Zalze Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, South Africa 2019 (from £7.25, Asda, Morrsions, Waitrose) The wine industry in South Africa has had to confront a Biblical set of challenges in recent years. Having just about got back on track after being badly hit by a three-year drought that, famously, almost forced the city of Cape Town to turn off the taps in 2018, the country’s winemakers have suffered more than most from Covid-19. At the end of March, the South African government’s strict lockdown called for a complete ban on all wine production activities. And if intense lobbying from the industry meant producers were ultimately given the green light to complete their 2020 harvest, the government has retained an export ban, the only government in the world to do so. All the more reason, it seems to me, to explore some of the delicious bottles already in this country, such as Zalze’s apple zingy-tangy tropical fruit juicy dry white.
AA Badenhorst Secateurs Red, Swartland, South Africa 2018 (from £12.50, stonevine.co.uk; caviste.co.uk; swig.co.uk; jeroboams.co.uk) Given the character of this current crisis, and the gravity of the decisions being made by a government responsible for managing a fragile health system in a country of rampant poverty and inequality, it seems almost trivial to point out that, in terms of what’s in the glass, South African wine has never been better. But in the years since Apartheid, there’s been a revolution in the Cape winelands (brilliantly documented, incidentally, by local wine writer Tim James in his book Wines of the New South Africa), a creative surge led by a gifted generation of winemakers, working in a mutually supportive network. The epicentre of the New South Africa is the Swartland region an hour or so north of Cape Town, where winemakers such as Adi Badenhorst use old vines and natural methods in wines such as his supple, spicy, aromatically pretty Côte du Rhône-alike red.
Holden Manz Vernissage, Franschhoek, South Africa 2015 (from £11.50, woodwinters.com; nywines.co.uk; henningswine.co.uk) The base of the Secateurs red blend in the 2018 vintage is cinsault – a once-unfashionable southern French variety that has become something of a speciality among the Cape new wave, alongside its white equivalent chenin blanc . Both cinsualt and chenin blanc can be beautiful on their own, as in the lipsmacking red cherry of Force Majeure Cinsault, Swartland 2018 (£18, forestwines.com) or the orange-citrus and ripe pear of AA Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2019 (£12.75, stonevine.co.uk). But so many of the best modern South African wines are blends. Majestic still has in stock some of the wonderfully light, brisk, Beaujolais-esque, cinsault-based Alheit Limited Release Red Blend 2018 (£14.99 as part of a mixed case). And look out for the savoury spice, plum and berry fruit and fine-grained texture of the nicely mature Bordeaux-meets-Rhône style Vernissage blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and merlot from the absurdly pretty Franschhoek valley.
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