch. The name is derived from the 17th century practice of firing a cannon placed on a hill, or kopje, to alert area farmers that sailing ships were approaching the harbor in Cape Town. The farmers could then load their wagons, “span their oxen” and travel to Cape Town to sell their produce to the ships traveling between Europe and the East.

Kanonkop is owned by brothers Johann and Paul Krige. The family-owned farm has been operated by the Sauer-Krige family since the early 1930s. The emphasis at Kanonkop is red wine. They were among the first to plant Pinotage commercially, which are maintained as bush vines. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc are planted on the estate as well, in mostly decomposed granite soils over clay which allows dry-farming on almost all of the property.

2009 Kanonkop Paul SauerThe 2009 Kanonkop Paul Sauer is dark ruby in the glass. Aromas of earth, dark fruit combine with flavors of dark plums with a bit of mint in the background. Tannins are fairly smooth and well-integrated. ABV 14%.

This medium-bodied wine is easy to drink on its own and paired nicely with both the Cochinita Pibil and of course the Boeuf Bourguignon. This Bordeaux blend has a lot of familiar flavors and will pair well with a wide variety of food. A good choice for this time of year, but really, it will work well through out the year. It would pair nicely with Chicken Cacciatore.

The 2009 Kanonkop Paul Sauer is a blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc. Grapes were hand-harvested and fermented in open-top concrete vats with manual punch-downs every two hours. With initial fermentation complete, malolactic fermentation took place in 100% new Nevers French oak barrels. After barrel aging for 24 months, bottling took place without filtration or fining.

2012 Indaba Mosaic

Established in 1996, Indaba a Zulu word meaning “a meeting of the minds” and refers to a traditional gathering of tribal leaders for the purpose of sharing ideas. Social responsibility is an essential part of the Indaba philosophy. A portion of Indaba’s global sales supports the Indaba Scholarship which is awarded to financially needy and academically qualified students to pursue wine-related studies at the graduate and post-graduate levels. The scholarship is offered in conjunction with Stellenbosch University.

Current winemaker, Bruwer Raats (also winemaker and proprietor of Raats Family Wines), joined Indaba in 2008. In addition to winemaking, Raats works closely with growers to manage grape production. The Indaba line includes Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Mosaic (a red blend).

2012 Indaba MosaicThe 2012 Indaba Mosaic was light ruby in the glass. Blackberry and raspberry scents dominate the aromas. Flavors tend toward blackberry fruit and pomegranates with a light body and smooth tannins. ABV 14%. Easy to enjoy on its own, this wine complimented the Cochinita Pibil nicely. It would pair nicely with many braised chicken or pork dishes.

The 2012 Indaba Mosaic is a blend of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot. Fruit was sourced from Stellenbosch, Robertson and Elgin. Soils are variable, including decomposed granite, calcareous clay and sandstone.

Following handpicking, destemming and a 2 – 3 day cold soak, each variety was fermented to dryness in stainless steel. The wine was then pressed and returned to the tank for malolactic fermentation and aging. 10% of the blend came from 2011, which spent 18 months in used oak, for additional complexity.

2010 Bartinney Cabernet Sauvignon

Bartinney is located on the slopes of Helshoogte Pass (which translates to hell’s heights) overlooking the beautiful Banghoek Valley in Stellenbosch. The farm is 99 acres in size with elevations reaching to 1800 feet. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are planted at the highest elevations, and Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on the lower foothills. Vineyards are very steep, requiring all vineyard work to be done by hand.

2010 Bartinney Cabernet SauvignonThe 2010 Bartinney Cabernet Sauvignon is very dark ruby in the glass. Dark fruit and spice are evident on the nose. Dark plums, spices, earth and back notes of mint combine to produce a serious, complex flavor profile. Moderate tannins are well integrated and the finish is moderate in length. ABV 14.5%.

This 100% Cabernet is the perfect wine to drink on a cool evening beside a roaring fire. It paired nicely with the Boeuf Bourguignon, naturally.

Current owners Michael and Rose Jordaan purchased the farm in 2006. Bartinney was originally established in 1920, then was purchased by Michael Jordaan’s grandfather (also named Michael) in 1954. The farm was sold in 1993 a few years after the grandfather’s death.

Back in Jordaan family hands, the farm has been renovated, vineyards planted and the first vintage (2009) released in 2011. Planting of non-vineyard land on the farm with trees and fynbos, a native vegetation, continues.

2010 Rudi Schultz Syrah

Rudi Schultz is winemaker at the well-known Thelema Mountain Vineyards, located just “across the street” from Bartinney in Helshoogte Pass. He has been winemaker there since 2001. The flavors he tasted in highly-regarded Côte-Roties and Châteauneuf-du-Papes are what drew Schultz to winemaking in the first place, and then to producing his own Syrah.

The Rudi Schultz Syrah is vinified at Thelema from Syrah sourced from a single vineyard in the Bottelary Hills ward of Stellenbosch. The vineyard is located 16 miles from the ocean at an elevation of 348 feet. The soil is a granite based “duplex” form consisting of coarse sand on gravel with a small amount of clay.

2010 Rudi Schultz SyrahThe 2010 Rudy Schultz Syrah is bright ruby in the glass (actually it’s almost iridescent). Earthy, dark fruit aromas contrast with the bright color in the glass. Smokey ash with dark, complex, ripe fruit flavors, black pepper and moderate drying tannins combine for a mouthful of flavor and texture. This wine is flavorful, juicy and full of texture. ABV 14%.

With the reasonable ABV, ample fruit flavors and significant tannins, this wine could become something very interesting over time. If you have the patience, keep it for a few years. This wine paired best with the Boeuf Bourguignon. It was too big a wine for the Cochinita Pibil. If you’re thinking of a wine for braised lamb shanks, this would be the one.

Once again, a diverse group of well-made wines. Cabernet Sauvignon, and blends of Cabernet are extremely versatile wines. In general, they pair nicely with most braised dishes, grilled meats and sausage. This group fits that generalization. The Indaba Mosaic was the most approachable and all were flavorful and well-balanced. The Rudi Schultz Syrah was dark, full of texture and flavor. It is a cool weather drinking wine to my taste. All of these wines deliver exceptional flavor with judicious use of wood aging and all with reasonable levels of alcohol. I appreciate that.

Thank you to Cape Classics for this sampling of South African wines. We have learned a lot about about South African wines through the process of this tasting. Each farm has an interesting history and unique growing conditions. Most importantly, we have learned there is a great selection of quality wines coming to the US from South Africa. Very good news for us!