Home' A Plus Magazine : July 2013 Contents 62 July 2013
Out of Africa
New generation of wines
enhances global appeal,
says George W. Russell
Wine grapes have been grown in
South Africa since the 1600s,
in the early days of European
colonization. That has given the country
enough time to adapt to its distinctive terroir
and excel at what it does best.
Most modern South African wines come
from Western Cape province, which includes
the better-known Franschhoek, Paarl and
Stellenbosch districts in the Coastal region
and Robertson district in the Breede River
One wine, for which the country is justly
famous, is Pinotage. It was first bottled in
the 1920s from a hybrid of Pinot Noir and the
heat-resistant Cinsaut, widely grown in the
former French North Africa. Pinotage, with
its dark hints of coffee or mocha (or, as some
say, lead or rusty nails) can take a bit of get-
ting used to, yet the red wine grape varietal
has a loyal global following.
Over the past few years, South African
Pinotage has soared in popularity world-
wide. Indeed, Pinotage is the name of a
popular South African restaurant in Beijing,
which opened in 2007 and serves more than
100 South African wines.
South African wine exports to China
have grown by 50 percent annually for the
past three years, according to data from
Western Cape Agriculture, a provincial gov-
ernment department, although South Africa
still accounts for only 3 percent of the Chi-
nese wine market.
In Hong Kong, a new generation of South
African winemakers are making themselves
known through annual roadshows being held
in major Chinese cities each March and April.
The intent is to familiarize consumers
with the subtle, easy-to-miss undertones of
South African wines that draw their inspira-
tion from the vast continent's varied range of
flora, such as the rooibos and buchu plants.
Pinotage is one of South
Africa’s bestselling wines.
This 2005 vintage is from
Kanonkop in Stellenbosch.
Franschhoek, a picturesque town about 75
kilometres from Cape Town, is known for
its annual literary festival each May and has
become something of a millionaire's play-
ground. However, it is also the origin of excel-
lent and reasonably priced wines such as the
Boekenhoutskloof Semillon 2010 (HK$228,
Watson's Wine Cellar, Tsim Sha Tsui).
In the heart of South Africa's wine indus-
try, the Paarl district is known for its red wine
grapes. Paarl wines, available in Hong Kong,
include the much-admired Vilafonté Series C
Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot (HK$548, Essen-
tial Fine Wines, Central).
For white wine, Stellenbosch is known
for its Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Try
Warwick The First Lady Unoaked Chardon-
nay 2011 (HK$135, Essential) and Sterhuis
Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (HK$135, Essential).
Shiraz grapes are widely grown in the dis-
trict. Try the Thelema Shiraz 2009 (HK$175,
Watson's), made from fruit grown in the spec-
tacular Helshoogte Pass, one of the most pop-
ular areas of the Western Cape.
For lovers of heavy reds, try two made by
Andre Van Rensburg, an outspoken vintner
who has done much to promote South Afri-
can wines at home and abroad: Vergelegen
Merlot 2008 (HK$188, Watson's) is all ruby
hues and cherry and chocolate tones, while
Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cab-
ernet Franc 2009 (HK$118, Watson's) has an
intense plum overtone stratified with black-
berries and coffee.
Cape South Coast region
This, the most southerly and maritime of South
Africa's wine regions, includes the Hemel-en-
Aarde Valley appellation in the Walker Bay dis-
trict, where Hamilton Russell has its vineyard.
The Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2010
(HK$225, Edrington Wines, Kowloon Bay)
complicates its tropical fruit overtones with
a complex buttery feel and full-bodied wood
notes. The Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir
2009 (HK$295, Edrington), meanwhile, is a
classic, full-bodied dry wine that would not be
out of place amid top-class Burgundy vintages.
For those wishing to sample the country's
signature red varietal, try Hamilton Russell's
other label. The Southern Right Pinotage
2011 (HK$158, Edrington) is a terrific intro-
duction to the grape. Grown in heavy clay
soil, the wine exhibits strong mineral ten-
dencies but is suffused with a grassy sweet-
ness and some fruity and solid wood notes.
Breede River Valley region
This valley includes the Robertson district,
which can produce some super, but bargain,
whites, such as the citrusy-melon Klippen-
kop Chenin Blanc 2011 (HK$50, Lam Hoi
Kee, Yung Shue Wan).
The Northern Cape province, once exclu-
sively a maker of bulk wine for blending, is
becoming an area to watch.
Look out especially for the Grootdrink
and Oranjerivier wineries. Grootdrink's
winemaker, Johan Dippenaar, has made
some interesting single-grape vintages using
late-ripening Petit Verdot and Shiraz.
While the Northern Cape is less well
developed, there are some wineries
worth looking into, such as Bramon and
Theescombe Estate near Port Elizabeth.
In addition, KwaZulu-Natal province in
the east was only declared a wine region
in the 1990s, but has an emerging industry
based on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
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