THE Hired Belly has been doing a little virtual globe trotting over the past few weeks, including a side trip to South Africa, which this month is in the spotlight at BC Liquor Stores.
While geography places it undisputedly in the new world, the Cape is very much underpinned by its Old World heritage surrounding Dutch settlement and, in winemaking terms, the arrival of the Bordelais, who proved to be much better winemakers than the Dutch.
Connections to Bordeaux remain strong, with more than a few joint ownerships that see the involvement of several prominent winemaking dynasties. With such a range of varieties and styles, South Africa is surprisingly under-appreciated, offering everything from basic patio sippers to serious Chenin Blanc (a rarity for most regions), Champagneflattering sparklers (such as Graham Beck Brut, curiously no longer stocked at BCLS but available at Everything Wine, $28.99), and fullfruited reds, which can hold their own with wines from elsewhere at twice the price.
The current BCLS push features wines from across the spectrum but they generally tend to underscore the region's reputation for delivering good value at every price point.
You can check them out at a free tasting, Aug. 10 at BCLS' signature liquor store at 39th and Cambie streets.
You can also enter an online draw to win two nights in Osoyoos, courtesy of Wines of South Africa. The prize includes accommodation and a gift card towards meals in their acclaimed wine bar. For details visit www.wosa. co.za/canada.
Here's a few worth chasing:
Thelema Mountain Vineyard Shiraz 2007: You might, quite rightly, assume that Shiraz is synonymous with Australia but this luscious, ripe red comes from Stellenbosch, the ancestral home of Cape wine. Very much in the New World camp, with black current on the nose followed by layers of generous black fruit and lingering peppery, spicy notes wrapped in approachable tannins. Just coming into its own. Grab a good steak and slather it in peppercorns. (BCLS $28.99)
Graceland Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: Wellbalanced ripe fruit with good structure yields bright cassis and red berry notes with an appealing savoury streak with measured oak and a lengthy end. The gorgeous packaging is as tasteful as the wine.
(BCLS, Everything Wine, $29.99)
The Grinder Pinotage 2011: If you like your reds the way you like your Starbucks, then this aptly named, roasted mocha topped interpretation of the Cape's own grape more than fits the bill. It's a mouthful of roasted black berry and serious chocolate notes with approachable tannins and a touch of spice.
They say smoked pork ribs and we're all over that. As easy on the wallet as on the palate.
Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2011: This wine has summer written all over it. And it also shows just how well the Cape does Chenin. Tropical notes of guava, apple and citrus through a fresh and lively palate buoyed by form acidity. Great value at BCLS $14.25, Everything Wine $14.49.
Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc 2011: Ten-dollar wines are tough to find on our local shelves (OK, this one's $10.49), but next time you're wondering what to take to that patio party that you won't mind if somebody else guzzles, chill down this uncomplicated but easy drinking goosberry and grassy-toned Sauv Blanc and it will do just fine. Screwcap; also Everything Wine, $10.99.