Braai Pinotage 2018
The earliest archaeological evidence of barbecue (Braai) is found in South Africa. On September 24th of each year the country celebrates Heritage Day, which in 2007 was renamed Braai4Heritage as a testament to its cultural importance in South Africa.
South African winemaking, continuing to surprise and delight wine lovers the world over, is best known for its wonderful Red blends. This offering from the windblown Western Cape blends shiraz and grenache grapes from near Darling with cabernet sauvignon grapes from north of Durbanville. The small hillside vineyards benefit from cooling Atlantic breezes, lengthening ripening times. The harvest year, 2013, saw an unusually rainy winter, encouraging energetic bud growth, enthusiastic flowering and a vibrant juiciness in the grapes. Picking of the grapes in the cool early morning, small bunch hand-pressing, and whole berry fermentation all play a key role in creating layers of flavor, texture and finish.
With an important wine renaissance in full swing, impressive red and white bargains abound in South Africa. The country has a particularly long and rich history with winemaking, especially considering its status as part of the “New World.” In the mid-17th century, the lusciously sweet dessert wines of Constantia were highly prized by the European aristocracy. Since then, the South African wine industry has experienced some setbacks due to the phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s and political difficulties throughout the following century.
Today, however, South Africa is increasingly responsible for high-demand, high-quality wines—a blessing to put the country back on the international wine map. Wine production is mainly situated around Cape Town, where the climate is generally warm to hot. But the Benguela Current from Antarctica provides brisk ocean breezes necessary for steady ripening of grapes. Similarly, cooler, high-elevation vineyard sites throughout South Africa offer similar, favorable growing conditions.
South Africa’s wine zones are divided into region, then smaller districts and finally wards, but the country’s wine styles are differentiated more by grape variety than by region. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is the country’s “signature” grape, responsible for red-fruit-driven, spicy, earthy reds. When Pinotage is blended with other red varieties, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah or Pinot Noir (all commonly vinified alone as well), it is often labeled as a “Cape Blend.” Chenin Blanc (locally known as “Steen”) dominates white wine production, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc following close behind.