South African red wine. This phrase usually sends shudders up my spine. No matter how wine-o-cratic I aim to be, I think of South African wines as one step above white zinfandel. So I was a bit wary of the latest Essex Wine Society Tasting focusing on the red wines of South Africa. That said, I believe that South African wines have improved over the years and I am confident that one day I will find at least one South African wine that I love.
Unfortunately it didn't happen at the Essex County tasting, however; I found a few South African reds that I enjoyed and one that I would purchase.
My two favorites of the ten we tasted:
Ernie Els Signature 2006 - Classic Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet France with bright plum, berry and black currant notes. Exhibits some vegetal notes, which tend not to be my favorite, but which add some structure. The longer the wine sat in the glass, the more I liked it. Unfortunately, it was also the 2nd most expensive wine we tasted and I'm not sure I'd spend $90 - $95 on a bottle.
Grangehurst Pinotage 2003 - I was shocked to find out that one of my two favorites of the evening was a Pinotage. I have never liked a pinotage, but the best part of blind tasting is that you are not as swayed by pre-conceived notions of particular varietals or regions. This pinotage was a pleasant surprise. Smooth red berry notes give way to a medium, somewhat oaky finish. I don't see switching this out for my favorite pinot noir anytime soon, but for $20 - $23, I would likely pick up a bottle if I came across it in a wine store.
It might be awhile before South Africa breaks into my list of favorite wine regions, but I'm starting to turn the corner. However, I still stand behind some wine biases and I do not believe I'll ever see the day when I accept white zinfandel as a wine.
Until the next sniff, sip or quaff,