Following an enjoyable and informative Wine of Austria Master Class, we jumped on a bus and headed to the Institute of Culinary Education for a South African Wine Pairing Luncheon hosted by Wines of South Africa. Going into this tasting, I had familiarity with some of the region’s refreshing Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc wines as well as Pinotage – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut that is largely unique to South Africa. As a matter of fact, a few years ago I hosted a ‘Pinotage Party’ on Twitter with fellow wine blogger @BrainWines to draw attention to the often misunderstood and underrated grape variety.
South Africa has a long wine growing history dating back over three centuries. However, at a time when other new world wine regions were advancing, South Africa’s wine industry was set back by apartheid (1948-1994). In response, trade sanctions were imposed, preventing South African wines from being imported into the U.S. and other markets. Since that time, South African wine has experienced a renaissance of sorts and is growing in popularity. "Chenin Blanc is no longer called Steen and varietals such as Syrah are taking their rightful place among the world’s finest," said the folks at Snooth. Adding that, “ Pinotage ... the black sheep of the vitis vinifera family, is finding new appreciation as producers begin to understand how to coax the most from each variety in South Africa’s famously complex soils.”
Wines and dishes of note start with a refreshing flute of Graham Beck Brut N.V. (SRP $18). This is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that’s crisp, clean, and versatile and priced just under the $20 sweet-spot for wine consumers. It is also widely available nationally, so check with your local wine shop for a bottle. The bubbles paired nicely with the curry mussels dish (with lychees, shallots, white wine and dry sherry, in a curry emulsion), which was an extremely pleasing and flavorful dish.
For the sweet ending, we enjoyed a scrumptious and lip-smacking Tipsy Tart (tart soaked in rooibos infused brandy, vanilla ice cream and a brandy date syrup) with a splash 2010 Ken Forrester ‘T’ Late Harvest (SRP $54.99, 375ml). This tasty golden colored wine is 100% Chenin Blanc with rich aromas of dried apricot, fig, floral honey, and tropical overtones with balanced acidity. In closing, this was a wonderful (and memorable) experience that opened my eyes to new cuisine as well as several (premium) expressive red blended wines. I had such a nice time that I plan on finding several of these wines and some ostrich fillets and recreating this delightful experience (as best I can) for a few friends. Cheers!
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