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South Africa’s Simonsig celebrates 50 Years of Wine Making

South Africa’s Simonsig celebrates 50 Years of Wine Making

2018 marks 50 years of winemaking for The Malan Family. They’ve been making wine outside Stellenbosch under the Simonsig Family Vineyards label since 1968. Just two years later, in 1970 they introduced their first red. They’ve continued to push the quality envelope over time and widen their portfolio with complementary offerings when and where they fit in well. Their flagship wine remains Chenin Blanc but that is in a sense the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the breadth their portfolio offers.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to taste their wines alongside members of the Malan family and winemaking team on a number of occasions. Recently however I sampled some of their wines in an entirely different manner. To mark the occasion of their 50th one of the events they hosted was a virtual wine tasting. Members of the family and winemaking team sat in a room in South Africa and a number of participating journalists tuned in over YouTube and tasted along from our homes or offices.

There’s a richness and diversity to their portfolio that becomes apparent when tasting a number of their wines side by side. They have several Sparkling wines in their lineup and these are a bit of a secret weapon as they’re not the most famous wines they make, but they’re uniformly well made, delicious and solid, or better values. Tasting two distinct expressions of Pinotage side by side is a good way to see the range of this grape. And the Chenin Blanc stands as one of the outstanding white wine values in the world. During the chat I paired the wines below with Indian Cuisine which was a terrific match.

Simonsig Kaape Vonkel Brute Rosé ($25)

This Brute is composed of Pinot Noir (64%), Pinotage (34%), and Pinot Meunier (2%).  From the lovely pink hue through the above average finish everything about this offering is impressive. Fresh red fruit and bits of spice dot the nose. The palate is fruity and delicate. Bits of biscuit appear on the finish.

Simonsig 2017 Chenin Blanc ($14)

This is composed entirely of Chenin Blanc. One vintage after another this wine is a steal. It’s delicious, food friendly, refreshing, and a great example of Chenin Blanc. It leads with a massive nose loaded with tropical, citrus and fleshy yellow fruit aromas. All of those elements translate to the palate along with bits of spice. The mellifluous finish features a continuing burst of fruit. Racy acid keeps everything in check.

Simonsig 2015 Pinotage ($18)

This cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault was created in South Africa in the 1920’s. Simonsig released their first in 1970. Red and black fruits are joined by hints of tar on the nose. The palate is stuffed with black cherry, raspberry and baker’s spices. Sour red and black fruits round out the finish. This offering is a great match for nearly anything you pull from your grill.

Simonsig 2015 Redhill Pinotage ($38)

This offering, made up of 100% Pinotage, is a barrel selection of wines aged in entirely new oak. Black plum and spice are at the core of the aromatics. Black fig, cherry and bits of Raspberry drive the palate. The finish is long and somewhat lusty with black fruits, tinged by red continuing in droves. This wine is a perfect accompaniment to hearty dishes and will work phenomenally with smoked meats of any sort.

Simonsig 2015 Frans Malan ($38)

This blend is named after their founder. It’s brings together Pinotage (67%), Cabernet Sauvignon (29%), and Merlot (4%).  They’ve been making this wine since 1991. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry and plum are evident along with a solid core of spices. Sour red and black fruits underpin the mélange of sweeter red fruits on display through the palate. The palate shows off hints of baker’s chocolate and earth.

Simonsig Family Vineyards - 2005 Pinitage

Every wine region has its signature grape varietal, some like South Africa have a couple. For white wine its Chenin Blanc and when it comes to reds it's Pinotage. The varietal was created about 85 years ago when Cinsault and Pinot Noir were crossed. And while there are other reds that do well in South Africa, Pinotage is the varietal that sets them apart from the pack. Today I'll look at one from Simonsig Family Vineyards. The Simonsig 2005 Pinotage was made from fruit sourced in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. This offering is 100% Pinotage. Approximately 5,000 cases of this selection are produced each vintage. The suggested retail price for this wine is $14.99.

An extroverted nose, loaded with cherries, mulled spices and cedar leads this 2005 Pinotage. Taking the first sip, fleshy fruit flavors emerge. Both black and blue flavors star with blueberry, blackberry and cherry leading the way. Kirsch liqueur flavors emerge mid-palate and continue through to the finish which features flourishes of burnt sugar and a host of continuing spice notes such as black pepper, cinnamon and cloves. These give way to a savory component that's joined by a nice closing wallop of sour berry. This wine has good structure and solid acidity.

Both Pinot Noir and Cinsault are generally speaking excellent food wines when they're made well. It's no surprise then that a well made and balanced Pinotage would also be a terrific food wine. This Pinotage is both of those things. It'll pair well with many foods but a hearty and spicy beef based chili would be an inspired pairing. This wine is delicious now but don't hesitate to hold onto it for several years. The tannins will soften a bit and make this an even more appealing selection. For under $15 this is a very solid value packed with flavor.

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Sebeka - 2006 Shiraz-Pinotage "Cape Blend"

Sebeka Wines is a South African brand, launched with the 2006 vintage. Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are amongst their varietal offerings. Today I'm going to look at one of their blends, the 2007 Shiraz/Pinotage "Cape Blend." More and more wines from South Africa are popping up on American shelves. For people like me, who love to taste something new and different whenever I have the chance, this is a great development. The 2006 Sebeka Cape Blend is 60% Shiraz and 40% Pinotage. Each varietal underwent malolactic Sebekafermentation separately before being blended. This suggested retail price for this wine is $8.99.

Aromas of dark berry, cherry, vanilla and subtle mocha are all featured in the nose along with a light underpinning of smoke. The first sip reveals some tartness. Decanting for about 30 minutes is recommended as it really allows this offering to blossom. Once it has opened up there is plenty of cherry and jammy berry fruit throughout. Earthiness, spice and a touch more mocha come out in the mid-palate and linger through a nice finish.

Even though this wine is only 40% Pinotage, the grape makes it's presence felt with characteristic spice, smoke, earth and cherry flavors starring in this budget priced offering. At its more than reasonable price tag this wine over delivers in it's category, making it a solid contender for an everyday red. This is the kind of red wine you'll want to bring to BBQ's all summer long. It's complex enough to satisfy red wine drinkers and approachable enough to please and perhaps convert the white wine crowd. Their wide availability also helps make them a go to choice.

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Spier - 2005 Private Collection Pinotage

The second wine up from Spier is the 2005 Private Collection Pinotage. For those who are unfamiliar with Pinotage it's the benchmark red grape of South Africa. It was created over 80 years ago as a cross of Pinot PinotageNoir and Cinsault. The 2005 Private Collection Pinotage from Spier checks in with a robust 15% alcohol. It was blended with 2% Shiraz and aged in French and American oak. The suggested retail price for this wine is $30. Looking around though it can be found for closer to $25.

Leather, raspberry and plum present prominently in the nose. A hint of Eucalyptus underscores the nose and carries subtly throughout the wine. The first sip reveals some tartness which blows off once the wine has a chance to open up. Once that tartness steps aside rich, spicy berry fruit emerges in copious quantities. Loads of pepper, assorted other spices and oodles of dark fruit appear in the mid palate and carry through the finish. Spice really is the master of the day in this wine. Lovers of black pepper notes will certainly be rejoicing when they taste this wine.  This Pinotage is rich, full bodied and mouth filling with a finish that brings to mind crushed velvet. This is a big chewy wine that demands to be served with with a big meal. Leg of Lamb is the first thing that comes to mind as an accompaniment to this wine.

Firm tannins on this wine suggest medium term aging. Cellared properly this wine should be evolve and be very enjoyable until 2018 or thereabouts. Of the Spier wines I have tried over time this is the biggest and brawniest. It offers good complexity and is reasonably priced for a wine that will age well for a decade.  Highly recommended, especially for lovers of pepper.

Up Next: Spier Shiraz/Mouvedre/Viognier

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