Rather than focusing on one type of wine from a South Africa, the May tasting was a cross-section of the country's various bottlings.
While the type of wine was known, the other details were kept behind the brown paper bag, so that we were not influenced by producer, price or vintage.
Overall, tasters were unimpressed. There were some good bottles, but none really wowed, and at least one garnered mostly contempt. Perhaps our small sample showed that South Africa still has a way to go to compete on the world stage.
Note that Sarah could not locate a South African sparkler, so a French bubbly was substituted. Wines are listed in the order tasted, and unlike our usual format, they were not rated.
Domaine du Pas Saint Martin Brut Samur 2000. Featuring aromatics that reminded tasters of plastic, summer squash, chalk, eraser and green apples. Tiny bubbles, but not very lively. On the palate, there was raisin, mushrooms, earth, wet leaf, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A dark style of sparkler, finishing with cranberries and hints of cream. David felt that this was a sparkling wine for food, with Ali suggesting game. Sarah's bottle. About $17.
Indaba Chenin Blanc 2004 (Western Cape). Elmer's glue, shellac, latex paint, cider, must, red apples, spices, Glade air freshener, and rubber gloves on the nose. Ali thought that it smelled "like something you need to put a mask on for before you put it on the wall". Other tasters noted Calvados, epoxy glue and port, to which Ali responded, "I don't smell port, I smell urine". And Kristin simply said, "This is offensive to me". Tasting of salt water, apples and vinegar, with a syrupy/oily texture. Gilles decided that it was "not very happy in my mouth", and Ali felt it was "like eating an apple, then splashing Renew in your mouth". David settled on "not attractive", with flavors of "lanolin", and Andy added "battery acid", and finishing with "I wouldn't give this to by worst enemy". Kristin's bottle. About $10.
Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Stellenbosch). Grassy, with grapefruit, fresh herbs, and B.O. (Ali, of course). David was reminded of "a freshly mown lawn", and Andy added " . . . and you're sweating", along with "volleyball beach sweat". Very clear, bright and clean in hue. Sarah felt it was "sparkly", with other tasters noting vanilla and "dirty fruit" (Ali). David craved grilled vegetables with this. David's bottle. About $20.
Southern Right Pinotage 2004 (Walker Bay). Aromas of plums, flowers, vegetables, soil, wheat, spices, smoke, nutmeg, cocoa, blackberries, milk chocolate, wafer cookies, and burnt sugar. Gilles noted "wet pavement", while Andy detected "foot". Tasters found tart cherry, hot cinnamon, lighter fluid, wet ash tray, and vanilla on the palate. Smokey. David commented, "I'm not sure I like this", while Andy said, "It's got palate girth". Sarah felt that it "tastes like someone put a cigarette out in it". Ali's bottle. About $19.
Onyx Shiraz 2002 (Groenekloof). Smelling darker in profile, with pepper and blackberries, and looking thicker in the glass. Dark, and featuring burnt sugar, charcoal, dust, and chalk. Gilles felt that it "smells happy", and Ali added, "but mischievous". Andy decided that "it's plotting something". Tasting peppery, with tobacco, blackberries, smoke, and anise. Tasted thinner than it smelled. More spicy than fruity, with a leathery quality, and overall more sophisticated than the Pinotage. Gilles' bottle. About $20.
Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Robertson). Aromas of caramel, bread, currants, forest, and dark cherries. Ali added, "a little dishwater, but not in a bad way". Pepper, cherry, and cough syrup flavors. Finishes long, but not complex. Medium-bodied, smooth in texture, with blueberries up front, and cedar in the back. Not effusive, but still a good value. Andy's bottle. About $9.