Let’s talk about wine

Let's talk about wine

By Geena Whiting

Red, rouge, velvety, smooth, bright, tannic, strong, harsh, bitter. There are seemingly infinite words used to describe red wines. There are hundreds of different red cultivars in the world that need to be explored and discovered. South Africa is becoming legendary for our New World take on Shiraz and our local cultivar, Pinotage. Our reds can vary from bright red fruit flavours that melt away on your palate, to heavy tannic wines, that either need to be paired with a beautiful fatty red meat or forgotten about for 10 years in a cellar somewhere (for the more patient of us). 

I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to talk about Pinotage. A proudly South African grape, it was developed by Professor Perold of the University of Stellenbosch in 1925. He achieved this by crossing Cinsaut (originally called Hermitage) with Pinot Noir. Of course, one can see where the name was derived from: PINOT noir + hermitAGE = PINOTAGE. This wine is well known for expressing aromas of tobacco, red berries, banana and pencil shavings. It also comes in many different styles, from the consumer-friendly, red fruit driven wines, to the chocolate/coffee Pinotage and from there, to the heavy wooded tannic gems that need to be aged for years before one can enjoy the structure and complexity of the wine.

“Wine is the only artwork you can drink” – Luis Fernando Olaverri.

Pale, lemon, gold, straw, sour, sweet, buttery, oaky, smelly, perfumed. There are seemingly infinite words used to describe white wines. There are hundreds of different white cultivars in the world that need to be explored and discovered. South Africa is especially well known for one white cultivar: Chenin Blanc. Chardonnay has begun to make a comeback , as our coastal and cool climate regions have started to  make remarkable chardonnays, with cautious use of wood. Our white wines vary from the sweetest Noble Late Harvests, to light, fruity and green and from there, to heavy, toasty oak. 

The increased planting of rarer white cultivars allows for diversity in our choices as consumers. Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier are some of only a few that are more widely available. One by one, we will explore and discover these, in future blogs. There are also new, interesting styles that we are seeing are coming out. For example, something I like to call “Half-and-Half”, where the winemaker takes 50% dry-style wine and 50% dessert or noble late harvest wine and blends it together to create an off-dry or semi-sweet style. Orange wine is a trend that hasn’t yet hit the supermarkets. This is a  wine style where white grapes are crushed and the stems are removed,  then put into barrels or tanks with the skins and allowed to ferment in an oxidative style. This turns the white wine into an orange wine and gives it more bruised apple and floral flavours . The wine is also slightly tannic, which means it will dry your mouth out like a heavy red. This wine style is seen as “minimum intervention” and requires less sulphur, which appeals to some consumers.  Most notably: there is a big market in Japan for orange wine.

Pink, salmon, strawberries and cream, candy floss, cherry, roses. There are seemingly infinite words used to describe rosé wines. We all have that one rosé, that is our guilty pleasure summer wine. Rosé is typically made in two different ways. One method is making a blanc de noir (white-from-black), where red grapes are harvested and their skins are immediately removed, along with the stems and pips. This allows for slight extraction of color and leaves the juice a light pink color. The second method is simply blending some red wine with a lot of white wine. Neither method is better than the other, however,  some wine gurus feel a blanc de noir is deemed more natural. Either way, there is nothing better than having a light rosé on a summer’s day. 

Together we will discover some wine gems, both local and international but until then, whatever you do, pour yourself into it.

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