Drinks, food, Lifestyle

what we're drinking: wine picks from the country's top sommeliers

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It’s no secret that if you want to do something well, you go to an expert. And if you want to drink well, you go to a sommelier. South Africa is truly experiencing a wine renaissance of sorts, and not only are we producing some incredible bottles of wine, but we have some of the most talented sommeliers pouring these vintages all over the country. We chatted to some of them to find out what they’re currently sipping on.

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brenda karamba: majeka house

What white wine are you currently enjoying and why?

The Matthew van Heerden Chardonnay. It’s well-balanced, elegant and refreshing with a hint of stone fruit and flavours of lemon butter. The winemaker pays careful attention to the natural changes in the vineyard and grape selection in his production process.

What red wine are you currently enjoying and why?

I’m currently enjoying the Rainbow’s End Cabernet Sauvignon. Stellenbosch is renowned for making the best Cabernet Sauvignon, and Anton, the winemaker and owner of Rainbow’s End, makes the wine with passion and love. It is a true representation of the grape variety – the wine showcases a balance of blackcurrant/cassis fruit and earthiness.

What is exciting you most about the wine world at the moment? Any particular styles or varietals, for example, that have caught your eye?

New, exciting wines are being released! Wine farms are changing hands and winemakers are pulling out all the best tricks that they have hidden to make the best wines ever made. They’re venturing out to old European grape varieties, which are new and rare in South Africa – the likes of Barbera, Tempranillo, Grenache etc, which is teaching our South African clientele that there is more to wine than the varietals we know.
Visit majekahouse.co.za.

tinashe nyamudoka: the test kitchen

What white wine are you currently enjoying and why?

I’m really enjoying the Kumusha White Blend 2016 – a blend of Chenin Blanc and Semillon. It’s the maiden vintage that I bottled under my own label. I’m just loving how the wine is evolving with time in the bottle.

What red wine are you currently enjoying and why?

Mosi Syrah 2015 by my sommelier brother Tongai Joseph Dhafana. I’m a sucker for Syrah and this wine has all the hallmarks of a well-structured and balanced wine. Lots of ripe black fruits and a whiff of white pepper comes through.

What is exciting you most about the wine world at the moment? Any particular styles or varietals, for example, that have caught your eye?

I’m excited about young independent winemakers gaining prominence for producing award-winning wines. The emergence of sommeliers, like myself, bottling our style and taste is also a welcome sign to the industry.
Visit thetestkitchen.co.za.

gosia zielinska: the pot luck club

What white wine are you currently enjoying and why?

Thistle & Weed Duwweltjie Chenin Blanc 2017, made by Stephanie Wiid and Etienne Terblanche. The grapes come from a 61-year-old vineyard in Paarl, where only free-run juice is used and it undergoes natural fermentation. I love this wine for a great concentration of flavours of hay, red apples, limes and nectarines. It’s complex, yet easy-drinking and mashable at the same time. Definitely my Sunday drink while making dinner!

What red wine are you currently enjoying and why?

Newton Johnson Family Vineyards' Pinot Noir 2017 (and all the other vintages, really). The grapes are from three estate vineyards in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, made by Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson. I love this wine for its structure – it bursts with aromas of rose petals and pure flavours of red fruit such as sour cherry and wild strawberry. It’s got zippy acidity, powdery tannins and long spicy finish. Delicious!

What is exciting you most about the wine world at the moment? Any particular styles or varietals, for example, that have caught your eye?

Following the Cape Wine event, a number of reports from international wine critics were produced. According to Neal Martin, 'The number of producers who make very good to quite astonishing wines in South Africa has never been greater.' We live in the golden age for South African wine. It is incredible to be a part of it and to know these winemakers and drink those great wines!
Visit thepotluckclub.co.za.

lloyd jusa: the saxon hotel

What white wine are you currently enjoying and why?

I’m really enjoying the 2017 David and Nadia Aristagos at the moment. It’s a Swartland Chenin-led blend that is drinking beautifully now but will reward its keeper with greater complexity should one decide to cellar.

What red wine are you currently enjoying and why?

I am a huge fan of Chris Keets’ 2013 Keet First Verse. It is a Bordeaux-style blend that over- delivers at a fraction of the price demanded by its peers.

What is exciting you most about the wine world at the moment? Any particular styles or varietals, for example, that have caught your eye?

An increasing proportion of the wine made today is lighter, fresher, and more transparently the product of geography than it was a decade ago. This intrigues many wine lovers as wines become true ambassadors of their real place of origin. My most favourite is Burgundy Pinot, because it represents the purest classicism and is impossible to replicate.
Visit saxon.co.za.

joseph dhafana: la colombe

What white wine are you currently enjoying and why?

I really like the style of the Eenzaamheid Chenin Blanc 2015. Janno Briers-Louw, the winemaker, did a wonderful job, for a warmer-climate Chenin to have that bracing acidity and lots of stone fruits.

What red wine are you currently enjoying and why?

The Simelia Merlot 2014. Merlot is not everyone's cup of tea, but this is a ripe Merlot. Often we get expensive and underripe Merlot, but this shows vivid, quality fruits. Its spiciness, mocha and dark-chocolate flavour are right on the money.

What is exciting you most about the wine world at the moment? Any particular styles or varietals, for example, that have caught your eye?

There are a number of things that excite me. The wine world shows a diversity of faces now. For instance, when I started to get into wine eight years ago, it was mostly one-dimensional. These days, I see a lot of mixed and different opinions, and I love that. The wines are also speaking for themselves more and there’s less marketing involved. I don’t want to see all those accolades on the bottle or to be told this judge gave this wine so many points – it's all rubbish to me. The moment you tell me that, you’re putting me off. Pour your wine and tell me the style or how it was made, then leave the rest to me. (I am also a wine judge by the way. I am not taking away credit from those who awarded the wine highly, but the accolades have been used for long and have been abused too).
Visit lacolombe.co.za.

moses magwaza: restaurant mosaic

What white wine are you currently enjoying and why?

I enjoy Chenin Blanc as it’s a versatile grape and can be made in many different styles. By its versatility, Chenin Blanc produces good natural wines covering the whole spectrum from sweet to dry, as well as sherry and sparkling wine. Its fruitiness finds favour with a wide range of palates, which makes it easy to pair with different types of food like salads, mild to spicy rice dishes, seafood and white meat.

What red wine are you currently enjoying and why?

It often depends on the season, but since it is spring and more like summer in Gauteng, I’m enjoying Pinot Noir. It is Burgundy's most famous noble grape. Known and loved as 'Red Burgundy' in much of the world, Pinot Noir can be among the most elegant wines coming out of France. It is typically a lighter-bodied, fruit-forward red wine. It is well-suited to pair with poultry, beef, fish, ham, lamb and pork, and is one of the most versatile cooking wines.

What is exciting you most about the wine world at the moment? Any particular styles or varietals, for example, that have caught your eye?

What is most exciting is how well South African winemakers are doing, and receiving the exposure and recognition from the international market. Also how wines have got into South African townships – people are now drinking more wine than before. The wine world has grown and is still growing. The Old Vine Project (OVP) and the true Cape Blend-style wines are really becoming an interesting subject, because the wines reflect a sense of originality. Old Vines make wines that reflect the earth and the terroir they grow in and I just love the idea. The OVP wants to focus the minds of winegrowers, winemakers and all wine drinkers on the benefits that come with age in vine. I have been to the Loire Valley in France and I had the honour of visiting one of the old chateaus (Coulée de Serrant), where they have the oldest Chenin Blanc vineyard in France, and I was blown away by the taste of the wine. Now we have beautiful and interesting wines coming from these old South African vines – blends like Pinotage and Cinsault – and it’s like a long lost child being reunited with its parent. Pinotage is genetically a thick-skinned grape with very deep colour and high tannins, and when it is blended with fruity Cinsault – which has bigger berries and lighter colour – they become the perfect partner.
Visit restaurantmosaic.com.