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South Africa

There cannot be many things that are worse than boring wine. Nuclear war perhaps, or kneeling on a small piece of Lego. Sadly however, the world is flooded with the stuff. It would be easy to blame the supermarkets but  they do not necessarily force people to buy millions of gallons of generic cats pee on a gooseberry bush Sauvignon Blanc, or the countless pointless bottles of  Pinot Grigio that at least have the good grace to taste of nothing at all and it is not only this sort of wine that should be held to account for being dull. There is plenty of wine from famous wine regions and producers that, whilst tasting perfectly acceptable, can see one nodding off before the corks been pulled from the bottle.

 

Thankfully however, there are plenty of innovative winemakers in the world. Risk takers, trailblazers and trendsetters who believe in the land that they work, the wine they produce and crucially themselves. One of the hottest of hotspots for these wine hipsters right now is South Africa. Not necessarily the mainstream, on the map regions but the smaller, lesser known corners of the cape and also multi-regional blends.

 

As so often with these things the strength of movement is bred from the power of previous oppression.  There has previously been excessive bureaucracy involved in wine production in South Africa to the extent of there being a definition even of what a South African wine should taste like. How anything of interest was expected to be be produced when the bureaucrats were hovering about with their red pens I do not know and the country did itself no favours by trying to define itself by a specific grape, particularly as the grape in question was Pinotage. If the definition of South African wine was to taste of bananas, bubblegum and burnt rubber then they were conforming wonderfully well to the wishes of the wine police. Thankfully, there is less of this tedious drivel being bottled these days and it is far easier to track down wines of interest.

 

Varietal characteristics remain important but they are taking a back seat to texture and terroir. There are bottles sporting catchy, contemporary label design, we are even seeing still wines sealed by a crown cap.  Now all this could mean nothing if the product wasn’t any good, but it is. Take for example Luddite Wines Saboteur; A blend of Chenin Blanc, Blanc Fume and Viognier, aged in French oak for 8 months. Sourced from various vineyards in Bot River, Elgin and Overberg. The Chenin and Viognier were fermented on the skins for 20 days. The wine spent six months in old French oak. It is all flowers and hay bale with a lick of lime and deep, layered texture. Super fresh and bags of substance for a mere 12.5% abv £23.95

 

The style of wines being produced are so very much of the now and we hope of the future. Not masked by oak or excessive extraction but noticeable by the fact that they speak of where they come from and the people that make them. Respected winemakers Ian Naudé and Lucas de Kock use their relationships with grape growers to produce the scrumptious Naude White. The 2009 is a pungently, smoky and herbaceous sex-bomb of a wine. The dew-soaked embers of last night's campfire, enlivened by the smells of the herb garden. Bay, basil and lemon balm. Terrific depth. Textured but with bite. Long. Any oak? Hard to say. If it is judiciously. Oozes both character and charm. Singing at eight years of age. £19.95

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