• When I was in my intro-sommelier course nearly a decade ago, one of the master sommeliers described a wine in an intriguing way. He said that every time he tried a certain varietal that he thought of a large hairy naked man sweating profusely and running through a field of roses getting cut by the thorns. In essence he meant, sweat, blood, meat and roses. The grape was Pinotage and the wine was from South Africa.

    There are two regions that had a large percentage of shitty wines and have more recently been redeeming themselves. These regions are Santa Cruz and South Africa. They both have an unusually high number of wines that taste as though they were made in a bathtub after dirty feet stomping.

    Now that I’ve dissed the wines lemme tell you that they have come a long way. What was once unrefined and difficult to quaff is now smooth and sophisticated, especially South Africa.

     

     

    I’ve had to friends from South Africa over the years. One drove me to school in the morning a gazillion years ago. The other is a smashing delight and actually intrigues me about the country as I have never been before. There is so much history, turmoil and self-discovery in the land, people and the wine.

     

    Speaking of wine, there are a few value wines that stand out above the rest.

    At around $12 the Ken Forrester is a fabulous white. Chenin Blanc is the white wine most likely found in the Loire Valley in France and often called Steen in South Africa

    Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch Petit 2012

    88 points Stephen Tanzer (International Wine Cellar):

    “Sexy suggestion of noble rot adds interest to the aromas of ripe melon, quince, green apple, honeysuckle and spices. Supple and creamy, in a distinctly easygoing style. A tad phenolic on the finish but smooth nonetheless. This is always a terrific value. (May/Jun 2013)”

     

    Found at K&L wines for $14.99, this Sauvignon Blanc is well made and ready to drink.

    Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Constantia Bayten 2012

    90 points Wine Spectator:

    “Ripe but well-focused, with straw, white peach, kiwifruit pulp and pink grapefruit notes all wound together and extending through the well-defined finish. Very solid, this should mellow with modest cellaring. Drink now through 2015. (5/ 2013)”

     

    Last I have a Syrah for around $13 that is reminiscent of plum and espresso. Yessss!

    Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Coastal Region Porcupine Ridge 2012

    87 Points Stephen Tanzer (International Wine Cellar)

    “Good medium red.  Musky red berries, smoke and chocolate mint on the slightly syrupy nose.  Supple, easygoing and open-knit, with good sweetness to the slightly diffuse red fruit and smoke flavors.  Finishes with a fine dusting of tannins that will not get in the way of enjoying this wine right now.”

     

     

    I think of so many things when I think of South Africa… Nelson Mandela, Apartheid, Lethal Weapon 2, Driving on the other side of the road, British occupation, soccer, giraffes, the edge of the world, and now some pretty damn good wine.