Ama Culture: Insight into South African red and white wine masterpiece

Following Caroline’s annual Red Wine Review, Christine Lundy interviews Caroline Rillema – owner of the iconic Cape Town wine Store ‘Caroline’s fine wine cellar’ – to understand what the art behind the current wine trends in South Africa are.

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Every year over 500 hundred wine enthusiasts attend two of the most anticipated wine events in Cape Town: Caroline’s Red Wine and White Wine reviews. An opportunity to stimulate your senses of smell and taste by trying the masterpiece wine from 60 of the most awarded South African wine estates presented by the wine makers themselves, the artist behind the wine.

Last week I attended the red wine review and witnessed a true testimony to the constant growth and overall quality of South African red wines; an opportunity to go beyond ‘the drink’ by engaging with the creators.

Over the past five to seven years Caroline has noticed that there is a definite trend towards a request for more elegant, balanced wines versus the heavier more alcoholic wines which seems to have dominated the wine’s scene previously. This trend seems to echo what is happening overseas, especially in Bordeaux, where a specific style has been developed to gain a high rating by famous US wine critic Robert Parker. Beyond Parker, Caroline believes that ‘bolder’ wines perform better in a competitive environment as a wine usually competes against other 150 wines, therefore the ‘bigger’ wines have more chances to stand out! Luckily for us, this change in trend means that wines with lower levels of alcohol are emerging.  At the forefront there is an increase in production, and therefore demand, for Rhone style blend meaning Mediterranean varieties such as Syrah (Shiraz), Grenache and Mourvèdre.  Traditionally South Africa has been more focused on Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec) but since 1991 wine growers have realized that these ‘Rhones’ varieties  may be better suited to the Cape’s climate.

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What also transpired from the Red Wine Review is that although new exciting quality wine estates are constantly emerging, iconic wines seem to still count amongst consumers favourites. The focus at the review was also on wines that could be considered as an ‘investment’ as you should lay them down for few years. Amongst the favorites this year were Luddite Shiraz, Newton Johnson Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Saronsberg Full Circle Red Blend, Meerlust Rubicon Bordeaux Blend, Delaire Graff Botmaskop Red Blend, Kanonkop Paul Sauer Bordeaux Blend, Raats Red Jasper Bordeaux Blend and Boschkloof Syrah.

On the 21st of October 2014 we will have the opportunity to taste South Africa’s leading white wines. White wines, says Caroline, remain dominated by Sauvignon Blanc; the consumer still shy away from over wooded wines, which was the trend over ten years ago. The most planted grape variety, Chenin Blanc, is gaining a very strong following. In the past often neglected, this classic grape has now gained near stardom status thanks to the resurgence of  ‘old vines’ ventures, especially in the Swartland region. Often cheaper, consumers in the know will favour a Chenin Blanc over a Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay, knowing that they will gain better value for money. Another trend is the rise of blends which are gaining strong popularity, such as Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasting at a wine event can be overwhelming, therefore Caroline suggests first tasting Sauvignon Blanc, then unwooded wines, followed by wooded and blended wines.

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As a ‘purveyor of fine wines since 1979’ Caroline has acquired a real depth of knowledge, not only about local South African wines but also other leading wine country producers such as France and Italy. You can visit her stores or attend her regular events to discover more amazing wines! all the details are on her website: www.carolineswine.com.

Address:

GROUND FLOOR, MATADOR CENTRE

62 STRAND STREET

CAPE TOWN

SOUTH AFRICA

Tel: +27 21 419 8984

Email: carowine@mweb.co.za

Opening times:

WEEKDAYS 09H00 – 17H30

SATURDAY  09H00 – 13H00

 

Tokai Road, Tokai, Cape Town

Address:

FOREST GLADE HOUSE

TOKAI ROAD

TOKAI

CAPE TOWN

Tel: +27 21 712 2258

Email: carowine3@mweb.co.za

Opening Times:

WEEKDAYS 09H30 – 17H30

SATURDAY 09H30 – 13H30

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Ama CultureArt South Africa‘s weekly lifestyle column by Christine Lundy.