This month our group of wining and dining friends gathered for a pre-holiday tasting that featured wines of the Southern Hemisphere, including South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Uruguay. In my November class at the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, we sampled South African wines, and I used that as starting off point for the wine dinner, highlighting two varietals that are often associated with the Cape - Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. I filled it out with a quintessential Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, the flagship wine from Uruguay (Tannat, originally from Southwestern France), and a Malbec blend from Argentina and a classic Shiraz from "Down Under."
The Pinotage was a big hit among the imbibers, which shows how far that long-maligned hybrid has come in recent years. The Shiraz was certainly one of my favorites, especially given the price point, and the Tannat lovers gave the Pisano a thumbs up. There was some dissension among the ranks with regard to the Malbec blend, but it may have been a function of the order in which it was tasted. It will remain one of my go-to Argentinians. Of the whites, the Chenin Blanc held sway, though most admitted that the Sauvignon Blanc was more suited to summertime quaffing. (All the wines were purchased at Total Wine in Delaware, though some, including the Whitehaven, may be available in PA.)
1. Neethlingshof Estate Chenin Blanc 2016 ($12.49)
Varietal: 100% Chenin Blanc
Appellation: Stellenbosch Wine of Origin
Tasting/Production Notes: Fermentation took place at 12 ̊ C
for a period of 18 days; rested on the lees with stirring taking place once a week to add to the creamy mouth-feel of the wine and to ensure all lees flavors were released;
hand harvested; after crushing of the fruit, the juice was fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks over 14 days between 13° and 15° C; delicate stone fruit aromas progressing to a mélange of tropical fruit, elegant pear and guava flavors, followed by bright floral notes; medium bodied; lingering finish.
Food Pairing: aperitif; fish, poultry; asparagus
2. Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($16.49)
Varietal: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Appellation: Marlborough, New Zealand
Tasting/Production Notes: Harvested in March/April 2016; stainless steel fermentation at low temperatures; aromas of gooseberry, blackcurrant leaf, boxwood, greengage plums, and a hint of tropical fruit; medium-bodied with lively acidity on the palate with bright fragrant fruit flavors that linger on long clean finish.
Food Pairing: summer salads, poultry and shellfish, such as Marlborough’s famous green-lipped mussels; also try it with lobster and white fish.
3. Neetlingshof Estate Pinotage 2015 ($14.99)
Varietal: 100% Pinotage
Appellation: Stellenbosch Wine of Origin
Tasting/Production Notes: Fermentation in rotation tanks took place at 25° to 28°C over six days; after malolactic fermentation the wine was matured in a combination of French (60%) and American (40%) oak, with 40% in new barrels for a period of nine months; the wine was bottled in January 2015 and released May of the same year; aromas of ripe banana and cinnamon and notes of plum and prunes; medium bodied with a velvety texture; earthy, vegetal, aromas and strong, plummy varietal flavors; cherry fruit; firm tannic backbone; may be aged 5-10 years.
Food pairings: meats such as Springbok, Kudu and other bok, whether in the form of steaks, potjies or even as biltong.
4. Pisano Tannat Rio de los Pajaros Reserve 2013 ($16.99)
Varietals: 100% Tannat
Appellation: Progreso, Uruguay
Tasting/Production Notes: complex notes of wood and mushrooms; effusive aromas of blackberry, earth, mushrooms, pepper, and oak; palate is driven by rich flavors of blackberry, black raspberry, spice, and dark chocolate framed by modest, chalky, dry tannins.
Food Pairings: sharp cheese; pasta with rich sauces; roasted meats
5. Flichman Tupungato 2014 ($18.99)
Varietal: 70% Malbec; 20% Cabernet Sauvignon; 10% Merlot
Appellation: Tupungato, Argentina
Tasting/Production Notes: Hand harvested; fermented for 9 days; malolactic fermentation; 12 months aging in 50% American, 50% French oak; 6 months further bottle aging; aromas of red ripe fruit, plums, currants; concentrated, sweet tannins; complex, persistent finish;
Food pairings: Osso Buco
6. Schild Estate Shiraz 2013 ($22.49)
Varietal: 100% Shiraz
Appellation: Barossa Valley, Australia
Tasting/Production Notes: 18 months aging in French oak; dark cherries, ripe black fruits on the nose with hints of new leather; dark fruit and chocolate on the palate fine, elegant tannins; may be aged up to 10 years.
Factoids about the Wine Estates
Schild: Ben and Alma Schild first moved to the Barossa Valley from Lameroo in the Murray Mallee in 1952. The first vineyard that the family purchased is located up the top of Steingarten Road, near Rowland Flat, where the original homestead is still situated.
In 1956 Ben Schild died suddenly and Ed, being the youngest of eight children and the only son to be living at home, stayed to run the family property at the age of 16.
Ed Schild’s enthusiasm for the region, its offerings and vineyards saw him steadily grow the landholdings of the Schild Family, which today encompasses over 450 acres under vine. Within this large amount of land is one small patch of 160 year old shiraz vines which produces the iconic Moorooroo Shiraz. Ed and Lorraine have four children and eight grandchildren which ensures a strong family focus within the winery today. In 1998 the Schild Estate label was established producing a total of 7 tonnes making 450 dozen and recently in the 2011 Vintage 600 Tonnes – 50,000 cases. So with that much work to do and so many family members, it sure makes for fun times in Lyndoch.
Until recently Schild Estate Wines were produced offsite, but in July 2010 Valley of Hope Winery was opened and 2011 saw the first complete vintage come through its doors, with Chief Winemaker Scott Hazeldine leading the charge.
Finca Flichman’s vineyards extend over 400 cultivated hectares and are distributed in two different Mendoza regions: Barrancas, in Maipú and Tupungato, in Uco Valley (Valle de Uco).
Since 1998, Finca Flichman has been handled by Sogrape, leading Portuguese group, that has been distinguished as the “Best Wine Producer Worldwide” by the World Association of Wine & Spirits Writers and Journalists (WAWWJ)for the second consecutive year.
Whitehaven: Established in 1994 in the heart of the internationally renowned Marlborough region, WHITEHAVEN is the realisation of the White family's vision to create a respected and critically acclaimed winery. Today the company is headed by Sue White, an enthusiastic advocate of the region, who continues to make the dreams she shared with her late husband Greg a reality. Sue leads a small, talented, committed team who together are carving global recognition for the WHITEHAVEN label, showcasing elegant, single varietal Marlborough wines to over a dozen countries.