Watching my lawn die reminds me that we are well and truly into Summer, now, and for many that means a lighter style of drinking. Bring on chilled white wines, and lighter reds, and for a choice of these we are really spoilt.
Wine.co.za's January Spotlight feature promotes four readily available wines, sure to give pleasure; a fragrant and low alcohol Moscato (Muscat) from Obikwa, a lemony and apricot Pinot Grigio from Two Oceans, the consistently fabulous Pinot Noir also from Two Oceans and a vivid and grippy Cabernet Sauvignon from Drodsty Hof. We looked at unusual grapes to give you some variation from the safe Chardonnay and Shiraz route, and that made me think of more varietal alternatives that will provide fresh and fruity summer drinking at budget prices.
Gewurztraminer, Barbera, Sangiovese and Cinsault…
First choice is to an Estate that I won’t try to pronounce, Altydgedacht in Durbanville. The Gewurztraminer at around R55 is perfumed and lightish and nicely dry. Perfect for Thai or Chinese food and interesting enough to just sip through a sunset. Imagine this with the steel of Riesling and the heady fragrance of Muscat and you have the off dry ‘Chatelaine’ (R50); totally decadent for the price and joyously different. Robertson Winery makes a richer and fuller version of this grape as a Special Late Harvest style, and at R35 it punches way above its weight. If you must have a red, Altydgedacht do a lovely version of the Italian Barbera grape, known for spicy coffee black fruit flavours which I have consistently scored in the high 80’s/100, but it is more expensive. Another Italian grape, slightly lighter, for Latin red lovers, is the Sangiovese from Koelenhof Wine Estate. At R35 it is juicy and smooth and pretty good value. If you like this, as they say, you might like the Cinsault from Landskroon Wines at R45. Unoaked and supple, this will disappear at meal time very quickly.
Colombar and Bukettraube..
Two varieties particularly evoke summer blossoms and rose petals. Both lack glamour and rarely set the wine world on fire, but for budget drinking and simple lazy day pleasure they are perfect. The first, a Colombar from Van Loveren at around R35. Bon Courage also make a nice version at around R10 more. It has peach and white blossom notes and provides honest, simple drinking – yes, I know it is usually a blending grape for the production of Brandy, but treated nicely, as here, it can stand on its own. The second, a German import variety now more known here than most everywhere else; Bukettraube. Swartland Winery make a lovely grapey version in a Natural Sweet style with juicy fruit and enough acidity to stop it being cloying, for around R42.
My favourite varieties are less than commonplace, but still great value. Semillon has some wonderful qualities. It ages beautifully, five, ten years, sometimes more (get the Stellenzicht Reserve – definitely not a budget wine - and put it away to see what I mean); it has body and weight, handles oak well, blends perfectly with Sauvignon Blanc aka white Bordeaux and develops complexity over time. It also has an astonishing flavour profile. It can be waxy and with lanolin, or delicate with wild flower aromas or it can be lemony with peach and guava or savoury with marzipan and honey. It can be dry or off dry or lusciously sweet (try the Zevenvacht Straw Wine for a taste of heaven) and always, always has character. Try the Nitida at around R90 or the delicious Oom Pagel from Fairview, both worth the extra pennies.
And finally, Riesling…
My favourite grape and possibly the most versatile in the world; Riesling. When young it can be floral, delicate and fragrant – perfect for summer. Yes it comes in off dry versions and Late Harvest versions as well as the unctuous viscosity of a Noble Late Harvest, but it is also available for under R50 and provides a lovely alternative to the expected Sauvignon or Chardonnay. Jordan’s ‘Real McCoy’ is a classic, still budget friendly at R85 if you consider the quality and class of this wine. Slightly cheaper is the wonderful Riesling from De Wetshof, at R60 and world class, and definitely budget is the melon, pineapple and silky off dry ‘Winemaker’s Reserve’ from Nederburg, at around R45.