This Weekend @ The Tasting Bar

This Weekend @ The Tasting Bar

May 10, 2024
This week we will be exploring a country whose accent I have been tirelessly working to learn since I was fifteen, a place filled with extreme biodiversity in flora and fauna, a country rich in history, culture and winemaking prowess: South Africa!
Despite being heralded as part of the “New Wine World,” the first grape plantings in South Africa were seeded in 1655 when employees of the Dutch East India company laid the groundwork for vines to grow outside of Cape Town. Though these first plantings weren’t the lightning in a bottle kind of immediate success that we’re more accustomed to in the digital age, they did lay the foundation for a successful industry run by colonists who were intent on making a home for themselves in the foreign land. Through the end of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth, the South African wine industry began to flourish, though the bulk of its production was fortified and sweet wine along with the grape distillate Brandy. 
By the end of the eighteenth century, vineyards had expanded quite quickly to cover further territories in South Africa and keep up with the demand of exports that had all but ballooned over the past hundred and fifty years. Unfortunately nothing gold can stay and when the British took over the territory from the Dutch the burgeoning wine industry took a massive hit in terms of exports. Britain, at the time, was reestablishing its trade relationships with France that had been soured during the Second Hundred Years War and as the wines of Bordeaux, Champagne, the Loire Valley et al began to make their way back into the hands of British consumers, exports from South Africa fell. Those factors along with Phylloxera and the Anglo-Boer War left the South African wine industry in rough shape at the beginning of the twentieth century. The government’s answer to the woes they were plagued with was to establish cooperatives. The biggest of which, KWV, was a government backed enterprise which worked to define everything from grape prices to quotas per vineyard. Because of the co-ops' focus on quantity, the quality of South African wines struggled, though many of the country’s oldest vineyards were preserved and continue to bear fruit to this day thanks to the efforts of those co-op farmers and viticulturalists. 

Early into the introduction of Apartheid little changed, though by the 1960’s when the reality of the racist governing system had made headlines across the world, international sanctions were put into place which hampered the industry (but for like the noblest of reasons). In 1994 Apartheid ended and those sanctions were lifted when South African wineries were able to run as artisanal operations, no longer encumbered by government output quotas, nor held back by racial biases on hiring. 


Wine #1: Pearce Predhomme Chenin Blanc


Chenin Blanc is the most planted varietal in South Africa, accounting for around 18% of all vinous plantings and while Anjou in the Loire Valley might be the true home of the delicious white grape, more Chenin Blanc vines are found in South Africa than anywhere else on the planet. 
This wine, a collaboration between Canadian wine industry maven Nicholas Pearce and Will Predhomme, a former wine buyer for Fairmont, Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, as well as a candidate for the Master Sommelier accreditation, is made of fruit from Stellenbosch. Grown on granite and quartz rich soil in the southwestern-most part of the region, an area best known for its rolling mountains and university which boasts a renowned Oenology program. This Chenin Blanc is sourced from old vines, and uses no commercial yeasts in its fermentation process. The wine, which was made in partnership with Radford Dale, is processed in stainless steel tanks with lees contact for some time. It is a bright and refreshing wine with notes of pear, quince, honeysuckle and wet stone. 

Wine #2: Dorrance Rouge


Dorrance Wines is a labour of love that was founded by Christophe & Sabrina Durand who have strived to create wines that are terroir driven, honour tradition and exude excellence. Christophe emigrated from Calvados, France in 1995 and established himself as a supplier of premium French barriques for the burgeoning wine industry that was on the precipice of greatness. His venture into winemaking began when his curiosity was piqued by the possibility of wines that were expressive of their origin. His first cuvee, a Syrah, was released in 2000.
Since then, the success of Dorrance has been seen the world over. Every year their wines are hailed as some of South Africa’s finest. To achieve perfect expression, Christophe relies on unique vineyard sites, early picking and rigorous sorting to bring in,” beautiful, healthy berries which shape a more balanced wine with a low PH, higher natural acidity and lower alcohol.”
This wine is 100% Cinsault, with its fruit being sourced from different growing sites in the Swartland region. The wine is processed entirely by the whole cluster, there is not a destemming or crushing process used. All of the grapes are fermented in open tanks using only native yeasts before they are aged in 70% stainless steel and 30% oak barrique. No additions are done to the grapes other than a small amount of sulfur before and after fermentation.
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