Liam Campbell chooses his top South African wines
South Africa has mastered the difficult dual art of expressing in her wines the restrained tones of a European accent in the warming and generous body of the New World.
Traditionally, inspiration has come from France's classic wine regions: Burgundy's Pinot Noir, Bordeaux's Cabernet Sauvignon and the Rhône's Syrah/Shiraz – defining stylistically wines more akin in character to France than the Americas or Australia.
However, there is one truly original South African wine. Pinotage, a black grape variety created in 1925 from a crossing of parents, Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage at the time). Pinotage can be a bit of a wild-child if not kept in check, displaying, at worst, rasping acidity and the pungency of gloss paint. However, when tamed by reducing the amount of fruit produced by severe pruning or cultivating older bush vines, Pinotage can give a concentrated lush blackberry richness and a ripeness that charms.
The following scored the highest marks in a blind tasting of Pinotages priced under €16.
1) Ancient Earth Pinotage 2011, Bellingham, Western Cape 14pc
Full-bodied with an oaked and tarry black fruit palate underpinned by sandy textured tannins and still continuing to improve. Go gamy with venison stewed with red wine, cardamoms and pickled onions.
€12.00 at Letterfrack Off-licence, Galway; Londis, Grange, Co Sligo; Joyce Supermarkets, Galway; The Cornerstone, Lahinch; Egan's, Portlaoise; JJ O'Driscoll's, Cork and The Village Green, Castlemartyr. In Dublin at The Corkscrew, Chatham Street and Deveney's, Dundrum.
2) Pinotage 2013, Cimarosa, Western Cape 14.5pc
Very tasty with ripe and peppery blackberries. Full-bodied and warming alcohol finish. The gentle tannins and refreshing acidity make this a barbecue's friend to serve cool with any kind of meat or poultry.
€5.99 at Lidl nationwide.
3) Pinotage 2012, False Bay, Western Cape 13.5pc
Persistent mouth-drying firm tannins and chewy black fruit palate. Tarry fruity finish. Needs a red meaty partner, so savour with a grilled steak and a creamy peppercorn sauce.
€11.99 at Next Door chain nationwide and in Dublin at McCabe's, Blackrock and the Vintry, Rathgar.
4) Five Climates Pinotage 2012, Boland Cellar, Paarl 13.5pc
Firm grippy tannins support chewy black fruits. Decant an hour before serving with a chilli con carne.
€13.99 in Dublin at Cooler's, Swords; McHugh's, Kilbarrack Road; Sweeney's, Glasnevin; Village Off-licence, Castleknock and Gerry's, Skerries.
5) Pinotage 2010, Simonsig, Stellenbosch 14.5pc
Full-bodied with spiced black fruits enlivened by very mouth-watering acidity and ending with a long finish of tarry black fruits. Enjoy with duck in a black cherry coulis.
€13.99 at La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow. In Dublin: Redmond's and Morton's, Ranelagh; Vintry, Rathgar and Drinkstore, Stoneybatter.
6) Barista Pinotage 2013, Val de Vie, Western Cape 13.5pc
Very oaky aromas of freshly roasted coffee beans. Juicy raspberry core contrasting with the peppery spice and black fruits. The juicy fruit surfaces from the oaky veneer. Try with roasted beef and wild mushrooms in cream.
€14.00 at Bradley's, Cork City; The Counter, Letterkenny; Power & Smullen, Lucan, Co. Dublin and on-line: firstname.lastname@example.org