YESTERDAY: We made some great progress for Wines of South Africa in Los Angeles …. honestly, probably not the first place Californians think about for great wine…. but should be included in a very short list!!!
For the most part; restaurants in LA ignore the opportunity to showcase the great value South Africa can create… A $10 glass of South African wine can be amazing… while we would struggle to find anything close in California that would touch this platitude. This should be a wake up call to the Sommelier but they were sadly unmoved and for the most part didn’t attend despite our huge effort to invite (heartbreaking) … we are honest in our efforts and assessments and see the challenge South Africa is presented with… but retailers came in mass and so did the press channel (and we will need to work to change this if South Africa is to have greater success). The classes were a huge hit! I have never had a program where every class sold out (Four sold out programs yesterday) so this would be the approach I would continue to explore if I was South Africa… and Jim Clarke gets huge applause as the right guy… on time, tempo… his presentations had great impact and will play an important roll in the future growth.
The fact is that South Africa makes GREAT WINE. I start with a quick look at the amazing whites!
– Chenin Blanc: One could argue this is the best dry Chenin in the world. The old vine & high-tier designations are spectacular… while the volume wines represent great values. Christopher Lavin entertained the VIPs with an array of wines from Audi Bodenhurst and other storied producers that really took my breath away. When you look at the top wines – you’re looking at wines that sell between $25-$50 a bottle… for the best of the best…a fraction of the cost for similar effort from California…. I know because I make one! They are selling great wine in California at the cost I incur just to make a great wine in California! and that is the key to the difference in price!!!
– Sauvignon Blanc: Distinctively different – robust, punctuated, intense, bold and driven – a style I greatly prefer over other island locations to the south (no names) that are sweet and lack finesse. Cape Classics and The Sorting Table whom I always turn to for an authentic impression showed off a number of my favorites… Neil Ellis Wines, Linton Park Wines just to name a few.
– Chardonnay – true varietal character with high end marks, and sits perfectly between the acid and stone styles of Burgundy and the ripe and rich California cream. Boschendal Wijnen, Babylonstoren, Meerlust Wine all have similar styles and efforts of merit.
– White Blends – David Shaw turned me onto a unique kitchen sink blend with Chenin, SB, Chard, Viura (Macabeo)…. it was my white of the day (David what was that called)?
– GSM – MSG – SGM – the Rhône blends are more rhoney that some of the Rhônes themselves today… beautiful and balanced with terroir and finesse. Mullineux Wines – Absolutely stole the show! with blends from The Chocolate Block igniting conversation with a sensational blend.
– Cabernet and Cabernet Franc were HUGE hits last night – with California ripening away the Pyrazines – you sometimes forget the difference between Cabernet and Merlot… not in South Africa! The nose knows… and I loved the pencil lead and graphite (Cabernet Franc) with the tension of the old world… a number of great versions. Meerlust Wine – Backsberg – De Toren Private Cellar – Keermont Vineyards – Edgebaston Wines
– Pinotage – Last but NOT least – you may have written off Pinotage but last night it was “”””all the rage””” – there is some new energy in this category and even the classic brands are making vastly improved wines that thrill!!! Kanonkop Wine Estate – absolutely knocked people out! – Beaumont Family Wines – Deetlefs Wine Estate – Diemersfontein Wine Estate – Simonsig – the wines are marked, detailed, intense, and wild… and I think Pinotage has new life!!!
OTHERS: Pinot Noir – Sparking wines – Rose – white blends – red blends – it is a very safe bet that South Africa will astonish you at comparable dollars…. to your ordinary wine… so give it a shot! I will be increasing my South African intact and hope they will come back next year for another effort…. we have much work to do to get the word out…. one day will not be enough but we definitely take on this project with great enthusiasm… and hope to build momentum.
I want to thank iHeartRadio radio Diva Lisa Foxx for her support – and Michael Moloney for bringing all his great friends. Michael Moloney is a major influencer and his show Extreme Makeover Home Edition is one of our favorites!
Ian Blackburn, Founder http://www.winela.com/
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