The Dozen Vol. 26 No. 02

The Dozen – South Africa, Unstandardized

It's difficult to generalize about the country's wines, but that only adds to the adventure.

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For those who love the adventure of exploring wines of a region or country, now is an interesting time to open bottles from South Africa.

Due to political and other reasons, not that long ago, there was difficulty in finding a range of wines from the country here in the U.S., and many of those were Pinotages, which provided a category of fruit and savory flavors not experienced elsewhere.

Even today, it is still difficult to generalize about South African wines, other than you can’t generalize about them; the same characterization that could be made a few years ago about wines from Portugal outside the Douro and Vinho Verde designations. For those who prefer to generalize – wine writers included – this can lead to frustration. However, for those who like being surprised, now is a great time to taste South African wines.

Some South African wines have savory tastes that may seem jarring while at other times enticingly exotic, totally unexpected. So I always keep an open mind and say to myself, “don’t expect standardization.”

Said another way, and to use the old cliché, if you’ve tasted one South African red blend, Sauvignon Blanc, even the vaunted Chenin Blancs, then you’ve tasted one. That is the case with the 11 wines from South Africa in this edition of The Dozen. So enjoy the diversity of tastes, but also don’t be hesitant to say, “It may be a good wine, but it just isn’t my style.”

2020 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc ($14). Light and elegant with gooseberry flavors and light tannins.

2019 Zevenwacht “The Tin Mine” Stellenbosch White Blend ($14). Very lively and fresh with flavors of citrus, ginger, some cloves, and just-cut apples.

2021 Southern Right Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc ($15). Green fruitiness, yet a little creamy with some lemony tartness – very refreshing.

2021 Springfield Estate “Life from Stone” South African Sauvignon Blanc ($15). Very green flavors – lime and kiwi fruit with a nice spritz.

2020 Lomond Cape Agulhas Sauvignon Blanc ($20). Broader in flavor with more-complex fruitiness, some minerality, and a savory finish.

2020 Glenelly Estate Reserve Stellenbosch Chardonnay ($23).  Nice herbal flavors, almost like a splash of Sauvignon in there, with crisp apples and a trace of cinnamon – very refreshing.

2020 Macari “Horses” North Fork of Long Island Sparkling Petit Verdot ($27). A bit like a French digestif, although a sparkling one, crossed with a drier Lambrusco – an intriguing bubbly with orange and bitter flavors.

2019 Braai Western Cape Cabernet Sauvignon ($15). Very true to what used to be called a varietal profile of Cab – blackberry fruit followed by the savory green, stemmy notes, dusty tannins, and a lean finish.

2018 Kanonkop “Kadette” Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon ($20). Fruity sweet and very granular in texture with stemmy and spicy notes in the finish.

2017 Kanonkop “Kadette” Stellenbosch Pinotage ($20). Tight and tart red fruits with lots of dense, savory flavors.

2016 Raats “Red Jasper” South Africa Red Blend ($22). Granular with moderate body, tight and tangy fruit, and dried herbs tastes.

2013 Glenelly Estate Reserve Stellenbosch Red ($23). Bordeaux blend plus some Syrah. It is lean with very spicy cassis and red raspberry flavors and some hints of dried herbs.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.

Feature photo credit: Southern Right Vineyards

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