Texas Wine Collective Texas Tasting Series
Texas Wine Collective Texas Tasting Series
- - - - - - Texas vs South Africa - - - - - -
Sunday, 8-Jan-2023 - 12:30 and 2:30 pm
 This event offers attendees the opportunity to compare and contrast wines produced in Texas versus wines made in South Africa from similar grape varieties. Chef Amber Saidler, TWC Director of Operations, will prepare delicious small food bites to accompany the wines. Reservations and advance ticket purchase are required – see the www.texaswinecollective.com website.
South Africa has a long and storied wine history dating back to 1659. Grape growing and wine production is concentrated around Cape Town and the areas along and just inland from the southern coastline. European settlers were key pioneers in developing the South African wine industry, so the grape varieties planted and the delimitation of wine regions are similar to those in central Europe. A Wine of Origin system was begun in 1973 and currently defines about 60 appellations, like Constantia, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Breede River, and Robertson. This WO system is very similar to the Appellation of Origin (AOC or AOP) system used throughout Europe and is designed to help define the origin of grapes, and in some cases even define allowed grape varieties. Wines may be produced from a single grape variety or from blends of two or more varieties.
This South African WO concept is not that different from the American Viticultural Area (AVA) system used in the U.S. and Texas, except that the AVA system does not include definition of what grape varieties are allowed in each growing area.
In the early 20th century South African farmers mostly raised crops like fruit orchards, grains, and hay for livestock rather than grapes. Eventually many vineyards were developed using high-yield grapes like Cinsault which created a vast oversupply of grapes and wine. This wine “glut” led to the establishment of a government-backed co-operative known as KWV which helped bring supply and demand into balance. Because of the policy of Apartheid, boycotts of South African goods, including wine, limited the recognition of their wine industry. When Apartheid was ended in the 1990s the world market for South African wines began to develop. Growers and producers adopted better viticultural and winemaking technologies that resulted in much better wines and better marketability. Today about 70% of the wine produced is table wine and about 30% distilled and fortified brandy or port-style wines. The most widely
Chenin Blanc is best known for the delicious, crisp wines produced in the Loire Valley of northwestern France. However, it has adapted to many wine region climates across the world, including Texas and South Africa. When Texans were first looking for white grape varieties to plant, Chenin Blanc came to mind as it was being grown in large vineyards in California’s hot, dry central San Joaquin Valley. In the jug wine era of the 1960s-1980s, Chenin Blanc was a big part of many white wines regardless of the name on the label – Chablis, Sauternes, White Burgundy, etc. So, if the grape can flourish in that hot, arid California climate, it certainly should do OK in the Lone Star State – and it does, especially in the Texas High Plains. For similar reasons Chenin Blanc, also known as Steen, was planted over wide portions of South Africa and has produced well in both warm, dry areas with Mediterranean-type climate and in cooler, more elevated regions with climate more similar to the Loire Valley.
FYI – A common practice with Chenin Blanc is to leave a hint of residual sugar (RS) to moderate the inherent natural acidity. RS below 0.5% is still considered dry and the impact is more “felt” on the palate as smoothness rather than tasted as sweetness.
McPherson Cellars Chenin Blanc 2021
Texas High Plains AVA
This delightful white wine is 100% Chenin Blanc from the Lepard Vineyard located just south of Brownfield, TX, located in Terry County where about 70% of all the wine grapes in Texas are grown. The grapes were machine harvested; fermented 28 days at 58oF in SS tank; aged only in SS tank; bottled @ 12.9% ABV 0.4% RS (essentially dry). Chenin Blanc is famous for making a wide range of delicious wines in the Loire Valley of France – dry, semi-sweet, dessert sweet, and sparkling. Chenin Blanc is also widely grown in South Africa and commonly called Steen. The variety has been well established on the Texas High Plains for over 40 years. Winemakers Kim McPherson and Spenser Igo cold ferment and SS age their Chenin Blanc to bring out both the tart and sweet apple and pear aromas and flavors so characteristic in dry, crisp Chenin Blanc. This delicious wine offers a wonderful splash of “Texas Sunshine” and pairs with grilled seafood, avocado stuffed with chicken salad, goat cheese on toast, and grilled seafood and pork.
The Rhinory Chenin Blanc 2019
Stellenbosch WO South Africa
This wine was sourced from several vineyards in the Devon Valley area in the north-central part of Stellenbosch WO region and produced at Stellenbosch Vineyards. Fruit was hand harvested in February 2019 and fermented in SS tank at cool temperature for 14-days. Winemakers Bernard Claassen and Abraham de Villiers put this wine into French oak barrels (80% new) for malolactic transformation and 24 months aging. A total of 211 cases were produced with 13.7% ABV and 0.24% RS (dry). A final pH of 3.22 brings a crispness that inspires the palate and helps pair with a lot of food options. Aromas of peach, lemon zest, and apricot lead into flavors of baked pear and honeysuckle. There is a creamy texture on the palate with notes of vanilla and buttery tones due to the oak aging and the finish shows a limey acidity with baked pear tart character. Pairing suggestions include curries, mole sauce, seafood dishes with rice, and baked or broiled fish.
FYI - The Rhinory, a new tasting room located on Wine Road 290 managed by Shane Saidler, features a range of top-quality South African wines plus some very good Texas options. A special feature at The Rhinory is a visit with Blake, their four-year-old white rhinoceros. Abraham de Villiers and Bernard Claassen have been Stellenbosch Vineyard’s winemaking duo for more than 15 years. They draw fruit from an array of vineyards planted in the coastal region of Stellenbosch WO. Stellenbosch Vineyards is the innovation hub of Advini South Africa producing wines at several levels of quality. About 80% of their production is exported, and includes a number of customized offerings, like this Chenin Blanc and others offered at The Rhinory.
 As the result of strong international influences it is not surprising that well-known grape varieties or cultivars like Chenin Blanc (aka Steen), Shiraz (aka Syrah), Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, and the other key Bordeaux varieties have become dominant in South Africa. The southern tip of the African continent where most of the key wine regions are located has a Mediterranean-type climate where grape varieties common to Spain, France, and Italy flourish. Generally milder temperatures are found in the more elevated inland areas so grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are commonly grown. Pinotage, a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is a well-known South African variety and is rarely grown and produced in other countries.
One interesting feature in South Africa is the Benguela current pushing up from Antarctica that brings cool air along the coast and moderates high summer temperatures. With this current comes an added feature, a prevailing wind known as the “Cape Doctor” which helps keep vines dry thus limiting the risk of various mildew and fungal grapevine diseases. In some ways this may sound a bit like the climatological conditions on the Texas High Plains where high elevation of 3,000-4,000 ft help moderate summer temperatures and the West Texas wind seems to blow all the time.
(Note: In the southern hemisphere summer occurs in the months of December, January, and February!)
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted grape variety in the world, and that trend holds in both Texas and South Africa. Although Cabernet Sauvignon, and the other key Bordeaux grape varieties, typically prefer cooler climate conditions than Texas can offer, growers and winemakers have adapted with better suited clones and techniques to produce solid varietal wines. A lot of Cabernet Sauvignon is also grown in South Africa’s Mediterranean type climate that is moderated by a cooling ocean current and breezes making it easier to grow quality fruit.
Brennan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
This wine is a actually a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 89% and Carmenere 11%. The Cabernet was sourced from both Soleado Vineyards in Seagraves, TX, Gaines Cty, and Brennan’s Newburg Vineyards in Comanche County. The Carmenere was sourced from Lahey Vineyards just west of Brownfield, TX, Terry County. After receiving the machine harvested fruit, winemaker Todd Webster fermented the grapes separately in SS tanks or open-top vats at a moderate temperature for about 8-10 days. When finished, the wines were racked into a blend of American & French oak barrels and aged for 24-30 months. Eventually the cuvées were blended and bottled @ 13.6% ABV, 0% RS (dry). The color is deep ruby. Aromas of cherries, rhubarb, pipe tobacco, smoke and delicate notes of violets lead into flavors of sour cherries and black currants with notes of caramel, brioche, and five spice-blend. The wine offers a fine balance between fruit, acidity, and sturdy tannins on a long finish. This pairs well with grilled and smoked meats, roasted leg of lamb, and Texas BBQ.
Spier Seaward Cabernet Sauvignon 2020
Coastal Region W.O. Stellenbosch South Africa
Spier has been producing wine since 1692 in the Cape Region of South Africa. Their Seaward range of wines represent those most influenced by the currents and sea breezes along the Cape’s southern coast. This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was machine harvested, fermented in temperature-controlled SS tanks, aged 14 months in used French oak barrels, and bottled at 14.0% ABV, 0% RS (dry). The wine has a dark ruby color with aromas and flavors of plums, blackberries, ripe cherries with a pleasing balance between the components of fruit, acidity, oak flavoring, and finishing tannins. With a medium-full body and reasonably firm tannins, this will pair with burgers, grilled lamb or pork, roasted root vegetables, and beef stroganoff.
 The final pairing for this event includes two red wines, one an official “Meritage” blend from Lost Oak Winery in Burleson and a second Bordeaux-style blend – very much like a meritage - from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa.
The term “Meritage” on a wine label identifies a blend made from classic Bordeaux variety grapes, either red or white. The word Meritage combines merit and heritage to identify wines that represent the highest form of the winemaker’s art – blending. The goal for Meritage is to create a wine that highlights the best qualities of each variety used in the blend.
This concept began in Sonoma, California, and has spread to many other U.S. wine regions. The use of Meritage on a label is trademarked by The Meritage Alliance and may be used only upon approval and with a small fee. The goal is to foster the production of exceptional wines blended in the Bordeaux tradition. Meritage wines are handcrafted from the “noble” Bordeaux grape varieties.
Red wines must contain at least two of the following with no variety blended at greater than 90%:
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Carmenere.
For white wines the allowed varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle.
Lost Oak Winery Meritage 2020
This wine is registered with The Meritage Alliance and carries the name Meritage on the label. The composition is approximately Cabernet Sauvignon 50% from Diamante Doble Dos Vineyards and Merlot 35% from Diamante Doble Vineyards, both in Terry County west of Brownfield. Petit Verdot 10% was sourced from Sprayberry Vineyards near Midland, TX, and a dollop of Cabernet Franc from Burning Daylight Vineyards near Rendon, TX, south of Ft. Worth, was added.
The grapes were machine harvested, de-stemmed and crushed, and fermented separately in SS tanks at about 75oF over 8-10 days. Following malolactic transformation, the cuvées were aged for 20 months in a combination of used American and French oak barrels. The components were eventually blended and bottled at 15.1% ABV and <0.1% RS (dry). The color is rich garnet hue. The wine offers soft aromas of boysenberry and vanilla followed by flavors of Bing cherry, blackberry, baking spices, and more black cherry notes with gentle, rounded tannins at the finish. Pair with roast and potatoes, beef bourguignon, meatball subs, Camembert or Roquefort cheeses, and a dark chocolate-filled croissant.
Neethlingshof Estate The Caracal Red (blend) 2019
Stellenbosch WO South Africa
This red from venerable producer Neethlingshof is a Meritage-like blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Merlot 43%, and Petit Verdot 7%. Part of the Short Story Collection, this wine highlights special efforts supported by Neethlingshof like the preservation of wilderness area that is home for the Caracal cat, also known as the desert lynx. These secretive, nocturnal creatures are savvy hunters of rodents, small mammals, and can leap high enough to capture birds flying low to the ground.
Grapes were harvested by hand, de-stemmed and crushed, and fermented in rotating SS tanks at about 75oF over 7-9 days. Following malolactic transformation, the cuvées were aged for 12 months in a combination of new, second-fill, and third-fill 300 gal French oak barrels. The components were eventually blended and bottled at 14.0% ABV and <0.2% RS (dry). The color is deep ruby. The wine offers aromas and flavors of black plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, and mulberry fruit with notes of tobacco, toffee apple, baking spice, and a hint of tar. Pair with grilled meats, hearty stews, or rich cheeses (like Swiss or Manchego).
The world market now has access to numerous South African wines and they continue to gain in popularity in Texas. Two recently opened tasting rooms attest to that fact – The Rhinory on US-290 and Coordinates in downtown Fredericksburg. Texas grape growers and winemakers continue their efforts to improve wines from the Lone Star State and comparisons with quality wines from other important wine regions, like South Africa, provide a useful tool in measuring the quality of their wines.
Learn more from these references:
Neethlingshof Estate, https://www.neethlingshofestate.co.za
Spier Wine Farm, https://www.spier.co.za
Chenin Blanc, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/chenin_blanc
All About South African Wine, https://www.winefolly.com/deep-dive/south-african-wine-map
South African Wine, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_wine