Join us for an evening of spectacular New World showstoppers! South Africa has a long and distinguished history of wine production going back over 400 years - it is an old 'New World' wine country. Since the abolition of apartheid, the quality of its wine-making has risen to showcase the talent which its history deserves. Chunky, chocolatey reds and elegant European-style whites are now the order of the day, served up by a precocious band of young, cutting edge winemakers.
If you think about the USA, our supermarket shelves have long been dominated by the commercially successful brands such as Ernest & Julio Gallo, however that's only half the story with California in particular producing world class wines more than capable of holding their own on the world stage.
Part 1: South Africa
The food and wine scene around Stellenbosch has exploded recently with new winemakers such as Marc Kent and Graham Beck crafting thoroughly modern premium wines. This melting pot of factors, combined with South Africa's uniquely long history of winemaking outside of Europe, makes it a fascinating country to come and taste your way around!
We start with what was until recently by far the most planted variety in South Africa – Chenin Blanc, or “Steen” as the locals call it. This variety can make some pretty bland and acidic thin wines, but with care about where it’s planted and how the wine is made it reveals its true superstar character. We have a lovely example of this oft-overlooked variety for you to sample.
Next, we have Pinotage: South Africa's very own 'marmite' grape (you'll either love it or hate it!), with its smooth, smoky, mocha-spiced flavours it certainly packs a punch in the mouth!
Finally, we bring a bit of Bordeaux into South Africa with a “Cape Blend” combining Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage. Truly a uniquely South African experience.
Part 2: USA
It was in 1976 at the “Judgement of Paris” that California wines exploded onto the premium world wine scene, beating their French rivals in category after category of “blind tasting”.
These days most people’s perception of Californian wine is based around those “big brands” at low prices in supermarkets. Whilst these are incredibly commercially successful operations, they tell only half the story. We will explore what the USA and California in particular can do, and as with so many better wines, it’s a lot to do with what the French would call “Terroir”, plus some skilled winemaking.
We start with what Americans regard as THE white grape variety; Chardonnay. Ripened slowly in the relatively cool coastal regions of California, the grape retains its refreshing acidity and develops lush tropical fruit aromas, which are then complemented by butter and vanilla from winemaking technique. Truly an iconic American wine style.
Alongside Chardonnay, the other key varietal that the USA beat the French with back in ’76 was Cabernet Sauvignon. Here in California the variety can be made into superb full-bodied wines of great complexity with the capability to age for many years. Let us introduce you to a very different style of wine from its original Bordeaux homeland.
Finally, the Americans will tell you that Zinfandel is their very own variety, and it’s certainly a big part of the Californian wine story. But this just ain’t so, as it grows in Italy and is called Primitivo there. However, that’s not the end of the story either as it’s originally from somewhere else entirely, we will tell you where after you’ve sampled it. What a sample to end on as well, full-bodied and high alcohol but beautifully balanced by pronounced black cherry and smoke aromas.
As part of tonight’s tasting, we also explain how to spot faults in wine so that you have the confidence to send a bottle back if needed.
Professional ISO tasting glasses, all course materials including tasting sheets & water are provided.