South Africa's deep roots are its strength

Wednesday, 8 September, 2004
Peter May
Michael Franz used the tenth anniversary of his Washington Post wine column to consider which country has seen "the most momentous development" during the last decade, and concluded that South Africa's wines have improved "at a pace that is nothing short of astonishing".

South Africa's initial wave of exports in the 1990's were eagerly received in the US but many disappointed being "marred by outmoded production techniques, unattractive packaging or heat damage suffered in transit". Competition soon weeded out duff bottlings and now "the most exciting characteristic of the wines as a group is their uncanny combination of the moderately ripe restraint of European wines with the vibrant fruit and soft texture of New World wines."

South Africa has demonstrated it has "attained competitiveness with the world's top wine-producing countries in terms of consistency, depth and range" and  "numerous examples of superb red blends and Sauvignon Blancs show that South Africa's strength stems not from just a few clever winemakers but from roots running deep into the country's soil and climate."

Mr Franz is especially impressed with red blends because they offer "greater consistency from year to year while also striking a balance
between Old World structure and New World fruitiness."  Calling them the "calling-card wines of South Africa" he names the following as outstanding:

-    Darling Cellars (Groenekloof) "Onyx Kroon" 2001
-    Rust en Vrede (Stellenbosch) 2001
-    Rustenberg (Stellenbosch) "John X. Merriman" 2001
-    La Motte (Franschhoek Valley) "Musique" 1999
-    Springfield Estate (Robertson) "The Work of Time" 2001
-    Rupert & Rothschild (Coastal Region) "Classique" 2001

But its not just blends, South Africa has become an all rounder with a selection that includes Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Merlot, Chenin Blanc white blends and dessert wines. He says Chenin Blanc is a "potentially excellent grape which is underappreciated because it is so often
overcropped," Pinotage is a "must-try for all lovers of robust reds such as Zinfandel or Petite Sirah."

Mr Franz tasted 300 South Africa wines on sale in the US and asserts many are "eye-opening."

WineNews has reported on the same article at: