By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 15 August 2020
If you love South African wines or have ever visited any of the wineries in this beautiful country – this appeal is for you.
South African wineries have been hit harder by the pandemic than any other wine country – and what is happening in the wine estates of the Western Cape is verging on catastrophic.
After years of struggling with exchange rates and droughts, they now face a very uncertain future due to their very strict Covid-19 lockdown. South Africa is Africa’s worst affected country with more than 275,000 cases of coronavirus – so for the second time since March, their president Cyril Ramaphosa has imposed a domestic ban on all alcohol sales ‘to take pressure off the health system,’ in addition to night time curfews.
Whilst this alcohol ban has now been eased just a few days ago - it has left wineries and restaurants reeling from total lack of business. For several months they have had no wine sales, no drinking in restaurants and no tasting rooms open across the country leaving cash-strapped Cape wineries struggling to retain staff. So even though the ban has now ended this week - it still means they need our help to buy their wines in the UK.
“We have had no tourists and no travel between provinces allowed until this week. We are hoping that we might get South African tourists this year who would normally travel abroad. Our winery has 70,000 visitors to our tasting room annually with many international visitors – but this year nothing”, says Jean-Claude Martin of Creation Wines in Walker Bay region (pictured) near Hermanus.
Exports have still been allowed, so Cape wine lovers abroad have been able to enjoy their favourite Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. Various initiatives have sprung up to help save jobs in the ailing wine industry. One of which is Mind Map Wine masterminded by winemakers Bruce Jack, Ross Sleet of Rascallion negociants and De Villiers Graaf of De Grendel, who are shipping wines to the UK at their own expense in the hope of selling them direct to consumers – and Jack is hoping further wineries will join them.
Webinars, online tastings and live chats with winemakers direct from the Cape are helping to revive wine sales here – including my own South African winemaker virtual tastings with JC Martin of Creation Wines as well as Charla Bosman and David Trafford of Sijnn Wines (pictured) in association with Raeburn Wines.
In September we are organising a new South African winemaker series with the owners and winemakers present at the virtual tastings with Paul Cluver Wines and Kanonkop Wines (see below for booking links).
Some Cape wine estates like Neethlingshof and Waterkloof are also hosting regular weekly Facebook Live and Instagram tastings.
South Africa has a wealth of wine styles and its wine quality has never been so good – here are some of my favourites:
Franschhoek: LE LUDE METHODE CAP CLASSIQUE BRUT NV (12%)
For anyone looking for quality Cape fizz, Le Lude is an exciting newcomer with a batch of very fine traditional method cuvees. Focusing only on Method Cap Classique, with their first vintage in 2012, this Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend matured for 3 years on lees is their entry level cuvee – initially tightly knit, succulent citric and pear notes, creamy mousse – excellent quality.
Stellenbosch: WATERKLOOF CIRCUMSTANCE CHENIN BLANC 2018 (13.5%)
From one of Stellenbosch’s most windswept vineyards just two miles from the ocean – hence the Boreas God of north wind on the label. Waterkloof is owned by the English Boutinot family who focus on organic and biodynamic methods. This whole bunch pressed, wild fermented, oak matured Chenin has a small amount of botrytis grapes in the mix too. So luscious and zesty with honey and citric flavours with a succulent mouthfeel.
Robertson: SPRINGFIELD ESTATE SPECIAL CUVEE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 (12.5%)
£9.99 reduced from £12.99 Waitrose until 25 August
Springfield is another of my Cape favourites with a superb range – perhaps best known for their Sauvignon Blanc. Minerally, citric, beautifully made, flinty with succulent concentrated limey fruits. One of the best value Cape Sauvignon Blancs at this knockdown price.
Walker Bay: CREATION RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2018 (13.5%) ***STAR BUY***
£26.50 Creation Wines UK
Burgundian grape varieties have found a home in Walker Bay region near Hermanus – particularly in the upper Hemel-en-Aarde which still benefits from ocean winds each day. This is a step up from Creation’s standard Chardonnay at a level of village level Burgundy - with its apple and honey bouquet, buttery rich with cinnamon and vanilla oak undertones. Serve with pork belly, smoked gammon or rich textured seafood.
Swartland: PORCUPINE RIDGE ROSE 2019 (12.5%) ***STAR VALUE***
£5.99 from £8.49 Waitrose until 25 August
A screw-capped pink bargain made by one of my favourite Cape producers, Boekenhoutkloof, the well-known creators of the Chocolate Block. A classic rose made in a traditional style using the saignee method, predominantly made from Syrah with a hint of Cinsault, a popular grape for rosemaking. Redcurrant, strawberry, nectarine and melon flavours with a hint of spice and herb, dry on the finish.
Stellenbosch: RUSTENBERG STELLENBOSCH MALBEC 2018 (14%)
£8.99 from £11.99 Waitrose until 25 August
If you normally buy Argentinian Malbec, try this rich opulent dark berried Cape version. Malbec has been in the Cape since 1920s, but only since 1990s with efforts from Backsberg have winemakers focused on this tricky vigorous yielding grape. Rustenberg are masters at Bordeaux-style blends, with maturation for 15 months in French oak
Walker Bay: CREATION RESERVE PINOT NOIR 2019 Creation Wines (13.5%)
£29.50 Creation Wines UK
Creation’s reserve Pinot Noir has extra depth, concentration and weight in comparison to its standard estate blend. Gorgeous berry fruits, cherry and kirsch flavours, quite spicy and intense on the palate with soft tannins. It needs further time in bottle – but with 5 years it will be superb. Enjoy with confit duck, seared tuna or pork loin.
Malgas: SIJNN RED 2016 (14%) ***STAR BUY***
£30.65 Raeburn Fine Wines
From a pioneering new winery in a new region south east of Swellendam on the Breede river 15km from the southern ocean. Winemaker David Trafford discovered a remote ostrich farm with soils similar to Chateauneuf du Pape and Douro valley – hence his choice of French and Portuguese grapes. This is their superb lush complex flagship blend of 52% Syrah, 18% Touriga Nacional, 12% Trincadeira, 12% Mourvedre & 6% Cabernet Sauvignon with slatey minerally palate, smooth soft tannins and long finish with good ageing potential.
JOIN ROSE'S SOUTH AFRICAN WINEMAKER VIRTUAL WINE TASTINGS in the comfort of your own home - with owner Paul Cluver & winemaker Andries Burger of Paul Cluver Wines on Friday 4 September 6.30pm www.rosemurraybrown.com and owner Johann Krige & winemaker Abrie Beeslaar of Kanonkop Wine Estate on Friday 11 September 6.30pm www.rosemurraybrown.com - with £10 discount if you book the two-part series!