Wine of the Week 49 – South African succulence

Recently I tasted the new vintage of a wine that I have enjoyed for many years and it was so drinkable that I have made it my new Wine of the Week.

Vines at Kleine Zalze.

Vines at Kleine Zalze.

The wine comes from Kleine Zalze, which is a beautiful estate in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Indeed it’s one of my favourite South African producers, and – like the country as a whole – their wines just seem to get better and better. What’s more, this is true whether the wines are at the lower end of their range like this delicious Sangiovese, or more upmarket examples like their stunning Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Reserve Shiraz,  Family Reserve Pinotage – one of the very best examples of this difficult grape that I have ever tasted – and the wonderful Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

South Africa map QS 2015 watermarked

Wine map of South Africa – click for a larger view – non watermarked PDF versions are available by agreement.

 

The wine is an intriguing blend of Shiraz (Syah) with Mourvèdre and a little Viognier to add aromatics and complexity.

Vines at Kleine Zalze.

Vines at Kleine Zalze.

Zalze2013 Zalze Shiraz-Mourvèdre-Viognier
Wine of Origin / W.O. Western Cape
Kleine Zalze Vineyards
Stellenbosch, South Africa

80% is Shiraz from Kleine Zalze’s own vineyards in Stellenbosch together with 15% Mourvèdre from the cooler Durbanville area and then 5% Viognier from Tulbagh in the mountains. They were fermented separately, Kleine Zalze mainly use wild yeasts for this, the 2 reds in stainless steel and the Vignier on 4th fill barrels, this old wood ensures the oak influence is very subtle. All 3 components are aged in 3rd and 4th fill barrels for 14 months before being blended together.

The aroma gives lifted notes of ripe blackberry, raspberry and peach with a little touch of freshly turned earth and truffle (very Mourvèdre), spice and even some chocolate, espresso and cigar.
The palate is richly fruity and succulent with deliciously juicy ripe blackberry, black cherry, redcurrant and even some plum and some lovely savoury herbs like the French garrigue. The tannins are sweet, ripe and smooth, the oak lends some nice spice and a touch of mocha, whole a touch of refreshing acidity balances it all nicely. I really enjoyed this, it is very drinkable, beautifully made and not dull. There is enough complexity to make it interesting and the blend brings a freshness that Shiraz on its own seldom delivers.
Really attractive wine that goes with all sorts of things including barbecue, pizza and pasta, be warned though, it is moreish – 87/100 points.

Available in the UK for £8.29 a bottle from Waitrose and Ocado – £5.99 a bottle from Waitrose if you get in quick and £6.21 from Ocado if you grab it by 12/-05/15!

If you have let South African wines pass you by, then this might be a very good starting point, enjoyable to drink and great value to boot.

 

When is a lot of sugar no sugar?

Or: When is a wine sweet or dry?

Sweetness is an absolute, right? After all a wine is either dry or it is not and the EU regulates that kind of thing – my friend Warren Edwardes outlines the rules here.

However it is true that most new world wines contain more sugar than their European counterparts. This does not make them sweet, just less dry – many a non-European Shiraz will contain anything from around 3-5 grams of residual sugar per litre, while the French equivalent will have less than 1 gram, which makes quite a difference in mouthfeel, richness and fruit character.

Again, this does not make these wines sweet, but it does make them softer and fuller in the mouth. It makes the tannins much less of an issue and ensures that the wine does not interact with your food quite as much as less rich wines, so a good food pairing becomes less important, it can even make the wine soft enough to enjoy without food – so you see a little sugar can be a useful thing.

However, it does seem to cloud the issue for many consumers who are new to wine – they do seem to think that all wine should be like Australian Shiraz.

We are used to non-European producers being very open about their wines, but I have discovered that it is actually often quite hard to get hold of residual sugar levels for new world red wines. Most technical sheets just say that they are ‘dry’, some have ‘Residual Sugar: Nil’, while more than a few just ignore the issue completely.

I had been pondering all this for some time, as the sugar level is important and I have seen for myself the effect that having ‘dry’ wines that contain a fair amount of sugar has. It changes the parameters of wine and makes traditional European styles seem austere and mean to young drinkers and casual drinkers who want a wine without food.

However, I was really surprised by something in America recently, which possibly helps to explain some of this.

In a winery I had just tasted a Viognier, which did not seem to me  to be completely dry. So, I asked the winemaker what the residual sugar was and his reply really startled me, he said ‘effectively zero’.

Now this wine did not taste as though it had virtually no sugar, so I pressed the point and asked what ‘effectively zero’ meant. His reply, after looking it up was that it was ‘0.7’.

I pressed further, as this wine could not possibly have such a minimal residual sugar content. Strangely though it did – if you measure sugar in the American way, it had 0.7% residual sugar – which to the winemaker was as good as zero and therefore close to his idea of a totally dry wine.

Actually though it is nothing like zero, when I tell you that on the European measure 0.7% residual sugar is a whopping 7 grams per litre – which in a low acid wine like Viognier is not dry, let alone anything like zero.

So, perhaps they just speak an entirely different sugar language over there and their Zero, or Nil is our 10? It would explain a lot about the differences in sweetness and why a wine with quite a whack of sugar can be described as having nil residual sugar on a technical sheet..

V is for Viognier…and a lot more besides

Viognier vines at Veritas Vineyards in Virginia with the Blue Ridge in the background

Whilst contemplating wine I often think how remarkable it is that quite so many white grapes have names that begin with a ‘V’. Some of them may seem a tad obscure, but here is a list of all the ones that sprang to mind – with a few that I looked up:

Viura
Verdicchio
Vernaccia
Verdelho
Verdejo
Verdejo Tinto
Vaccarèse
Valais
Valdiguie
Valentin
Vilana
Verdea
Verdello – not the same as Verdelho, in case you were wondering.
Verdiso
Verdeca
Verduzzo (Friulano)
Vermentino
Vernaccia – in fact there are a few of these, all unrelated.
Vertzami
Vespaiolo
Vespolina
Vidal
Vien de Nus
Villard Blanc
Villard Noir
Vinhão
Viosinho – sometimes called Veosinho Verdeal for good measure.
Vital
Vignoles
Vranac
Vugava
and finally the most famous of all – Viognier. Continue reading