It can be a challenge to redefine yourselves. One of the largest challenges facing the Canadian wine industry is gaining recognition on the world stage for more than just Icewine. The wineries of South Africa are facing a similar dilemma in that they are recognized internationally for great affordable bottles – but overlooked when it comes to more premium offerings.
Earlier this year PIWOSA (the Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa) arrived in Toronto and invaded the city with the mission of changing market perception. It’s not an easy task but given what I had an opportunity to taste I would say they are up to the task.
My experience with premium South Africa is the regular visit to the vintages section from Hamilton Russell. These outstanding bottles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have developed a bit of a cult following. But anyone who reads this blog knows I rarely spend more than thirty dollars on a bottle – Hamilton Russell usually comes in around sixty.
I had an opportunity to sit down with people from Glenelly, Jardin and De Grendel to talk about their wines and what is going on in South Africa. The wines that were poured for me were Chardonnay and Bordeaux-style reds.
Where was the Chenin Blanc? Or the Pinotage? The South African producers take a certain amount of pride in the varietals for which they are known, but they feel this is much more to offer. None of the wines tasted are expected to more than thirty dollars, but unfortunately at the time I tasted none were available in the Canadian market. Hopefully this is something that will change.
2015 De Grendel Chardonnay – Very rich and nicely balanced. The beautiful acidity to this wine feels like cool climate winemaking. The flavours also speak to cool climate with orchard fruit and a nice citrus backbone.
2015 Jardin Nine Yard Chardonnay – As with the De Grendel we are looking at great balance and a very rich nose and mouthfeel. Flavours of orchard fruit and citrus as well work in perfect balance.
2014 Jardin Cobblers Hill – A Bordeaux blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Franc. I got to enjoy this bottle shortly after opening so the tannin was still a little firm, but in spite of that the very ripe fruit soars. The fruit is ripe without being jammy and nice acidity keeps the wine in balance. With another couple years in bottle the tannin should relax. This is a bottle that could sit in a cellar for 10 years.
2011 Glenelly Estate Reserve – Syrah is added to the mix with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The fruit is perfectly ripe and the syrah brings a bit of pepper to the glass. Even being a few years older than anything else I tasted this wine is still incredibly young and could spend some time in a cellar for another 5-7 years.