Over the past decade or so South African wine-lovers would have seen once-forgotten, ubiquitous grape varieties be spectacularly resurrected. Chenin Blanc is probably the most famous of these. Thirty years ago, Chenin Blanc stood at the factory, work-horse end of the local offering being grown in huge volumes throughout the Cape and producing wines of the cheap, cheerful and plentiful variety.
Today Chenin Blanc is hipper than a barista-crafted decaf almond milk latté on Bree Street, thanks to the new wave of trendy cool winemakers who rediscovered this white grape and put their stylish and original stamps on it and its wines.
On the red side, Cinsault is experiencing a similar resurgence. Once the mainstay of the South African wine industry’s red offering, Cinsault vines were unceremoniously ripped-out in the early 1990s when self-appointed industry visionaries had to make way for more modern cultivars, such as Shiraz.
But thirty years later Cinsault is back with a bang, despite its presence in the Cape vineyards having been reduced to a memory of what it once was. If you do find a wine with Cinsault on the label, you can be sure that the producer thereof has meticulously nurtured and crafted the contents to express the features of this classic red grape from southern France.
Oupa Willem might not be the coolest of names for a wine made from a trendy grape, but that is what Ian Naudé from Naudé Wines chose to put on the label of his Cinsault-driven wine released to great local and international acclaim last year. Naudé Oupa Willem 2018 is a blend of 80% Cinsault and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, a mix Naudé terms a “heritage blend”. Which is exactly what it is, as the annals of the Cape wine industry record Cinsault as once being an integral part of any local red wine, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon.
The name Oupa Willem? Naudé says he was pressured into it. “There was a grandfather of mine named Willem, who I never met,” he says. “Thing is, I had made this wine, and it was bottled. The label had to be printed, but I had no name for the wine. Then the printers called to tell me I was losing my slot in the queue, so I grabbed the first name that came to me, happening to be Oupa Willem. True story.”
Oupa Willem 2018 is a classic example of the light elegance the Cinsault grape brings to a wine, while the 20% Cabernet Sauvignon offers a firm base, broadening out the perfumed Cinsault notes and giving a bit of oomph to the overall structure.
The Cinsault component was sourced from Darling, while the Cabernet Sauvignon originates from Stellenbosch. Once harvested the fruit was allowed to ferment naturally, with a 40% whole-bunch component. The wine was aged in old, seasoned wood allowing the primary grape flavours to come to the fore while giving enough body for further ageing.
At a modest 13% alcohol, the Oupa Willem wine is extremely accessible with the friendly fruit-forward approach Cinsault is known for. Red fruits abound, together with a lovely spiciness and touch of potpourri, while the Cabernet Sauvignon element provides a plushness which prevents the wine from becoming too flirty and floral.
Although the wine will age gracefully, it is very drinkable right now – Cinsault does not need a grey beard before it shows classic characters. I’d chill it slightly to enhance the freshness and serve the wine with cheese, cream-sauced pasta dishes and grilled chicken. Oupa would like that.
A rosé by any other colour than pink can still be a rosé wine. That is what’s on offer with a new wine name on the block called Pink Valley Rosé, the maiden 2019 vintage of which was released towards the end of last year. Pink on the label, but the wine has an intriguing off-white colour that is rewriting many locals’ expectations of what is to be expected from a rosé.
Situated in the Helderberg region of Stellenbosch, Pink Valley is the only winery in South Africa exclusively committed to the making of rosé, something its French owners take very seriously.
Said proprietors, Oddo Vins & Domaines, are based in Provence, the ancestral home of rosé, so they and Pink Valley winemaker, Schalk-Willem Joubert, know a thing or two of the quaffable blush wine.
The first Pink Valley Rosé was made from the 2019 vintage and incorporates the grape varieties Grenache, Shiraz, Sangiovese and Cinsault. Once crushed, the juice only spends 45 minutes in contact with the skins, hence the light onion-skin colour. An extended cooling period before the juice begins fermentation allows the wine to draw an array of invigorating complex flavours while giving the wine that exhilarating freshness which gives rosé its enormous appeal.
Pink Valley exudes zingy aromas of citrus peel and fresh white flowers and gushes into the mouth with a life-affirming zeal. Zippy acids rush about the place, while a satisfying cool line of pear, green melon and kiwi-fruit are harnessed in a maritime essence.
This is a wine for drinking and spontaneous enjoyment, as is the way rosé is meant to be appreciated. And if you are looking for the best accompaniment to fresh oysters, this may very well be it.
Pink Valley Rosé is complemented by the colourful artistry inspired by South African painter Walter Battiss (1906 to 1982), one of South Africa’s foremost abstract painters and someone who would have appreciated the art of this great wine.
Red, rosé, and then a white. Diemersdal Estate from Durbanville has taken its Sauvignon Blanc commitments to the next level by now making a wine in Marlborough, New Zealand under its own label. This is not new – Hamilton Russell Vineyards is doing the same with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, still to hit the market.
But the Diemersdal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2019 is here, and it is now. Offering South Africans a taste of one of the world’s most iconic Sauvignon Blanc regions, the Diemersdal Kiwi number exudes restrained notes of guava, granadilla and gooseberry. But these are not over-blown and in-your-face as many New Zealand wines are known to be. The emphasis is on a steely, exciting dry wine from the ends of the earth. Worth trying, as a change is as good as a holiday, jet-lag and all.