Wines of the World

Tuesday, 25 June, 2013
Shante Hutton,
Shopping for wine at any supermarket can be a daunting experience, should you buy for the price - high price meaning a better wine (maybe) - or perhaps cheap and cheerful is the way forward, or the wines you've seen advertised on TV might be a safer bet.
Checkers have really upped their game when it comes to the wines they have available to the public and they go further with their Wines of the World selection. was invited to an intimate wine tasting of 8 Checkers Wines of the World, orchestrated by Michael Fridjhon.

The event was hosted at Jenny Morris's Giggling Gourmet studio in de Waterkant. Foodies and winos were abundant and delicious treats were everywhere. Food bloggers such as Betty Bake had been cooking and baking since 8am that morning in preparation, not that they looked flustered at all.

The tables were set with a flight of 8 wines from around the world, all had been chosen with the help of the Michael Fridjhon and it has been a monumental task. Of the wines tasted on their quest for the best, the heart of the price bracket aimed for was between R30 - R70 which compared to many South African wines, is nothing. Fridjhon was blown-away by New World wine countries and those such as Italy, Spain and Portugal, who remained outside the inner circle of France, all of whom over-deliver on taste and quality. Portugal was particularly praised for its pride of culture and dedication to creating authentic wines that are easily able to get a toe-hold on a South African palate.

Fridjhon himself is possibly related to Einstein insomuch as he's a charismatic genius and sports a gloriously wild top of hair....all the better for holding all his wine information. His, and Checkers, task may have been labour-intensive - the levy placed on imported wines is %25 which made the search harder - but the rewards were good.

Here are 8 Checkers Wines of the World that can be found at your local Checkers.

We began with a 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand range, Diamond Ridge (R65)
- An acute smell of gooseberries and sweetcorn. Incredibly fragrant.
- Easy drinking
- It was said to be "not classically persistent."

Next was a Pinot Noir from Chile's Casillero del Diablo range (R70).  It was a choice that had surprised Fridjhon as Chile is known for growing vines like weeds, "they simply shoot up everywhere" and this has caused a lack in attention to detail. However, they do excel at making good Pinot.
- Decent sweet-fruited wine with oozing black cherry
- "Pinot Noir at a price point like this is unbelievable" exclaimed Fridjohn.

Spain offered up the Vina Temprana Old Vines Tempranillo  for an amount that is just unheard of, R28.
- Deliciously fruity nose and an additional hay quality
- molasses and stewed fruit on the finish

Cotes du Rhone Les Menines for R65 was the first French offering.
- I found it a little too harsh for my liking and the nose was rather 'dusty'

Italy provided the Sensi Risalto Chianti Montalbano 2011 for R65. It has received the DOCG (Denominazione di origine controllata ("Controlled designation of origin") a quality assurance label for Italian wines), the highest of Italian accolades.
- Bright ruby colour
- On the nose - tomatoes, black pepper, stone fruits
- Savoury medium finish
- This would be a fantastic food wine that could cut through olive oil or butter like I can eat through Nutella.

Atlantico Vinho Regional Alentejano from Portugal (R40), whilst sporting an unusual label design, is an excellent food wine. "Pair this wine to the food of the region and suddenly you have a great marriage," said Fridjohn.
- Red cherries and plums
- It had a real presence in your mouth
- This wine went well with Jenny's battered prawns that were stuffed with coriander.

My favourite wine of the day was the Santa Julia Malbec from Argentina 2011 (R40).
- Smelling of smokey sweet cranberries with a slightly jammy aroma.
- Herbacious mouth-feel with the right amount of acid for great food pairing.
- It was classically styled and, according to Fridjhon and the sudden need to Tango, "by definition, it takes you to Argentina."

France finished us off with the Carillonade Bordeaux (R45).
- Recognisable as a Bordeaux because of its austerity and perfume.
- To me, it smelled live sage and liver which wasn't unpleasant but rather intriguing.

Most of the wines tasted were under 14% alcohol offering lovely freshness and balance. There was also coherence between them in that they were not too austere. Balance was key and wines that didn't overload but had aromatic qualities was the order of the day.

What stood out for me were the prices of these wines, all of which I would readily drink and recommend.  Why can't SA not only make expensive blockbusters/budget-busters but also cheap, excellent wines that fit into everyone's lifestyle.

Where I am quite content to manage my evening around an expensive Bordeaux blend, many of my family members and friends would consider it crazy. But if I served them a delicious bowl of pasta with sundried tomato's, chorizo and fresh basil, these Checker's wines would go down a treat and could inspire wine virgins to buy more. Imagine spending 200+ on a wine and then serving a dish that doesn't go...both would be ruined and you'd feel cheated.
On my way home I popped in to my local Checkers, picked up a bottle of Tempranillo and a bag of Sweet chilli pepper Doritos and sat watching Game of Thrones. I realized that this was a perfect pairing and that the only other wine I know that can stand up to Doritos and is low cost, is Two Oceans Pinot Noir. Perhaps something to think about when it comes to everyday drinking and the average person's salary.

I did a little digging around the shop to see what good value, yummy wines we had that can easily take your daily grind to new heights:

Obikwa Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 R42
Full-bodied with cherries and intense fruit flavours, followed by delicate oak spices and firm tannins.

De Villiers Pinotage 2011 R42

Lush plum flavours and red berry fruit. The unique tropical banana characteristic of Pinotage appear on the nose.

Graham Beck Railroad Red 2010 R61
Sweet red berry fruit flavours and spiciness with layers of subtle fruit tannins on the palate. A cheerful and juicy red wine with lively drinkability.

Goats do Roam Red 2011 R61

Light to medium bodied with young juicy berry flavours, fine integrated oak and smooth tannins. A beautifully balanced wine with a soft finish