South African Wine Tasting
A difficult year finishes with a flourish (and a handshake from the ambassador)
The location was the reading room of the South African High Commission right on Trafalgar Square (I told you earlier that I'd mention it). This is one of those old stone buildings London does so well and where tourists swoon at the beauty. I've passed many times and wondered what it might be like inside. Well now I'm inside and enjoying the beauty of a place that I found similar to those Mayfair clubs that lie not far away with their wall to wall wood bookshelves promoting the idea of studious knowledge and a relaxed upper crust!
I arrive, talk to a few friends before a large smiling man approaches, takes my hand and shakes it warmly before moving on to repeat the action with others close-by.
I find out later that this is the South African Ambassador! Why don't people tell you this information beforehand so that I can say something appropriate. He does exude the confidence of a man who knows that what we're about to taste is something we're going to enjoy and want to share with others. A welcoming man set amongst welcoming wines!
My new tactic, although it can waste a little time, is to walk around and see what is on offer. This then allows me to hone a strategy where I don't miss wines I most definitely want to taste. I do feel the time taken in planning can be more than made back with a rewarding tasting.
In truth, I find that the range of wines on offer seem to stick to too many similar varieties, and if you are overwhelmed by the site of dozens of bottles of Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, and the usual suspects of Cabernet and Chardonnay, then this event might not be for you.
The event was organised by various wine merchants who wanted to showcase wines they thought of highly. This can be a dangerous ploy as these people are putting their reputations on the line and I feel one has got to respect this approach. So what stuck out for me?
six of the best
Steenburg 1682 Chardonnay methode cap classique NV
This little sparkler has a mousse that is solid, lasting and produces a tsunami of bubbles that are positively aggressive.
Take a niff and become aware of that lovely pastry odour. Now I'm getting almonds and a creamy brioche with bread and yeast in the mix.
This wine is so lively it might need to take obedience classes, and the green fruit is fresh, enticing and a little tart. At the end I was getting an almost warm pastry straight out of the oven!
5 out of 7
Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Chenin Blanc 2020
It's one of South Africa's grapes of choice, but is it worth a taste or a miss? I take a gentle smell and am rewarded with an earthy, stoney scent before pungent, crushed fruit pops by for a visit. Up front there's gooseberries and a big green fruit, that is massaged by a slightly spicy taste.
5 out of 7
Spioenkop Riesling 2017
Regular readers of Winefullness Magazine know that I enjoy Riesling and I'm hoping that this number will be top of my charts.
On the nose there's an earthy green pear scent that I find attractive. Now there a viscosity on the nose that is quite oily and interesting. Underpinning all this is a dense fern and foliage smell.
Taking a taster's sip, I'm getting bags of pungent green fruit that is almost like a succulent apple pie when the filling is runny, and you're fighting to taste as much as you can.
It's not complex, but it certainly is tasty!
5 out of 7
Waterkloof - Circle of Life - White 2020
What first attracted me to this wine was its name and I'm fighting the urge to run through my repertoire of 'Lion King' songs.
Lift the glass, nose around and there's a predominance of citrus, lemon and gooseberry that make their fight for dominance interesting. Dive in and you'll find a wine that is bold with big green juicy pears, more lemon and an interesting nudge of lime.
5.5 out of 7
Natte Valleij Darling - Cinsault 2019
I really enjoy a good Cinsault and find it a most satifying wine to enjoy as one watches life rush past.
Before I take a sniff I'm getting cherry, red plums, redcurrants and a glace cherry topping. So far, so very good!
The taste is a delicious amalgam of liquorice sweets, red fruit that starts to nudge towards black fruit (blackberries) and I'm a satisfied customer. This is one to seek out and share.
6 out of 7
Waterkloof Circumstance - Mourvedre 2017
Waterkloof are certainly producing wines that make the grade, and this is an offering that wants you to come and play.
At the beginning there's a wall of soothing blackcurrent with cream that reminds of the sort of sundaes I used to have as a child. It doesn't take long before mint and cherry menthol rear their heads and want to say hello!
As I taste, I'm getting a lot of dark fruit at the beginning, and this blueberry and blackberry is worth the effort. It's not alone because coffee, spice, an earthy floor and zingy tongue tannins all make one believe that this wine has the legs to take it.
5 out of 7
Looking back over this article it all seems like a whirlwind. There's no doubt that the location was mighty impressive, as was the warm welcome from the South African Ambassador, but what really pleased me about this tasting was the variety of wines on offer. Not just the different grapes, but the range of tastes available within wines such as Chenin Blanc.
South Africa has had a few difficult years recently, but given time and a world of calm it might just continue to gr0w and continue to surprise. Now where are the words to those 'Lion King' songs?