Jeanri-Tine van Zyl: On wine recommendations

June 12, 2015
by Christian
in Opinion & Analysis
with 5 Comments
Pair with green chicken curry.

Pair with green chicken curry.

There’s a certain scene in my life that seems to play out on repeat. I’m at a dinner party where the host is making the obligatory introductions: for all the other careers I manage between 8 and 5 I still get introduced as “the wine writer”. This title elicits a certain expectation from dinner party guests – I must be able to recommend wine – and quite often I’m cornered with this question: “What is your favourite wine?”

Cue glazed-over eyes. I don’t have a favourite wine. My favourite wine is whatever I have in my glass at that point in time, but I get that it’s not necessarily the most appropriate answer. As someone who engages with wine on a professional level, whose study is filled with wine samples and who gets to taste and enjoy the latest releases, I often find it difficult to tap into the mind of the average consumer – as I hardly ever need to go into a liquor store and decide which wine to buy. I do however understand that a wine recommendation at a dinner party can go a long way in lighting up a consumer’s lateral habenula during a visit to Tops, and therefore I always endeavour to offer some guidance on wines that are good to drink now.

First, I establish what the person likes to drink, whether it is red or white or any particular varietal, and then I recommend wines I’ve tested in social settings and which I’ve observed as being general crowd pleasers. Do you like Merlot? Then try De Grendel’s. Chardonnay? Tokara offers some good value drinking in that category. In the mood for something different? Then you’ll enjoy Waterkloof’s Cinsault.

However, a recent tasting of the latest releases by Neethlingshof Estate in Stellenbosch has also provided me with a catch-all answer to anyone seeking a wine recommendation of sorts: any wine bottled under the Neethlingshof label is worth pouring. The estate ‘s wine portfolio is divided into the Short Story Collection, and it’s Premium Collection – although don’t let the labels fool you as both categories provide enjoyable drinking with prices ranging from R55 for the white wines to R180 ex-cellar for the flagship reds.

The range is also rather diverse with all the notable varietals represented, as well as a ‘ringer’ of sorts in the way of The Six Flowers (R95 ex-cellar), a daring white blend of six grape varieties which is crazy-good when matched with Thai food.

You are welcome.

  • Jeanri-Tine van Zyl worked for Wine magazine as a journalist when it was still in print and is now a communications consultant with her own company called Feed That Bird, freelance writer and an occasional wine judge.

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  1. Marthelize TredouxJune 13, 2015 at 10:43 amReply

    I agree with your assessment of Neethlingshof and I’ll add that the Owl Post Pinotage is another favourite. Highly recommendable :)

  2. Dorette Van ZylJune 13, 2015 at 12:38 amReply

    Thank you for these enticing recommendations! Neethlingshof on the list for this weekend.

  3. KwispedoorJune 12, 2015 at 8:21 amReply

    I’m also forever asked for wine recommendations. I’ve often wondered how many of my recommendations – opened when I was not there to check it – ended up with TCA or another wine fault…

    • JeanriJune 13, 2015 at 12:45 pmReply

      Kwispedoor, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. I once tried to teach my circle of friends the difference between a ‘corked’ and not faulty wine by illustrating both – they insisted on drinking the corked wine as it was ‘smoother’. Then again, maybe you move in more discerning circles.

      • KwispedoorJune 15, 2015 at 8:28 am


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