South African Bargains
Back in the 1700s, South Africa was known for making Constantia, a sweet wine prized among royalty in all corners of Europe. Owing to political unrest and odd governmental snafus where they would underregulate the important issues and overregulate the trivial, by the end of the 19th century, the world had zero interest in South Africa's wines. That's all changing.
South Africa has beautiful land for viticulture. The areas north and east of Cape Town have mild, cool climates and nice ocean breezes. For the past four decades, their best-known wines have been whites made from the Steen grape (aka Chenin Blanc). But the South Africans wanted some of the lucrative world wine market and they began to grow the grapes everyone knows -- chardonnay, cabernet, pinot noir, and sauvignon blanc.
One of the hot new winemakers in South Africa is Bartho Eksteen. His approach is a little different than most winemakers. He owns no vineyards. He simply buys the best grapes he can and makes good wines. His most successful wine is Urbane Sauvignon Blanc ($7), an excellent wine with pineapple and green-apple aromas, along with intense fruit and good viscosity. He also makes a higher end sauvignon blanc under the Bartho Eksteen label ($12). This wine is more complex, with pear and white-pepper aromas. Either wine is a perfect match for shellfish dishes.
Bartho also loves shiraz, and makes two versions. The Urbane Shiraz ($7) is lighter than most versions, but still manages to taste just right. It's ideal with a hamburger. The higher-end Bartho Eksteen version ($14) is an intense wine with dark fruit flavors that would go well with lamb chops.
The other hot new wine from South Africa is a joint venture between enologist Michel Roland (who Robert Parker calls "the world's most influential enologist") and South African landowners Murray and Juliet Boustred. Their winery, Remhoogte Estate (pronounced rem-HOOK-te), is making a very good Cabernet Sauvignon ($14). The 2000 vintage, which is currently available, is more austere than the usual Roland superripe-style wine. The 2001, 2002, and 2003 vintages should be much better and, if they can hold their prices, will be world-class bargains.
Finally, a fun party wine: Goats Do Roam ($11). Kind of named after the famous French wine, Cotes du Rhone, the Goats Do Roam is a delicious red wine made from pinot noir, syrah, gamay, grenache, carignan, and mourvedre. Big fruit flavors with a peppery finish make this a great match for cookout hot dogs.
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