THE hired belly is still sifting through copious notes from Cornucopia, which this year yielded a considerably better haul of wines compared to the last time he attended the Whistler extravaganza.
All too often unheralded and, unbelievably, still on the rebound from its apartheid era embargo, South Africa continues to deliver wines that often over-deliver for the price.
Arguably Canada's most air-miled wine educator, wine guru DJ Kearney trotted out a highly respectable crosssection of worthy drops that truly highlighted the remarkable range of different varieties which the Cape has to offer.
In part because of its unique heritage (vines were planted first by Dutch settlers but it was the French who eventually showed up to make decent wine) and as a direct result of its protracted isolation - both geographic and political - South Africa remains one of few wine regions with one foot planted firmly in the Old World and one in the New. The result, often as not, is wines that offer a genuinely more food-friendly personality.
Several of these turned out to be old friends that we always intend to catch up with but all too often don't.
Here are a few (most from this tasting, some not) that you'll definitely bump into at our next party. And might like to invite to yours.
- Two Oceans Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.
Mega brands make easy targets. And wine weenies love nothing more than to slag them. However, here's a totally drinkable, "el cheapo" bubble that still manages to wrap up a touch of minerality in its quaffable, soft acidity. It's also fully certified sustainable under South Africa's very developed program. $12.99.
- Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009. Here's an interesting counterpoint to B.C. Look for a touch of oak on top, followed by luscious, honeyed tropical and stone fruit notes on a broad palate with juicy acidity and great length. Distinctive bottle for its vertical, cigar-band inspired label. A flagship wine. Think herbes de Provence roast chicken. PWS such as Oceanside, $29-$30.
The crowd pleaser:
? The Grinder Pinotage 2010 Named for its definite mocha-coffee notes up front, followed by a burst of black fruit and berry notes with plenty of vanilla and spice in the middle. Not a bad place to start out with Pinotage, at least in the absence of Beyerskloof; $14.97.
The hanger on
- Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2009 Still one of the best Syrah deals going. Vibrant red fruit in a mouth-watering, juicy palate with easy tannins and black pepper spice through the end. Made by Boekenhoutskloof but just remember the Porcupine; BCLS $17.99.
- Saxenburg Guineau Fowl '09. This Merlot-dominant, Shiraz, Cab blend with a quite herbaceous nose, delivers structure, balance and surprising complexity with hints of mulberry and cassis, and well integrated tannins. An excellent deal at BCLS $18.99.
The non-stop dancer
- Glen Carlou Grand Classique '08. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, here's the Cape's highly affordable Bordeaux salute. Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot tango together with great, approachable-tannin balance and lively, vibrant, red and black fruit wrapped in juicy acidity with spicy mid-palate and lengthy end. The deal.