Last night I was a guest at a Cape Winemakers Guild technical tasting featuring unusual varieties with potential for production in South Africa. Presented by David Trafford of De Trafford in Stellenbosch.
In putting together the line-up, Trafford was keen to explore varieties that retain their acidity even in hot growing conditions and hence quite a few Greek varieties – at latitudes of between 33 and 41 degrees, the vineyards of this country constitute some of the world’s hottest winegrowing areas. Wines to taste where from Assyrtiko, a white making wines with a particular salty character and closely associated with the island of Santorini as well as reds Agiorgitiko (rustic Gamay) and Xinomavro (poor man’s Nebbiolo).
Also up for discussion were Roussanne, Grenache and its downy-leaved variant Grenache Peluda and Italian variety Aglianico (termed the “Barolo of the South”) and most of the varieties on the night are either already available or soon to be available locally.
The point has been made often enough that South African producers has tended to work with a relatively limited inventory of grape varieties which has possibly artificially capped their ability to achieve excellence so exploring the potential of lesser known varieties can only be a good thing in principle. That said, none of the wines on the night had me feeling that a whole-scale shift in the national planting programme was in order.
The Hatzidakis Santorini 2012 from Assyrtiko was a case in point. Citrus through peach plus a definite salty edge with really bright acidity. Didn’t hate it but didn’t like it very much, either. Probably much better with sundried mackerel on a beach in Greece, however.