By Mika Chall
During my recent visit to South Africa, I was curious to learn more about the country’s organic wine production. My guide arranged a visit to Reyneke, a beautiful vineyard that produces both reds and whites of outstanding quality, and also offers vineyard walks and cellar visits. The Reyneke label was created in 1998, when Johan Reyneke took over farming activities and converted from conventional farming to organic and finally to biodynamic. It is one of a very few biodynamic producers in the region.
We started with a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc (blend), which is lean, fresh and smooth. This elegant white is very well-balanced with just the right degree of minerality. It would pair equally well with either a Cobb salad or some smoked mozzarella.
There is a major difference between the 2011 blend and the 2010 Reserve White, which is 100% Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is much more intense and steely, but showed the same fine minerality as its younger sibling. It was a local prizewinner, and when it connected with my palate, I understood why.
Moving on to the reds, we started with a 2010 Cornerstone, known in the U.S. as Capstone (70% Cab, 18% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc). This is a big, Bordeaux-style red that will mature nicely after three to five years of cellaring.
A 2010 Syrah has strong earth tones, and is not jammy, but is perfumey and elegant. It would drink well with Chinese style spare ribs, spicy sausage, and perhaps a spicy pasta sauce.
My personal favorite is the 2008 Reserve Red (90% Syrah, 10% Cab), a big, round, well-balanced distinctive wine that can certainly be cellared for a few years, but drinks beautifully right now. I served this recently with Moroccan-style lamb shanks, and it created the perfect harmony.
All of the wines I’ve mentioned are priced between $10 and $25 per bottle, at the source. Many are available locally, but I’m not familiar with local pricing once import fees are added. The South African wine industry is vibrant and diverse, and many of the wines I tasted, including those I’ve mentioned here, were truly a revelation.