Last month, I was invited to a virtual event hosted by Holocaust Museum Houston called “Let Freedom Ring” in honor of International Day of Peace, as well as the Museum’s traveling exhibition Mandela: Struggle for Freedom. The event was a conversation moderated by Emmy award-winning journalist Linda Lorella with renowned Houston photographer Earlie Hudnall, Jr., who spoke about photographing Nelson Mandela during his keynote speech at Texas Southern University’s graduation in 1991, as well as his other work capturing Houston communities. I had never heard of Mr. Hudnall prior to this event and I will never forget him. As an art fanatic, hearing him tell the back stories behind some of his famous photos was awesome. Here is a link to the conversation if you’re interested in checking out the replay. But the other cool element of the event was that in the spirit of Mandela and his homeland, the organizers sent two bottles of South African wine and a mini charcuterie box to enjoy. You know art and wine are two of my favorite things! Listening to Mr. Hudnall’s stories while sipping on these South African wines made for a great at-home tasting. While the wine selection was not discussed, I did my own research to learn more about South African wine and of course I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the two that were provided. But first, let’s take a quick look at South African wine.
A Look at South African Wine
The first vines planted in South Africa were introduced from Europe and planted in 1655. The first wine produced was four years later in 1659. South Africa has a mediterranean climate that is ideal for wine production. The cold, wet winters and warm dry summers of a Mediterranean climate are the ideal climatic conditions to nurture vines to produce excellent quality wines. The most important South African wine regions are around the two coastal cities of Stellenbosch and Paarl. South Africa is known for red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, and Pinotage…just to name a few. Pinotage is South Africa’s very own grape variety; a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. In the white wine category, it’s known for Chenin Blanc, the most planted grape variety in South Africa—as well as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, Riesling, and Viognier. Today, South Africa has become one of the most exciting wine regions.
2017 De Wetshof Estate Limestone Hill Chardonnay
The selected white wine was a Chardonnay (100 percent) from the De Wetshot Estate in Robertson Wine Valley. The name De Wetshof has been synonymous with the production of fine wines in South Africa since the 1970’s and has become known internationally as South Africa’s eminent Chardonnay House due to the pioneering role it played in introducing this noble Burgundian grape to the country. As a cool climate variety, a lot of South Africa’s regions aren’t particularly well suited for Chardonnay. However, the coastline along the South stays cool.
I’m not even going to beat around the bush with this one. This is by far thee best unoaked Chardonnay that I’ve ever had. I can’t even put into words how good it was. I need to find another bottle ASAP. The De Wetshof Estate Limestone Hill Chardonnay is medium-bodied with aromas of grapefruit and green apple. For my ABC friends (Anything But Chardonnay) who don’t like the heavy buttery/oaky Chardonnays, this one just might make you think differently. It’s unoaked as I mentioned above and has the most amazing tropical fruit flavors. The flavors are vibrant and refreshing. I got a little apple, peach, and lemon. You can also taste some of the lees from the wine, which adds to its rich texture. All these flavors combine to produce a wine that is very drinkable. It paired nicely with the charcuterie box that was provided.
2017 Stark-Condé Cabernet Sauvignon
The selected red wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon blend from the family-run winery Stark-Condé. It consists of 85 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 8 percent Petit Verdot, 4 percent Petite Sirah, 2 perent Malbec, and 1 percent Cabernet Franc. Located in the Jonkershoek Valley, Stark-Condé is known for making handcrafted wines using tried and true traditional methods. Meticulous viticulture, selected harvesting, hand grape- sorting, small-batch fermentation, patient barrel maturation — these are the guiding philosophies behind the wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of South Africa’s most planted red varietals. There is a savory complexity to South African Cab, which makes it a delightful alternative to the more fruit-forward Cabs from Paso Robles or Sonoma, California. This full-bodied Cab was a nice treat. It had aromas of blackberries and cedar. On the palate, you’ll find there’s a lot of richness to this wine. It has dark fruit and mocha flavors that balances well with the tannins. It’s a solid red, but I have to say that the Chardonnay stole my heart!
I thoroughly enjoyed the “Let Freedom Ring” event and the opportunity to try these two South African wines. Have you tried South African wine before? If so, what’s your favorite? I can’t wait to visit the region one day. Until next time…glasses up!