Discovering New-Wave South African Wines

Travelling to the Southern Hemisphere for Spring as the leaves turn in Cornwall is always tempting, but was not the only reason for Jon’s trip in October. “There are really exciting young winemakers in South Africa creating interesting, modern wines from well-established old vines,” he explained. A trip to meet some of these producers first-hand was an exciting prospect…

As well as visiting vineyards in well-known Swartland, Franshoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch, Jon also visited the lesser known region of Elgin which is traditionally renowned for growing apples. As you will read, Jon returned fired-up by the experience, and he has chosen four white and four red wines on the menu by the glass to help you get to know them too.

Over to Jon to tell us more…

The overall feeling I had after my trip was of the amount of young, skilled and forward-thinking winemakers. They have studied their craft then travelled the world honing their knowledge and expertise, and returned full of enthusiasm and ideas. Working with old vines that have been in the ground for 100 years or more means that they have access to excellent quality grapes to craft their wines with – it’s not like planting a new vineyard and starting from scratch.

What has changed is not so much the viticulture or the way in which the vines are grown, but their methods of making the wine – the vinification. Thirty years ago the style favoured by critics was for big, heavy extracted wines. Now the grapes aren’t pressed for as long, making lighter, fresher wines. By doing this the winemakers can really show difference, reflecting the terroir of each particular vineyard.

This can really be seen in the wines of Donovan Rall, who is enamoured with Mediterranean varieties. We are stocking his Tea Leaf Chenin which comes from a small plot surrounded by native rooibos plants that lend their flavour to the wine. This is a great example of how the terroir effects the grapes and produces a distinctive, complex wine that is still modern thanks to its juicy drinkability.

Other Mediterranean grape varieties that have been given a modern twist include Mourvedre and Grenache. Young winemaker Jolandie Fouche joined Kloovenburg and the du Toit family approximately three years ago. The historic vineyard benefits from her no-nonsense approach that relies on smell, touch and experience to create wines with their own character. This is clearly shown in the Kloovenburg Grenache, with its super-pure fruit and elegant dark cherry, plus a herbal note that makes this a vibrant, juicy mid-weight wine.

The trip was a revelation to me and I’m really looking forward to bringing more of my South African discoveries onto the shelves here at Scarlet Wines.

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