Monday, September 5, 2016

Explore South African Wine

South African wines have come a long way. Ten years ago it wouldn't be uncommon to hear most people say, "South Africa makes wine?" Today, South African wines have a higher profile but have still gone unexplored by many wine drinkers. To understand the challenges winemakers have faced, here’s a brief history of the South African wine industry. The first wine made in South Africa, as recorded in the diary of Jan Van Riebeeck, was February 2nd 1659. Because of the threat of hungry birds, farmers were forced to pick grapes early so acid was sky high, creating harsh wines of low quality.  Things were not totally bleak as Simon van der Sel, the Cape Colony’s first Governor, gained some international acclaim with a noteworthy sweet wine.

In the early 19th century, the Cape passed from Dutch to British control. With an increase in settlement and shipping came an increase in the number of vineyards and by 1825 wine accounted for more than half of the Cape's exports, but quality was still considered poor. 

A change in the right direction came in 1918 with the formation of the KWV, a co-operative formed with the intention of creating unity among South African wine farmers and improving quality. The KWV grew and in 1940 the government gave them the power to set prices for table wine as well as setting quotas for wine production. Despite its intentions, the system at this point incentivized quantity over quality. Farmers grew as many grapes as possible and then sold them to the co-operatives who would make the wine. Despite this lack of motivation from KWV, quality wines were starting to be made but Apartheid-induced sanctions kept these wines from being exported and kept the country isolated from the rest of the wine world. 

1994 saw the end of Apartheid and is also seen as the start of the modern wine industry in South Africa. During the 90's, the KWV dropped the quota system and price setting, eventually becoming a private company which now exists as a wine producer, not a regulatory body. Winemakers at this point had the freedom to grow and innovate with an eye toward producing high quality wines. 
South Africa grows international varietals such as Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, but Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc are their two most planted grapes. They also have one grape unique to the region. Pinotage, a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, was created in 1925 by South African scientist, Abraham Perold and it has become South Africa’s signature grape.

Here is a sampling of some of the South African wines we currently stock.

Remhoogte Pinotage $18.99
"Lam" Pinotage $14.99
We offer two Pinotage which exhibit two different sides of the grape. The Remhoogte Bushvine shows more of the traditional characteristics of the varietal. It is full bodied with red fruit, black pepper, tobacco and is slightly smoky. Our other offering is the Lammershoek "Lam" which expresses more of the characteristics of Pinot Noir. This wine is light and elegant with pleasing red fruit. We recommend this one with a light chill.

Terre Brulee Chenin Blanc $15.99
Terre Brulee Le Rouge $14.99
We currently carry two wines from the Terre Brulee winery. The Chenin Blanc is dry and refreshing with citrus, honeysuckle and bright acid. The Le Rouge red, a blend of Shiraz and Cinsault, is savory with blackberry, light spice and enough oak to give it good weight and structure.


Kanonkp has established itself as a one of the best producers of South African Wines. The Kadette, a blend of primarily Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon, is a full bodied wine with black fruit, raspberry, and mocha with light earthy notes.

Kanonkop Kadette $14.99
Morgenster Lourens River Valley $31.99

For those looking for a more serious wine, we recommend the Morgenster Lourens River Valley 2010. A blend of mostly Cabernet Franc with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, this hearty wine delivers cherry and black fruit, chocolate and sweet spice with well-integrated tannin.


From this point on, wines from South Africa will continue to improve and it won’t be long before they take their place among the great wines of the world. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Evolution of Rose

It wasn't long ago that wine consumers view of Rose was as overly sweet, much like White Zinfandel, which was actually created by accident. Sutter Home was trying to make a dry, almost white wine with their red zinfandel grapes. During this process they experienced stuck fermentation in which the yeast dies before all the sugar is consumed, thus creating a sweet, pink wine. Sutter Home preferred the "mistake" wine, released it and it took off like gangbusters. This was back in 1975 and this wine, while technically not a Rose, became many Americans’ first impression of a Rose type wine.

This impression actually began quite a bit earlier. In France, "pink" wines were the first to be produced. In historic times, before modern winemaker techniques were developed, wines were made with low maceration which gave it its light color. After WWII, two Portuguese winemakers released a slightly sweet, sparkling Rose-like wine in Europe and the U.S. and set sales records. 

Meanwhile, in Provence, quality Rose's were being produced in 125BC and by the 14th Century became the wine of kings and aristocrats. Today, Rose production is around half to two thirds of all wine produced in Provence. With its food friendly, light crisp style, the region became synonymous with Rose and became the "go to" region for U.S. drinkers who slowly began to discover that "pink" doesn't necessarily mean sweet.  

At approximately 13%, the U.S. is now the second largest consumer of Rose' wine, behind only France. So how did we get here? Some say the trend began in The Hamptons where about five years ago, drinking Rose became a lifestyle and was known as "Hamptons Gatorade". Others theorize that the influx of Europeans, and their love of Rose, helped re-introduce it to Americans. Either way, the popularity surge has been good for everyone. Rose's made from a variety of grapes and regions, both Old and New World, are gaining in popularity throughout the U.S.

"Rose season" used to start in the summer. Now it begins in the spring and is practically year round. Here at Windsor Wine, the process began in February when we began tasting lots of Rose in order to find what we considered the best for our customers. Our selection includes not only Provence, but Rose from all over France as well Spain, Italy, South Africa and the U.S. Whether you're looking for light and crisp, full and fruity or something in between, we have something to please every palate.