The “best of the blanc” in South Africa

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During a few intensive days at the Cape Wine fair in Cape Town, South Africa, I had the pure pleasure to have a few of my prejudices shattered. Tasting the wines on display has vastly improved my view of South Africa as a producer of quality wines with individuality and sparkling personality. Three categories stood out: the white wines dominated by chenin blanc, the red wines from shiraz, and a few nice bubbles. Want a few tips to look for?

I’ll start with a few white and bubbly favorites: Avondale Blanc de Blanc Brut is a very nice sparkling wine made by “MCC” (Methode Cap Classique), meaning it gets a second fermentation in the bottle like in Champagne. Crisp, with refreshing acidity, a good balance and lovely nutty toasty notes. Perfect for the sun chair (well, it was 10 degrees out when we tried it, but I imagined). Organic. If you can’t find Avondale, Simonsig Capse Vonkel Brut NV is a good option as well. It was served by the glass in our hotel bar and quite a pleasant start to any party. For the price, I could have this as a house bubbly.

There were a few impressive chardonnays, like the Ataraxia Chardonnay. Complex with plenty of personality, full bodied and oaked. Well made. As was the Chamonix 2011 Reserve Chardonnay with its minerality and fresh acidity and nicely integrated warm wooden notes from oak. On the subject of oak, Oak Valley in cool climate Elgin is a great producer which you should keep an eye out for. I’ll visit them this week and let you know more about the best wines.

But again, it was the use of the otherwise ignored grape chenin that really got me. Mullineux has a white blend, dominated by old-vine chenin blanc which is to die for. The 2011 made me think of fresh pancakes with cloudberry jam. A must-try. Yum, yum, yum. (Same goes for their syrah and the straw wine. A producer to watch – one of my favorite finds during the trip!) Not far away in Swartland is Lammershoek. Their Roulette Blanc 2010 is gorgeous! Cartology by Alheit Vineyards has fuller, riper yellow fruit and was also an absolute favorite. Amazing stuff. Citrus and honey that just stays in the memory for hours.

Later today I will go to visit Mullineux and Lammershoek, and as soon as I can you will get an update on the most interesting reds at Cape Wine. Now, I have to wave goodbye to my traveling companions from Scandinavia and get on the road. New wines are waiting to be discovered.

Av: Erica Landin

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