It’s fair to say that soccer, ahem, football and South African wine register similarly for the average American: They barely generate a blip on the screen. The sport has admittedly made significant advances, primarily with school-age athletes who line up for soccer over classic, venerable sports (wrestling, anyone?). To the point, high school staples like cross country have clearly suffered due to soccer’s sway in the youth sports spectrum.
Soccer garners far more attention than does the wine trade of South Africa which, in earnest, has been modernized only since the Nineties. It’s a startling fact considering French Huguenot settlers first planted grapes there in the 1600s. Stunted by years of state-sponsored apartheid and subsequent, punitive trade sanctions, South African wine has since emerged underdeveloped in comparison to other global producers. Though it has expanded onto the list of top 10 wine producing countries, knowledge and acceptance of the South African product remains, shall we say, segregated.
Of course, South Africa and soccer are about to make a splash at the 2010 World Cup finals in June. The massive event, showcasing 32 international teams, will catapult tourism and heap attention on the host country, its people, customs and the diverse line of wines flowing from its territory. The list includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Merlot, Pinotage, Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. By far the most abundant, Chenin Blanc is also known as “Steen” in-country.
Few will make the trip to Johannesburg by the time the opening World Cup whistle blows. The devout and newly converted at home, if resourceful, will resort to expensive widescreens and a few well selected bottles.
Thankfully, the Pennsylvania Wine & Spirits website and Philadelphia area shops uncover an array of South African bottlings of considerable value and quality. Two recent purchases for our household were the 2009 Painted Wolf Wines Pinotage The Den and the 2009 Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc.
Pinotage, uniquely South African, is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut – also called Hermitage. The offering from Painted Wolf Wines ($9.99) opens with mouthfeel and fruit highly reminiscent of a California Pinot, fairly easy drinking with an earthy, spicy edge. As it airs out and food is introduced, its funk factor emerges, comparable to an Italian or French country wine. Considered by some an acquired taste, Pinotage is a wine the adventuresome should explore.
The Ken Forrester tasting was a very exciting experience. Forrester is a major player in South Africa showcasing a broad representation of the homeland’s top wines. Indeed, the winery markets a flight of Chenin Blancs at graduating price points – Petit Chenin Blanc, KF Chenin Blanc and The FMC.
The 2009 Petit Chenin Blanc is abundantly likeable, lean and clean, with moderate acidity and borderline effervescence. Intriguing finishing flavors sustain on the palate for what seems like a solid minute. The complexity is highly rewarding, mixing sharp pear and apple flavors with a creamy vanilla-nuttiness. It crams a lot into a $9.99 package, ideal for sipping during a match and scoring at will over lightweight whites.
Additional ways to fill your World Cup:
- 2009 Delheim Pinotage Rose ($11.99)
- 2009 Fairvalley Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99)
- 2008 Ken Forrester Petit Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot ($8.99)
Contact Jeff Alexander at [email protected] / On Twitter: http://twitter.com/jeffal66