There are always certain stereotypical visuals that cross one’s mind upon the mention of a country’s name. Mention France and you see a guy (of course with a French beard), holding a baguette, staring blankly at the Eifel Tower as he adjusts the tip of his beret! Similarly for India, it is IT solutions, Bollywood, the ‘spicy’ Indian cuisine, and Taj Mahal that are the most common exports. And do we associate wines with India? Not quite.
While South Africa is home to more than 600 wineries in over 90 appellations, a small group of maverick winemakers are stealing the nation's spotlight, working with chenin blanc and Rhône varieties, off the beaten path in the Western Cape's Swartland appellation.
The Chenin Blanc's contribution is apparent in this sparkling wine of medium-light golden yellow, with a floral, cedar-spice nose. There's a moderate mousse - no heavy bubbling action, but persistent small bubbles. It is somewhat fruity in the mouth, with low apparent acidity in the flavor, yet a fairly long, fruity finish, ending with the acidity that was in there all along. This is a wine to drink with a meal. Try it with the classic dishes that go with Chardonnay but don't hesitate to pair it with more with aromatic dishes such as Moroccan-spiced chicken.
Somewhere between the richest and oakiest Chardonnay-like South African Chenin Blancs and the lighter, more fruit-driven styles lies this hearty yet refreshing white. The nose is reminiscent of orange-compote bread pudding: toasty and rather rich but with a pure citrus tang and notes of honeysuckle and tangerine, suggesting a full-bodied but clean and refreshing palate. The mouthfeel is creamy but not overbearing with bright acidity to balance a warming alcohol (14%), leading to a long, resolving finish. A great match for rustic fall meals such as acorn squash stuffed with sausage, apples and breadcrumbs.
Very lush mouth-feel, with apples and white peaches dipped in honey, countered gently by tartness of star fruit. Aromas include white peach and flowers - orange blossoms and honeysuckle. The finish lingers gently. This is very nice wine. Enjoy it with chicken salad.
Dancing Coyote gets attention for its unusual California-grown white wines. The Clarksburg area winery produces albarino, gruner veltliner, and chenin blanc. Chenin blanc was big long before chardonnay took over on the west coast but few are producing it today. Dancing Coyote's 2009 Chenin Blanc is a lighter version than many others with nice citrus, particularly lime, and balanced acidity. Frankly, this one is the best I've tasted from California. The winery made just 208 cases.
Pear and melon on the nose. On the palate, melon, peach, pear, and white pepper. It balances a round mouth-feel with bright refreshing acids. This has an excellent quality-to-price ratio. Pair it with a hot summer day and a bowl full of balls of honeydew and cantaloupe melon.