When I was invited to attend the South African event hosted by Planet Grapes last 26 January, I totally jumped at the chance. See, I’m all about learning something new about wines, and the opportunity to further explore a highly underrated and little talked about wine region was gold.
A little primer: I first heard about South Africa as a wine region during our WSET classes. I found out that, when strapped for cash and in dire need of wine with flavour profiles remarkably close to those of pricey Bordeaux bottles (I still encourage people to try stuff from Bordeaux, of course), get wine from South Africa (particularly from the Stellenbosch region).
I also learned that they’re great at making wines of the Chenin Blanc and Pinotage varietals. Chenin Blanc (equally famous in Vouvray) has gorgeous citrus and tropical flavours, while Pinotage is chewy, with just the right amount of tannins and notes of ripe red fruit that keeps it food friendly.
When I started attending wine expos in Hong Kong, I met the Shiraz that would change my life forever: Rainbow’s End Shiraz. This told me a couple of things: No matter what books tell me, Australia and Rhône do not have a monopoly on good Shiraz; and man, can South Africa make good wine.
This is one of the things Anthony Budd, Managing Director of Diverse Flavours, agreed on. He represented the evening’s featured wines and discussed them with so much in-depth, entertaining passion that I lost track of time.
The first on the OFFICIAL (more on that later) wines for the evening was the beautifully deep Ghost Corner Pinot Noir that I thought I would have enjoyed without food (but was just as nice with the talented Chef Gus Sibayan’s potato chips with truffle oil). The next two were a tie as my favourites for the evening: The Cederberg Merlot Shiraz that invoked thoughts of dark fruits (and despite being paired with salpicao for the evening, I thought went just as well with the pulled beef caldereta crostini), and a surprisingly spicy (though not losing its berry notes) Lion Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz.
Then it happened: Budd told me that there is a similarity in the way Ghost Corner wines are made as with Laphroaig.
That was a tall claim. Laphroaig is an Islay whisky and if readers have been following this blog long enough, they would know that I have a fascination with the peaty, smoky style of the region.
Which was why I had to wonder…
Fortunately, he didn’t leave us wondering too long, as he brought out two off-the-menu items: the Ghost Corner Sauvignon Blanc and Ghost Corner Semillon.
Tasting the wines made sense of what he said about the wines’ similarity with Laphroaig: The Sauvignon Blanc was a rounded, fruity, aromatic, and acidic take on the grape, and the Semillon had enough incredibly fragrant complexity (due to the old vines the grapes were harvested from) to make me want to inhale it all night long… Semillon has never been my preferred wine, but that was one I’d actually get for myself.
Then, it hit me. Salt…?
There it was. There was saltiness in the wine, which made it eerily Islay. It’s not offensive at all; it’s just that it was such a brilliant way of keeping the wine wonderfully interesting.
All in all, the wines presented during the dinner taught me a couple more things about the region’s style: South Africa’s has solidified itself in the world of wine as a good source of food (and price!) friendly, subtly elegant wines definitely worth looking out for.
All the wines mentioned are available in all Planet Grapes branches. Check out planetgrapes.com.ph for the branch closest to you.
Special thanks to Mr. Anthony Budd, Ms. Jo-Ann Ramos, and Chef Gus Sibayan