Wine: Raise your cup to the perfect red
Published 19/06/2010 | 05:00
The South Africans love a braai -- that's barbecue to you and me. It comes from an Afrikaans word, braaivleis, which means roasted meat.
Given that we live in Ireland, where weather is not always permitting, I take it as a licence to put my meat in the oven and eat indoors if necessary. And if we can't beat the French, we can at least join in the fun the South African way this World Cup.
South Africans wash down their braai steaks, burgers and famous sausages with plenty of locally produced wine. And neither weather nor geography are obstacles to enjoying Cape reds.
The reds run the gamut from top end to the cheap and cheerful, often with a distinctive whiff of smoke (sometimes off-puttingly so) attributed to a lack of ground water.
For reasons to do with its history of settlers from northern Europe, South Africa has a tradition in white grapes, which are more associated with cooler climes.
The country has undergone massive change in the past two decades, and with it came a big swing to red wine production. Post-apartheid investment, more expertise and greater site selection for vineyards are helping the country to tap into its potential for quality reds and whites.
South Africa majors in the sort of robust reds that sit well with roasted meats, and even that whiff of smoke can find a resonance. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted, turning up on its own or often with Merlot, in Bordeaux-style blends.
It has a growing reputation for Syrah/ Shiraz; the former is reputed in the savoury French style, while the latter is best in the juicy, fruity New World genre.
It does great Rhône blends -- that mix of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre which produces rich and spicy wines -- including one by the name of Goats do Roam, a cheeky take on France's Côtes du Rhône.
Its signature red grape is Pinotage, with an earthiness that goes down well at the braai. South Africans enjoy pot-luck style Bring and Braais and even a National Braai Day, celebrating the country's rich and varied heritage, of which Archbishop Desmond Tutu is patron.
The archbishop was asked a few years ago what vegetarians were supposed to do on Braai Day, and he replied: "They can stand and watch." Or open the wine, I suggest.