This weekend, Friday October 15 and Saturday October 16, City Vino travels the world with a destination of South Africa—specifically the area known as the coastal region. South Africa is the ninth-largest wine-producing market in the world. The country has about 230,000 acres of vines, producing 1.5 million tons of grapes (2021 harvest) of which 45 percent are red grapes and 55 percent are white grapes.
The hot climate in South Africa is mitigated by a cold current coming up from Antarctica and winds off the western coast. These factors, in addition to places with slopes, hills, and altitudes, allows world-class wine to be produced in the country.
One stop in South Africa is Constantia, which is a historic wine-growing area in the southwestern part of the country. Our wine from this area is the 2018 Bayten Chardonnay. The wine is made from 100 percent Chardonnay, and has strong citrus on the palate, along with toasty and butterscotch notes and distinct minerality. The wine was aged in new and neutral French oak, leading to those toasty and sweet notes. This wine would pair well with fish, poultry, and pork dishes. With the barrel notes, the wine would pair well with butter or cream sauces, rich fish like Salmon, and creamy pasta or risotto.
Another stop on our jaunt into South Africa finds us with the 2019 Natte Valleji Cinsault. If you aren’t that familiar with Cinsault, it is a French grape, grown predominantly in the Languedoc-Roussillon region toward the Mediterranean, and is one well-suited for hotter climates, including South Africa. The Natte Valleji is 100 percent Cinsault, and has aromas of ripe red fruit such as strawberries, cherries, raspberries, currants, and rhubarb. The fruity aromatics are echoed on the palate, along with a light touch of earthiness, leather, smoke, and mushrooms. This medium-bodied wine has medium acidity, soft tannins, and a medium finish. Barbecued red meat or kebobs, charcuterie, and herbed-roasted chicken would pair well with this wine.
No stop in the coastal region of South Africa would be complete without a stop in Stellenbosch. Our wine here is the 2018 Remhoogte Vantage Pinotage. Pinotage is a grape that is a deliberate crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault that occurred in South Africa. Pinotage gets its earthy and savory notes from Pinot Noir, and more texture that tends to come from Cinsault. The wine was aged for 24 months in French oak of which 30 percent is new. Cassis, black cherries, black raspberries, red pepper, and cinnamon may be apparent on the nose. On the palate, the fruit is bright and juicy with delicate acidity, and soft tannins with a savory finish. Pair this wine with game like duck or venison, or dishes that have been spiced.
Our next visit is to Lubanzi, to try the 2019 Lubanzi Red Blend which is 75 percent Shiraz (Syrah), 18 percent Grenache, and 7 percent Mourvèdre. On the nose, this wine has black fruit such as plums, blackberries, blueberries, and bramble. There are hints of ground coffee, too. The palate shows typical Shiraz black pepper and allspice notes; red fruit, spices, and herbs from the Grenache; and finally, the Mourvèdre brings some purple flowers, earth, and a little funk. Pair this wine with beef or lamb, grilled meats and vegetables, barbecue, and hard cheeses.
The story of how Lubanzi got its name and spirit is best told in their own words from their website, as follows:
“We started in 2014, as two friends searching for an opportunity to make a difference in the world.
In 2014, while living in South Africa as exchange students, we set off on a 20-hour bus ride along South Africa's southern coast en route to the wild coast, a remote part of the country - famously the birthplace of Nelson Mandela - for a weeklong backpacking expedition. On our second day, a wandering dog the locals called ‘LUBANZI' began following us on our adventure. He stuck with us throughout our journey—for 6 days & 100 miles—until he disappeared in the middle of the night before our final morning. There's some poetic justice in that.
In the spirit of this adventure, we moved to South Africa in 2016 endeavoring to launch a business that could help share the magnetism of a country and a people that had planted such deep roots in us and deliver some seriously top-notch wines in the process.”
Let us echo Lubanzi’s sense of adventure by trying these lovely South African wines. Cheers!