Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Aug 19th, 2017

Eight Head Turning South African Wines for $175
By David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

I know have said this before in years gone by, but in August VINTAGES tends to release a lot of average wines, perhaps when fewer people are looking. In the past two releases there have been many wines I thought should have scored better at their price. It is not all doom and gloom however. The glowing exceptions are eight very good quality, excellent value wines from South Africa.

I mentioned in May on release of the Cederberg Shiraz 2015 that the LCBO seems to be finally tuned in to the fact that South Africa is perhaps the New World’s single best source of very high quality, underpriced wines. The line up August 19 seals the deal, and given the success rate one could only wish there were double the number being released. Not only has VINTAGES purchased wines with great price-quality ratio, the selection tells the story of current varietal and style trends in South Africa.

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Cap Classique sparkling wine made via the traditional method of second fermentation in the bottle is growing in stature and quality with specialist Graham Beck leading the way.

Among whites, South Africa is all about chenin blanc, the classic high acid Loire Valley grape once used for bulk whites that has fallen into the eager hands of winemakers like the Raats family, who are convinced in its second coming as a premium white, especially when sourced from old vineyards that abound around the Cape. Sauvignon Blanc is also very important (and underrated) in the most coastal regions like Constantia, Stellenbosch and Walker Bay, where Southern Right by Hamilton-Russell has fashioned an extraordinarily good example. Chardonnay is less important in fact, but special regions like De Wetshof’s limestone enclave in Robertson have provided a natural home.

The red trends include very vibrant pinot noirs, again from the coolest coastal areas like Elgin and Walker Bay/Hemel en Aarde, here represented by a very good value, juicy example from Elgin Vintners. A cousin once removed from pinot noir is South Africa’s pinotage, a fascinating and perplexing crossing of pinot noir and cinsault that has spilled more ink than any variety in the country. See all the ink I spilled in a way too long treatise here two years ago. And then there are the great Bordeaux-styled classic reds of Stellenbosch, a brilliant modern cabernet by Ernie Els, and a classic Euro-styled blend by Rustenberg.

So what to choose? Well how about buying one of each – an eight-bottle, head turning, attitude adjusting collection of South African wines. Total tab would be $174.60. Average bottle price is $21.75. I am convinced you will be impressed.

And then you can also afford to add some other red bargains from elsewhere. We flagged those from Southern France last week. This week John, Michael and I have identified some other notables as well.

Buyers’ Guide VINTAGES Aug 19th

South Africa

Graham Beck 2011 Brut Rosé, Méthode Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($21.95)
John Szabo – The vintage-dated version of Graham Beck’s fine rosé, this recently-disgorged bubbly is a marvel of balance and fruit concentration, depth and length. It’s sufficiently toasty from six years on the lees to drive significant complexity without sacrificing fruit altogether. This should bring fear to many champagne producers charging ambitious premiums for their pink wines.…


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And that is a wrap for this edition. If you haven’t yet, check out the newly minted WineAlign Exchange that will deliver great mixed cases of wines selected by a panel of WineAlign critics.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
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Michael’s Mix

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