Fine wine and football may seem to go together like caviar and coke, but if you are captivated by improbable scores, a colorful history and larger than life personalities, you can turn off ESPN and turn the corkscrew on a bottle of wine from South Africa.
At the southern tip of Africa, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, lies the city of Cape Town, a great wine capital of the world and the gateway to the South African wine country. For over 350 years, the cultures of Africa, Europe and the East coalesce in the shadow of Table Mountain, creating a vibrant city currently hosting the FIFA World Cup. The wines of South Africa also express a global flair, blending the restrained elegance of the Old World with the accessible fruit-forward styles of the New World, highlighting the unique terroir and diversity of the Cape.
The establishment by the Dutch East India Company of a trading station at the Cape in 1652 had one main goal: to provide food to the company's merchant fleet on their voyages to India and its neighbors. From these humble roots, emerged a flourishing wine industry and eventually the birth of an independent nation. Jan van Riebeeck, the first governor of the Cape, planted a vineyard in 1655, and in 1659, the first wine was made from Cape grapes. There were many setbacks in the beginning, chiefly because of the local farmers' ignorance of winemaking. Things improved when Van Riebeeck was succeeded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, whose passion was matched by his knowledge of viticulture. He planted a vineyard on his farm Constantia. Three centuries later, Constantia wine is mentioned alongside the most important wine houses in the world.
Currently, South Africa boasts around 252,400 acres of vines producing wine grapes over an area some 500 miles (800 kilometers) in length. These vineyards are cultivated by some 4,000 primary producers and wine is made in more than 560 wineries centered around Cape Town. There are two major producers of kosher wine in South Africa, Zandwijk Wines (Pty) Ltd., producing kosher wine under the Kleine Draken label, and Backsberg Cellars, producing several kosher wine varieties. Check the label for Backsberg as only selected varietals and vintages are produced under the supervision of the Cape Town Beth Din and the Orthodox Union.
If you are looking for quality kosher wine from South Africa, joyofkosher provides a helpful guide to the varietals and producers you are most likely to find at your local wine shop.
This noble grape variety has become the most widely planted red varietal in South Africa. The award-winning 2006Kleine Draken Cabernet Sauvignon (South Africa) is aged for 18 months in oak and has a pleasing nose of vanilla and berry giving way to a well-balanced, full-bodied wine that begs for red meat, rich casseroles and hearty stews.Merlot
Traditionally blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is now increasingly bottled on its own. This fruity, rich variety is found in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Worcester, as well as along the West Coast. The 2008 Backsberg Merlot(South Africa) displays aromas of raspberry and red plums and entices the palate with succulent sweet fruit flavors and finely coated tannins.
In 1925, a professor at the University of Stellenbosch crossed Pinot Noir with Hermitage (Cinsaut) and Pinotage was born. This varietal is unique to South Africa and is recognized worldwide for the distinctively rich and spicy wines it produces. The 2007 Backsberg Pinotage (South Africa) benefits from oak derived vanillin nuances to provide the perfect backdrop to young berry and mulberry fruit flavors. Fresh yet soft, this wine provides sheer Pinotage intensity with a supple texture. A perfect accompaniment to tomato based pasta dishes. The 2007 Kleine Draken Pinotage (South Africa) has berry and red cherries on the nose and is a medium-bodied and well rounded wine with some ripe tannin undertones supporting longevity. Enjoy with flavorful curries, spicy meat dishes and barbecue.
This grape is well suited to the Cape where intense smoky and spicy wines are being produced with increasing frequency. The 2005 Kleine Draken Shiraz (South Africa) is aged for 12 months in French oak and is a medium to full-bodied wine showing berry fruit flavors and a smokiness that is characteristic of this varietal. Enjoy with red meat, casseroles and spicy pasta.Chardonnay
Whether matured in oak or left unwooded, Cape Chardonnay is an elegant wine full of fruit flavors. The 2009 Backsberg Chardonnay (South Africa) features lemon zest, melon and hazelnut on the nose. Natural acidity is balanced by sweet fruit flavors of white peach providing a medium bodied palate with a long finish. An excellent example of an unoaked Chardonnay. The acid fruit balance of this wine is perfect with salads, cold meats and light pasta dishes. The 2010 Kleine Draken Chardonnay (South Africa) greets you with butter and vanilla on the nose and is velvety smooth and dry with a long finish. Enjoy with soups, lightly flavored casseroles, poultry and veal.
South African wines made from this varietal are being recognized internationally for their quality and complexity. Great Sauvignon Blancs are being produced in most of South Africa's diverse winegrowing regions. The 2010 Kleine Draken Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa) is crisp, dry and well balanced with tropical and grassy notes, a perfect accompaniment to fish and poultry.