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Wines from South Africa

It all started back in 1652 when the Dutch East India Company planted vines in South Africa. This was done so that grapes and wine could be given to sailors during their voyage along the Spice Route. The vitamin C in fresh fruit warded off scurvy; since the English sailors became known as “limeys” for their cure, could these ones be “grapies”?

We do our best to move all wines in containers so that we can pass on the best shipping costs and conditions and most areas allow us to consolidate from various countries. For instance, a container out of Italy may have German, Spanish, Portuguese and Hungarian wines in it. South Africa is so isolated and, for this reason, we have not done much with their wines for some time. But that has just changed and let me tell you about a few.

Pinotage is to South Africa what shiraz is to Australia and zinfandel to California; the last two had their origins in Europe, whereas pinotage is a strictly South African creation. The story starts when a professor of physics and chemistry at the University of Cape Town crossed pinot noir with cinsault.

From only four seeds, it blossomed and, in 1961, the name pinotage first appeared on a bottle of wine.

The Malan family, owners of Simonsig winery in Stellenbosch, can trace their winemaking roots in this area to 1688.

As they have done since their first release of pinotage in 1970, their aim is to accentuate the fruitiness of this unique grape. Its rhubarb-red colour showcases vibrant sweet cherry and strawberry compote on the nose. There are layers of cherry and plum on the palate followed by a dusting of cinnamon. The winery suggests enjoying their 2015 Stellenbosch Pinotage with “ostrich steak, springbok or kudo casseroles and even traditional South African braai”. Good luck with that! $36.65.

Simonsig Redhill 2012 Pinotage is made from a vineyard on their estate that consists of red soil from decomposed weathered shale that produces fine grapes because of its excellent moisture retention capacity and good drainage.

The colour is dense and opaque and the flavours are of ripe blackberries and maraschino cherries. There is cedar, oak and spice as well. If you did not have any luck finding the food suggestions for the last wine, then please consider Cape Malay bobotie with this one. $44.30.

Bruwer Raats founded his winery in Stellenbosch in 2000 and made the decision to only focus on two grape varieties that he felt would lead to success. One is chenin blanc, that South Africa is so renowned for, and the other is cabernet franc.

This is how Wine Enthusiast magazine described Raats Family 2017 Old Vine Chenin Blanc: “On first sniff, a soft wood note jumps from the glass, but once you look past that, you get to toasted apple slices, orange peel and Honeycomb cereal tones beneath, with hints of dried fynbos (a South African vegetation), sage and lemon wax at the back. The mouthfeel is fleshy, almost generous, with solid wood-grilled apple and orange oil flavours that carry through to the close. Ample acidity and a pleasant texture kick in to enliven the feel, with lovely spiced orange tea and dried fynbos tones lingering on the close.”

This wine, that the magazine rated 92/100, appeared on their 2019 list of their top 100 wines in the world. $32.

Raats Family 2019 Original Chenin Blanc is impressive with a tropical fruit core that is characterised by prominent pineapple and yellow apple. The ripe fruit profile is supported by green melon and fresh lime flavours that usher in a crisp citrus-edged finish which leaves a lingering mineral aftertaste. $24.25.

We have two cabernet sauvignons and a shiraz from Cederberg winery, but first let me describe their 2018 Chenin Blanc that we sell for $22.75.

This Cederberg style of chenin blanc offers beautiful layers of melon, grapefruit and fleshy white pear. Four months lees contact ensures a mouth coating creaminess on the palate with a lively crisp acidity to finish off. High altitude vineyards make this chenin blanc truly unique.

I will mention one more historic estate founded in 1699 in Stellenbosch, DeMorgenzon. In 2003, Wendy and Hylton Appelbaum bought it and have since transformed it into a 224-acre garden vineyard, where abundant wildflowers grow between the vines.

They believe that music can influence the growth of a vine and the fruit it bears, so they have played Baroque and early classical music to their growing vines — in the vineyard, in the winery and in the cellar — all day and every day for the past seven years.

The effects of sound and music on plant growth is an intriguing subject and has fascinated many a horticulturist over the years. Although not much scientific investigation has been undertaken, a handful of research papers have reported on the effect of sound energy on plant growth; all have reported positive results from the playing of harmonious or melodious music to plants.

A May 2017 Scientific American article quotes a study that states “leaves turn out to be extremely sensitive vibration detectors”.

I recommend that you cue up a harpsichord CD and open a bottle of DeMorgenzon DMZ 2017 Sauvignon Blanc.

This wine has a pale, bright gold colour with green reflections. Upfront aromatics of passion fruit and citrus greet the nose following through to a rich palate yielding ripe fruit flavours with a gentle nettle edge. A brisk acidity and stony minerality give natural freshness and length. $27.85. And the beat goes on!

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. E-mail or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). Visit

Triple century: Michael Malan's family owns Simonsig winery in Stellenbosch and can trace their winemaking roots in the area to 1688 (Photograph supplied).

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Published January 31, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated January 31, 2020 at 12:21 am)

Wines from South Africa

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