South Africa has been making wine since 1659 when Cape Town’s founder Jan van Riebeeck produced its first bottle. Nowadays, South Africa is the eighth largest wine producer, slightly behind Chile but ahead of Germany.
Today we review a white and a red from South Africa, and both are on sale until the end of January. The top South African grape, Chenin Blanc accounts for 18 percent of grapes grown. And it’s part of the blend in today’s white, the Wolftrap Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc ($10.99 on sale; $3 off).
Most of the grapes in this blend are grown in Swartland, just north of Cape Town in the Western Cape, a region with drought conditions. Tiny bunches and grapes means less wine is produced but the juice is more concentrated and full of flavour.
Viognier, the leading component, provides a rich texture as well as floral aromas. Chenin Blanc provides a fruity flavour and a crisp finish. Meanwhile, Grenache Blanc adds a vegetative character to the wine. A kiss of oak adds a gentle touch of complexity to the blend.
In the glass, Wolftrap has a medium straw colour hinting at the generous character ahead. I enjoyed the aroma of stone and tree fruit and citrus. On the palate there was green apple, peaches, pears, and quince with a zesty acidity and an orange zest finish.
The Wolftrap White would be a good partner for any light seafood including ceviche, tuna melt, sushi, and fish and chips. Available at all BC Liquor Stores in Richmond and most stores in Metro Vancouver. The Globe & Mail’s Christopher Waters calls it a “solid value” and I certainly agree.
Also from Swartland is the 2017 Riebeek Cellars Collection Shiraz ($9.97 on sale; save $3). Shiraz is a grape that does well in dry climates such as Swartland.
This Shiraz’s colour isn’t totally opaque unlike some Shirazes, indicating a lighter style. The bouquet has a smoky quality which is sometimes present in South African reds. And there are red and black fruits to add some flesh to the scent.
In the mouth you can enjoy the plums and blackberries along with a balanced bit of toasted oak and leather. The tannins are smooth and there’s a good measure of acid to keep the wine fresh and lively.
Enjoy the Riebeek Shiraz with a South African bobotie, the national dish of South Africa. Pronounced ba-boor-tea, it’s a delicious mixture of curried meat and fruit with a creamy golden topping, similar to moussaka. View the recipe here. Or match the Shiraz with tacos or BBQ ribs. It’s a weeknight red priced right for January savings.
Eric Hanson is a life-long Richmond resident, retired teacher and wine educator. Eric has also taught wine appreciation courses in Richmond and throughout Metro Vancouver for many years. He continues to be a journalistic ambassador for the enchanting world of wine through his weekly column.