It’s been roughly 20 years’ time since South Africa became part of the Global Wine Community once again. In those two decades the quality of wines has increased and there have been great strides in the South African Wine Industry. Among the many other things that have changed, the number of Women winemakers has increased. And while the increase in diversity alone is cause for celebration that’s just a sliver of what’s happening. Many of the Women making wine in South Africa are the very same winemakers leading the charge in Biodynamic Farming, Organics, Environmental Friendliness, and giving back to the community through education and the like. Here are but three examples of the rich bounty that is reaching our shores from South Africa, and some of the good they are doing.
Backsberg 2015 Chenin Blanc ($15)
This Chenin Blanc was produced from vines with 9 years of age on them. Fermentation took place in stainless steel at low temperatures. The nose here is stuffed with Lychee fruit and Bartlett pear aromas. Baked apple papaya and hints of toasted hazelnut are in evidence through the rich, mellifluous palate. Asian pear and a host of spices emerge on the long, clean finish. This Chenin Blanc is delicious by itself and it’ll pair well with light foods. Soft, creamy cheeses would be a particularly great match. Backsberg winemaker Alicia Rechner made wine all over the world soaking up a variety of influences. Eventually she returned home to South Africa where she produces distinct environmentally conscious wines.
Stellekaya 2008 Orion ($45)
This offering is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Cabernet Franc (20%), and Merlot (20%). Aging took place over 20 months in 100% new French oak. The fruit came from a vineyard site just north of Stellenbosch. Winemaker Ntsiki Biyela is as involved in the community as she is in winemaking advances; She sits on the board of the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, an organization that offers wine training and life skills to unemployed youth. As South Africa’s first Black Female Winemaker she’s also a ground breaker. Black raspberry and white pepper characteristics are present on the nose. The palate is loaded with dark fruits, savory herbs and bits of black olive. Dried blackberry, pepper and a touch of roasted espresso are all present on the above average finish. This wine will pair well with substantial foods.
Fable Mountain Vineyards 2011 Night Sky ($50)
Night Sky was produced from a blend of Syrah (60%), Mourvedre (25%), and Grenache (15%). The majority of the fruit came from their own estate vineyards; some of the Grenache was sourced. It spent between 18 and 25 months in 500 Liter barrels; 33% of them were new. The Fable Estate sits in the Witzenberg Mountain Range. They focus on growing Rhone varieties and existing in concert with the rugged landscape that they act as shepherds of. Wife and Husband winemaking team of Rebecca Tanner and Paul Nicholls farm organically and biodynamically. This Rhone inspired blend is a real knockout from the word go. Deep, dark fruit aromas such as blackberry and plum lead the nose alongside wisps of vanilla bean and violets. The palate is loaded with red cherry flavors tinged with some black fruit. Bits of bacon fat and savory herbs are present as well. The long and persistent finish shows off dried raspberry, black pepper and a dusting of cocoa. This is an impressive wine that is hard to resist today, however it’ll age well for a handful of years and drink well for several after that.