As our days turn colder, it reminds me that spring is just beginning for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere. While we are all familiar with Mendoza, Argentina, Marlborough in New Zealand and the many regions of Chile and Australia, there seems to be a shroud of mystery surrounding the long-lost wine producing country at the tip of the African Continent: South Africa. I’ve recently found some tantalizing wines and tremendous values from this parcel of the Globe and am excited to roll out these new finds to expand your wine horizons!
South Africa is one of the world’s oldest wine countries outside of Europe. Dutch settlers and French Hugenots brought vines to the region and using the mountainous terrain on the Western Cape began growing wine vines. Initially, the wine was used to supply merchant ships of the Dutch East India Company. The first vineyard was planted in 1655 and produced its first vintage of wine in 1659. Not much thought was put into these wines, as the end user wasn’t all that concerned with the quality of the product. Seeing potential in the land, the second Governor of Cape Town, Simon van der Stel, was determined to make wine that was worthy of savoring. It was from this idea that Groot Constantia, South Africa’s oldest and most famous wine was created.
While Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape, it is not the only varietal that is significant to their wine industry. Today’s feature explores the Rhône varietals of the Franschhoek Valley. Located in the mountainous terrain east of Cape Town, Franschhoek Valley is a wild, rugged terrain in the south-east corner of Paarl on South Africa’s Western Cape. Vineyards in the region have been planted since the late 1600s when exiled French Huguenots brought their viticultural skills to this valley. Franschhoek (Dutch for French Corner) Valley has a warm climate, similar to the Rhône Valley, and ideally suited to the vines of robust reds such as Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhône variety whites such as Viognier and Grenache Blanc.
Boekenhoutskloof (Bookn-Howed-skloof) Winery was established in 1776 in the furthest corner of the Franschhoek Valley. When the farm was founded, the Franschhoek Valley was wilder than it is today, as evidenced through a wolf trap that s discovered on the property. Though the mountains still teem with indigenous animals, including leopards, no evidence of wolves have been found. The Wolftrap labels allude to this wild past and the legends of the creatures that used to roam the land.
The Wolftrap is certified sustainable by the Integrated Production of Wine.
The Wolftrap White $11.99 A blend of Viognier, Chenin Balnc, and Grenache Blanc, this wine has a bold nose with white peach and lemon. The Viognier offers a creamy texture and floral aromas, while Chenin Blanc provides backbone, a fruity mid-palate and a crisp zesty finish.
The Wolftrap Red $11.99 A classic Rhône- style blend of Syrah, Mouvedre and Viognier, this red wine has an intense, brooding nose and a silky texture on the palate. It shows exceptional balance with fresh, integrated acidity alongside a bright, svelte tannins.
Enjoy the exploration! Jill