Simonsig Chenin Blanc

December 9, 2007

I like wines from South Africa. They are consistent quality, never bad, though I must admit never jump out as the best wines either. Most of them are super drinkable, every day table wines at a decent price. I realize there are very expensive South African wines, but I think what South Africa is really best at is to produce decent table wines for the mass market.

South African wines are somewhere between new world and old world. Wine tradition goes back to the 1600s so one cannot really call this new world. On the other hand, the style is more reminiscent of new world wines, perhaps a bit less fruit bombish, more sophisticated. One such example is the Chenin Blanc, 2007 from Simonsig. Chenin Blanc is originally from the Loire Valley of France, but it is heavily planted in the new world, including South Africa. Simonsig’s is a beautiful fresh Chenin fully of tropical fruit, pineapple, guava, pears and a backdrop of green apples that shows through the acidity. Really smooth white wine with a big bouquet. At this price I think it is difficult to find a better table wine.

The winery produces a large variety, including the infamous Pinotage (a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault) , South Africa’s unique varietal. I recommend sticking to their Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc, though.

Name: Simonsig Chenin Blanc, 2007

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Body: Medium to Full

Price: 6.50 euros

Got it at: Rothschild Supermarket, Budapest, Hungary

Simonsig Chenin Blanc, 2007

Wines from Africa

December 8, 2007

People in North Africa and Morocco in particular have made wine for thousands of years. This may not be obvious, as alcohol is generally not available in restaurants in Morocco, unless they cater to foreigners or to the tiny fraction of the population that is more western oriented. While wine making tradition may have a lot of legs to stand on in Morocco, the wines I have tasted unfortunately were nothing to write home about. Perhaps this is because I only had the chance to taste from one of the largest producers, Thalvin, so it may not be fair to be generally judgmental.

The first one was Thalvin’s Cuvée du Président Rouge. This blend is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Grenache and 20% Tempranillo. The Cuvée is a fairly mass produced wine, light to medium bodied, very little complexity, a bit flat. It was matured in oak so you get a tiny bit of vanilla, but don’t think Bordeaux or Napa.

The second wine was the Medallion White. This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a white wine. Let’s just say it is interesting, and I am glad I tried it, but I think Cabernet is not exactly known for white wines. Maybe there is a reason for this 😉 I do not know how to describe the taste, but it completely lacked acidity and there was almost no fruit to taste. It had body, but I am not sure where the body came from . I’m going to invent a phrase here, but maybe the best way to describe the wine was it was mineral-forward. It was absolutely out of balance and was among the most boring and weird whites I have ever tasted. Still, I am glad I did. You only learn by trying.

Next time I am in Morocco, I will need to try some wines from producers other than Thalvin, but I will not be seeking out Moroccan wines in Europe or in the US.

Name: Cuvée du Président Rouge, Thalvin, NV

Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Body: Light to Medium

Price: 10 euros

Got it at: Riad Safa, Marrakesh, Morocco

Cuvée du Président Rouge, Thalvin, NV

Name: Medallion Blanc, Thalvin, NV

Rating: 4.5 out of 10

Body: Medium to Full Bodied

Price: approx. 20 euros

Got it at: Narwama Restaurant, Marrakesh, Morocco

Medallion Blanc, Thalvin, NV