Aug 14 2012
Besides a plethora of industry bodies, the South African wine industry is awash with organisations representing Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ or purporting to represent Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ a specific wine made from one grape. There is a Pinotage Association, a Chardonnay Forum, Just Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group, Pinot Noir Interest Group and even a Merlot Forum. To name but a few.
Barring the Pinotage Association and the M╬ô├╢┬ú╬ô├«├ëthode Cap Classique Association, most of these producersΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗ forums keep things pretty secret. Perhaps they are dissecting fluffy animals with Medieval secateurs in dank dungeons or practising their secret brotherly handshakes, but one would expect a bit more openness and enthusiasm surrounding what is, essentially, a fun topic.
Others, like the Chenin Blanc Association, have loud, demonstrative talk-shops in exotic locations without coming up or actioning any reason for their existence.
All-in-all, a pretty shoddy state of affairs.
Shiraz SA I like, despite me not being the fondest Shiraz drinker this side of the Atlantic. Shiraz SA has cool public tastings, insightful seminars and a bunch of members from diverse wine regions. They seem to be able to throw the kitchen sink and the Riedl duck decanter at promoting Shiraz wine. I also really like its chairperson, Edmund Terblanche, whose commitment to the variety is exemplary in its professional seriousness. Plus, his wife Hetta has a very pretty smile.
In fact, last weekΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s public tasting organised by Shiraz SA at the Vineyard Hotel has rekindled my interest in this big, brooding, spicy grape Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ mostly due to the infectious spirit and camaraderie displayed by the SA Shiraz brotherhood, with a few sisters and one or two queens thrown in for good measure.
The thing I find challenging about Shiraz as a wine, is texture. Mouth-feel. Palate-weight. They way it strokes your (oral) pink bits.
I havenΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗t gobbed a bit of Shiraz under a microscope, but if I did I bet IΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗d find it to be a far denser bit of juice than a Cabernet or Merlot. This denseness in the mouth causes havoc in the transporting of flavours as the texture of the wine suffocates the sensorial effect of the winesΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗ inherent taste profile.
Think of soup, for example. The texture of a thin, clear Thai broth makes it easy for flavours to cruise through the soup, ending-up intact when they reach the taster. Coriander and ginger will easily, thus, find their mark.
On the other hand, a thick Germanic pea-soup will not allow the flavours of a decomposed guinea-fowl to pass through it, never mind the perky fresh zest of a sliced green pepper or a bit of truffle oil.
Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║ThinnerΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ wines, such as Pinot Noir, are ideal at conveying delicate flavours. While a lot can get lost in a dense Shiraz. But Shiraz , if well-made, has an alluring, rich and evocative presence of its own.
Over 80 Shiraz wines found their way to the Shiraz SA tasting, and there wasnΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗t a hope in hell I was going to get halfway. But after about 10 wines, tasted while considering the bold nature of Shiraz, I hit my straps and by wine 15 I was ready to claim honorary citizenship of some stone-walled town next to a river I think they call the Rh╬ô├╢┬ú╬ô├╢├▒ne.
Likes about Shiraz: Aforementioned velvety texture that hits all the nice bits your mouth has forgotten it has; the perky pricks of white pepper that moonwalk over the tongue; the smokiness, all sultry and sexy, found in Shiraz wines that have been boldly oaked without causing offence or leaving splinters in your gums; a sudden cool, mineral slant offered by one in every 15 wines, one which shakes out the cobwebs and freshens up the old tasting crevice; the nostalgic aromas of crushed mulberries that jump out at you; smooth and sensually textured wines that would be best enjoyed out of Kate WinsletΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s belly-button (although youΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗d need a Magnum to fill it).
All these, and more, popped up at Shiraz SA. My top three wines – Shiraz that is – come from EaglesΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗ Nest, Boschkloof and Waterford. Diverse is not the word. Confidently elegant is the EaglesΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗ Nest; cool and mineral and rocky Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ Boschkloof; Waterford is plush and spicy with an assertive grape of confidence.
A drop in the spread of fantastic Shiraz wines. If this is newly converted, I canΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗t wait to become seasoned.