With fall at the door, the busiest time on the wine tasting calendar is right around the corner, with a steady stream of winemakers coming to Vancouver.
And there is no shortage of major events elsewhere. One of the biggest tastings of the season happens next month in London when The Beautiful South brings together South Africa, Chile and Argentina, three of the world's leading producers, in a major collaboration.
Even though the antipodeans have co-operated before, this marks the first time that a joint event will be held on such a grand scale. It promises to be an intriguing couple of days, and busy too, with more than 300 wineries pouring 3,000 plus wines.
The partnership makes sense on many levels but particularly worth noting is that the regions share pretty well the same latitude (31 to 32 degrees).
Coincidentally, South Africa is in the spotlight at B.C. Liquor Stores through August. As always, the range of wines on offer underscores the quality and excellent value that is the Cape hallmark.
(You can also win a weekend at the delightful Osoyoos Watermark Beach Resort. Details: wosa.co.za/canada/competition.) Here's a small sampling of what you can find: ¦ Bellingham Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2010 There's nothing wimpy about this wine, which redefines Chenin Blanc in a (good) Chardonnay kind of way. It's a blockbuster, made from 40-year-old bush vines, but layered, complex and elegant: orchard fruits with a cautious touch of oak, viscosity and great length. (BCLS Specialty $24.99, 91 points) ¦ Spier Chenin Blanc 2012 Here's a great value, patio wine to help draw out those last warm days of summer. Quite fruit-forward, fresh and lively with apple, pear and citrus notes wrapped in decent acidity (BCLS $14.25, 89 points). Think Waldorf salad. ¦ Six Hats Shiraz 2010 Definite "meaty-gamey" Syrah notes on the nose with some pepper, before a fruity, juicy, plummy and chocolatey palate. Value-driven certified fairtrade wine from a consortium led by Charles Back of Fairview Cellars. Easy drinking and a deal at BCLS $13.99 (88 points).
¦ Graham Beck The Game Reserve 2010 (Robertson, Stellenbosch) This is one of those wines that typifies the kind of value the Cape does so well: a medium-bodied Cab with lifted red and blackberry notes on top, followed by a juicy, fruit-forward entry with assertive spice and (typical Cab), herbal notes; good acidity with a dry tannin end.
Very food friendly. Try it with a small roast of beef on the barbecue, or some fall game. Pretend it's more fancy than it is: Put it in a big glass and let it breathe (BCLS Specialty $19.99, 90 points).
Belly's Best/Wine of the Week ¦ Maverick Estate Pinot Gris 2011 This comes from one of the South Okanagan's newest (and most promising) producers, interestingly, with lots of South African connections, starting with winemaker Bertus Albertyn. Green-gold in the glass with forward, luscious peach and citrus zest; good intensity, added heft from a touch of oak, and a little spice from a splash of Gewurz; balanced acidity, lingering peach, mineral and stone fruit notes. A truly impressive debut ($20, 90 points).
Tim Pawsey covers food and wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. Contact: rebelmouse.com/hiredbelly, on Twitter @hiredbelly or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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