Wines from the Western Cape

* A version of this column was first published in the on-line edition of Saturday’s Knoxville News Sentinel.

Some of South Africa's Best

Some of South Africa’s Best

South Africa’s Western Cape serves as the Rainbow Nation’s cradle of vineyards as well as its celebrated wine-producing hub. Most notable is the Stellenbosch area near Cape Town, where vacationers will stumble across endless rows of vines. The Mulderbosch vineyards, located in the hill country along Stellenbosch, has carved out a big presence on the South African wine scene in a very short period of time.

Founded less than a quarter century ago, Mulderbosch Vineyards started flexing its muscle almost immediately with rave reviews from big name wine critics. The winery’s success started with well received bottlings of popular white varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc and has more recently evolved into stellar production of fabulous rosé. They’ve managed to do what only a handful of major South African wine exports have, namely move beyond misconceptions about South African wines and the pigeon-holed Pinotage variety that many Americans equate with the South African wine scene.

Likewise, Mulderbosch bottles waste no time in separating themselves from international wine label conformity, instead opting to use a bottom to top ribbon label that is both eye catching and textural. After trying them, you’ll see why these wines are definitely worthy of their beauty pageant sash.

I recently had the pleasure of trying a handful of Mulderbosch wines that included both their big hitting whites and their newly released 2012 Rosé. Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2012 Mulderbosch Rosé is a fuller bodied rosé with a deep color that you’ll notice immediately. If this isn’t the most vibrant and brilliant colored rosé that I’ve seen this season, then it was beaten out by the whiskers of a horse’s nose.

With a bejeweled pink grapefruit color, the rosé has wonderful watermelon flavors and that “gotta have more” red berry presence. An excellent and prolonged finish with a perfectly refreshing mouth feel separates the Mulderbosch Rosé from the field. Enjoy after some summertime gardening or as a Sunday brunch showstopper.

If the moniker weren’t already snatched up, Mulderbosch might market this next wine (with it’s golden hues) as their mellow yellow. The 2011 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc reveals entertaining scents of Asian pear and bubble gum. Often referred to as Steen in South Africa, Chenin Blanc wine like the Mulderbosch also walks that Johnny Cash line of not being too sweet or too dry. A profile of simple, honeydew melon and pear persists from start to finish, allowing the wine to be approachable to most wine drinkers.

And when it comes to the 2011 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, I asked winemaker Adam Mason what made this wine so special. “Being about 5 miles from False Bay we are blessed by cooling afternoon winds that make a big difference to freshness and aromatic intensity. The wine sits in a really lovely place for Sauvignon Blanc, not too green and herbal like you would find in a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but with some riper citrus, melon and gooseberry notes that give a slightly softer element.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

What to drink: 2011 Acrobat Rosé of Pinot Noir


In this wide, wonderful world of wine overproduction, conglomerates are continually creating new brands and labels and blends with the emphasis more on eye catching artwork or clever catch phrases rather than what’s actually in the bottle. So, when established brands (like King Estate’s Acrobat) peel off another new wine label, I’m quick to raise the red flag. This year the king of Oregon wineries rolled out a new rosé comprised of Pinot Noir. And after trying it, I promptly lowered the old flag.

The 2011 Acrobat Rosé mirrors the brilliant color of sashimi grade salmon. Not excessively dry, it delivers refreshing summer-inspired flavors of raspberry and ripe strawberries. If they can keep the price and quality in line with the rest of the Acrobat wines, over time King Estate may go three for three with their entry-level brand.

French Rosé, not just pretty in pink

After decades of domestic misperception, the importation and consumption of French rosé wines is finally taking hold in the United States. This misunderstanding evolved almost exclusively around the American consumer’s hesitancy to embrace a color, the sometimes-maligned color pink.

Dogged by not-so-fond memories of our youthful drinking days, consumers in the U.S. struggled to separate the tutti-frutti wines of long ago college days from the often-similar colored rosé wines of France and other parts of Europe, that were actually much drier. Those cheap blush wines of years past, in easy accessible screw tops, took a toll on our psyches as well as our stomachs.

Fortunately for all parties involved, winemakers kept increasing production, importers kept introducing new rosé wines and we as consumers slowly took off the blinders, put a bottle in our basket and took one home, where we would soon be pleasantly surprised.

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Three countries wage battle for the best rosé

There’s a battle royale brewing this year over who’s been putting out the best rose’ wines. Historically, French rosé from Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley have been the unchallenged heavyweight champions of the world. But recently, the Americans and even the Italians have done some serious training, beefed up their outputs and thrown their hats in the ring. As a result, this year’s rosé releases have been interesting enough to warrant a three-way brawl as to who’s bottling the best.

Italian rosé wines are, in a word, different. The recurring theme to keep in mind with Italian rosé is that it’s not as fruit driven. Indeed, they’re scruffy little wines that are typically bone dry and beckon for a food partner to truly maximize their potential. Both the 2006 Regaleali Le Rosé and the 2005 Valle Reale Cerasuolo Rosé shared these common traits, as well as having aromas that emanate scents of a funky old-world cheese.

The Valle Reale Rosé from Abruzzo showed a better one-two punch ability as both a food wine and a solo sipper. It found its stride late in the match.

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