Anthony Rose: 'Today the Cape wine industry is proudly back on its feet and it has outscored France for the first time ever'
Saturday 12 June 2010
Over the next four weeks, South African footie fans will be blowing their vuvuzelas (stadium horns) loud and proud in a release of pent-up emotion.
Bafana Bafana may not be quite the finished article the Springbok rugby team was in 1995. So wishful thinking on a grand scale is required to expect Nelson Mandela to be presenting the World Cup to the home-grown heroes of 2010. Or Jacob Zuma, the republic's president, who played for the political prisoners' football team on Robben Island. Yet football, unlike rugby, as journalist Celia Dugger says, "is the fanatically followed sport of the black majority".
Sport was not the only victim of apartheid-induced pariah status. Already on its knees after the damage caused by phylloxera and economic decline, the Cape wine industry, established in the days of the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, took a huge kick on the shins.
Today, it is proudly back on its feet. Outscoring France for the first time ever this year with the equivalent of 45 million cases of wine, South Africa today exports eight times as much to the UK as in pre-apartheid days when the then notorious KWV was virtually the only game in town. And we in the UK drink nearly a quarter of it.
One of the bonuses of modern South African wine has been the progress of both its aromatic and richer, food-friendly dry whites. When the "holy trinity" of regions, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, held the industry in its Bordeaux-influenced grip, South African wine was largely about red wine. And emerging Rhône-style reds have added to the gaiety of the nation's styles. The emergence, however, of cooler climate and coastal regions such as Darling, Elim and Elgin has seen the spotlight shift to aromatic dry whites made from sauvignon blanc and more complex styles made from chenin blanc and blends.
I'm not sure if an English summer is warmer than a South African winter, but either way, sauvignon blanc is ideal for al fresco sipping. Try the herbal 2009 Fynbos Sauvignon Blanc, £5.99, Co-op, Sainsbury's refreshing Taste the Difference South African Sauvignon Blanc, £7.49, or Tesco's aromatic Finest Darling Sauvignon Blanc, £7.49. A tad pricier but with greater intensity, come the restrained, Loire-like 2009 Crows Fountain Traditional Bush Vine Sauvignon Blanc, £8.99, Marks & Spencer, and a citrus-crisp 2009 Springfield Estate Special Cuvée, £8.92-£8.99, Sainsbury's, waitrosewine.com.
The Cape's chenin blanc and blends have the edge when it comes to dry whites better suited to food. For pure chenin, try the 2008 Lammershoek Chenin Blanc, £11.49, Colchester Wine Co (thewine company.co.uk.), a rich dry white, or, from Ken Forrester and Martin Meinert, the delicately toasty vouvray-in- the-Cape, the 2007 The FMC, £17.99, waitrosewine.com.
As for blends, the 2008 De Grendel Winifred, Tijgerberb, £9.99, Oddbins, is a bold trio of viognier, semillon and chardonnay with an exotically peachy richness. Equally, from the up-and-coming Swartland region, the 2008 TMV White, around £11.95, The Wine Society, Harrogate Fine Wines (harrogatefinewinecompany.com), is a characterfully nutty, flavoursome Cape-meets-Rhône-like blend of chenin blanc, viognier and clairette. Best of all, Eben Sadie's 2008 Palladius, £31.99, Swig (swig.co.uk), is an intense, stonefruity yet minerally blend of chenin blanc and Rhône varieties. These are wines to get you blowing on your vuvuzelas.
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