Wine Tasting week 6/8: North America and South Africa


I learnt a lot this week, mainly that American wine really can be delicious. I have been one of those who grew up only expecting the Gallo Families of the world, and those electric pink zinfandels without really understanding the region – and more importantly the need to spend money to appreciate the region. Obvious really if you consider the length it must travel and the tax!

South Africa

Historically cooperative won (KWV) but recently more often than not run by individual estates. The region is famous for the light and crisp Chenin Blanc, we tried the Sangoma from Western Cape 2016, which came at a bargain of £7.50… as well as a much richer Taia and Vincent Careme ‘Terre Brulee’ from Swatland 2015, which was much more toasty and rich. But more expensive at £11.95. I would rather the first as great value for money and a perfect aperitif.

Reds in the country are often a blend. But the flagship variety is of course Pinotage (pinot noir crossed with cinsault) and has an unusual flavour. I personally thought it tasted like a Beaujolais Nuevo…

North America

The key state is of course California, famous for its Zinfandels. But Washington State is known for its Bordeaux, Oregon for its Pinot Noir and Idaho for its Riesling.

The Zinfandel we tried was delicious, high volume – its says 14.5 but due to US laws could easily be 1.5% higher! – high tannin and high acid. It was full of dark red fruits, dried frets and spices – Christmas in a glass. This was Shenandoah Vineyards, Sobon Estate, 2014. And not bad price at £15.

One if the most interesting parts of the evening was the idea of the ‘New World Order’ held originally in 1976 which was organised by a French wine importer who didn’t believe that California wine could be any competition to the French. It was a blind tasting of French jags. And yet USA won, and again in 1986…and again in 2006. Embarrassing for the French but just shows.

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