Can’t tell a sultry Syrah from a smooth-talking Pinotage? We introduce you to the different red wines.
Now that you have developed a taste for white wines, it’s time to delve into reds – particularly as the weather begins to cool, and thoughts of hearty stews, indulgent desserts and all comfort foods in general are top of mind. This is the season to be staying in and enjoying the yummier things in life. Why not brush up on your knowledge of red wines in the process?
A firm favourite in the family of reds, Cab Sav is perhaps best known for being front and centre in a classic Bordeaux blend. Its status as king of the reds can be partly attributed to the plant’s hardiness and resistance to insects and disease, and partly to the wine’s stellar ability to age. Carefully preserved for a few years, a good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon can develop into a full and complex wine with deep berry flavours along with hints of spice and cedar. This noble variety has a deep hue and firm tannins, making it a robust wine that’s not to be quaffed by the faint of heart.
Pinot Noir has shaken off the label of merely being the better half of a Pinotage grape, and has stepped out to be appreciated in its own right. Light and crisp, with good freshness, distinct vegetal flavours and dangerous drinkability, Pinot Noir is finding its groove not only in SA, but in France as well. While it is best drunk chilled on a balmy summer’s
evening, the smokier varieties can be brought well into the winter season. A good Pinot Noir can be enjoyed either in its youth or matured. And for toasting special occasions, try a bubbly Pinot Noir Cap Classique.
Merlot is an early-ripening variety with a thicker skin than most red grapes. This thick skin gives it its characteristic soft, round tannins, making it an easy drinker and an often-used component of blends, particularly with Cabernet Sauvignon. However, more and more, Merlot is also being given the opportunity to shine on its own. You can expect fruity flavours of raspberry, strawberry, black cherry and plum; and a nose of spicy mocha, vanilla and cloves.
Back in 1925, the first viticultural professor at Stellenbosch, Abraham Izak Perold, combined the noble characteristics of Pinot Noir and the reliability of Cinsaut (also known as Hermitage). What he created is now one of South Africa’s best exports. Pinotage is deliciously bright and juicy in its youth, but at a ripe old age it develops complex, fruity characteristics. Not all Pinotage wines are made to age, however, so best to check when purchasing. This varietal is such a prominent presence on the South African wine scene that any blend featuring 30–70% Pinotage is fondly known as a ‘Cape blend’. Its colour ranges from deep ruby to an earthy brick red, and you’ll pick up flavours of spice and berries.
Dark, spicy and smoky, Shiraz is without a doubt the seductress of the wine world. The characteristics found in a Shiraz or Syrah are wide and varied, ranging from floral and fruity to meaty and complex. The most oft-cited flavours are of ripe
blueberry or blackberry – almost always with an earthy undertone and a distinct pepperiness. A bottle of Shiraz has high
tannins, which means it only gets better with age.
[Image by Jeff Sieman via Unsplash]