There has been some serious drinking going on in my neck of the woods recently. A hot summer, various work-related challenges and taxing gym sessions have left me with the kind of thirst a camel would run away from.
Sure, the usual suspects are being employed to slake this thirst ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ kegs of frosty draft beer, bathtubs full of vermouth and tonic, lakes of gin and bitter lemon. But, due to a tireless commitment to the industry, I have also been putting wine away at a rate of knots.
When you are drinking a bottle or two a day (shame on you!) a few vodka-clear insights are always at hand, insights fuelled with the philosophical verve brought on by the fermented juice of the grape.
Here I ask in that manner of statement: how good is South African white wine!?!
Not that the summer has had be discriminating. There is always a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon in the fridge, and the joys of ice-cold ,Tassenberg over ice are indeed many and profound. But, unavoidably, white wine has been the drink of choice. And if I were to bet a bottom dollar I’d say that in general South Africa is making better whites of consistent quality than reds.
How to prove this? Well, I’ll hand you R1000 nd there you go into the supermarket or booze shop and fill up a two baskets ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ one with eight bottles of red and one with eight bottle of white. My bet’s on those eight whites generally being cleaner, fresher and of better value than the eight reds.
The main reason for this is the quality of white varieties from established vines, whereas the rush to plant red has led to plants forced into maturity, offering abrupt tannins and a lack of balance. Wooding via sawdust and/or chips is also a tricky affair, and the feverish rush to get young reds onto the market without allowing them to settle down also contributes to the presence of harsh products without fruit expression or refreshing depth.
Value-orientated whites produced in un-squeamish volumes are, on the other hand, generally,well-made, pure, clean and very drinkable. Wineries making big numbers at under R35 a bottle are logistically sharper than was the case 10 years ago when a lot of South Africa whites were showing flabby and reductive characters.
Here South Africa kicks serious European butt. A recent foray into French white plonk left me reeling and with enough acid and floating bacteria to audition for a role as a SABC news reader.
Locally the separate vinification of vineyard blocks, better and more extensive cooling and greater attention to lees management have led to a sea of value-for-money whites that are astounding.
The availability of great Chenin Blanc grapes in huge volumes is also a major reason for the quality of the country’s white offering. The Chenin Blanc Association must really stop feeling sorry for itself and whining about “when is Chenin going to be recognised as the great South African variety?”. The grapes and the wine is speaking for itself, we all love it and if you want to promote Chenin Blanc, get a funky message and become sexy and creative.
So what is being consumed in such formidable volumes? From Orange River Cellars Colombar to Perdeberg Chenin, Botha Chardonnay to uniWines Sauvignon Blanc, Graca, Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc, Tall Horse?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-+?-+..no wonder 85 per cent of all white wine consumed in South Africa is of the below R40 variety.
The quality is purely, fresh and great.
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