There aren’t many large wine regions left that I haven’t stuck my nose into in the last several years. If you haven’t noticed I tend to get a bee in my bonnet to try everything I can get my hands on from a certain grape, country or region until I feel like I can actually have an intelligent conversation about it. With this approach intelligence doesn’t come cheap and I usually make sure that if I do through down more than $20 for a wine, it better be a good representation of the region.
Inspired by a fellow Niagara Region writer and her blog Stellenbauchery, I have been on a South Africa kick. Ideally I’m looking for wines labeled as Wine of Origin Stellenbosch as I am curious to know what unique flavors and styles are coming out of the country’s premier wine region. The minimum buy in for these wines is typically from $13 for whites and $20 for reds. Much cheaper South African wines can be found labeled as Coastal Region or Western Cape but those don’t interest me as much.
According to the bottle of Rust En Vrede Estate 2001, this winery has been acclaimed as one of the best in the world. Now I would ever buy it just based on that claim but I’d been tipped off that they are consistently one of the best producers of reds in the region. It also helped that this bottle was marked down from $40 to $30, most likely motivated by its age and the average buyer’s lack of interest in this bottle. I left the store thinking I’d found a deal though as it was one of those wines that you can’t just leave on the shelf.
This 2001 Estate is a blend of 53% cabernet sauvignon, 35% shiraz and 12% merlot. Aromas of strawberry jam, blackberry, dark chocolate, pepper and smoke. On the palate, it showed a lush fruit forward feel with fine-grained dusty tannins and a seamless balance from start to finish. Put quite simply this was a luxuriously ripe red with hints of old world complexity and style.
As a 9 year-old wine, this one still had it going on, fresh fruit, firm tannins and a delicate balance of acidity. It was probably the most serious red I’ve had from South Africa and I’d quite happily buy another to show off to other geeks. I’m even tempted to buy the 2000 Estate I found at another store.