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2010 Mulderbosch, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa
Posted: Thursday February 16, 2012, 10:52 AM
By Joe Iurato of The Record

Could South Africa become the wine world's next Chile or Argentina— countries that not long ago seemed to dominate the wine market overnight with a flood of high-quality, wallet-friendly labels? I believe it's inevitable. Only since the abolishment of apartheid has the South African wine industry been able to implement new world techniques and sustainable farming practices within its vineyards. With new crops, modern equipment, fresh ideas, and the ability to trade freely, wineries in South Africa, old and new, are making themselves known. They are producing and exporting wines that are structured, appealing to the masses, and highly competitive within the value-priced market. So what should we expect to find out there? Big bold, new world cabernet sauvignon; crisp, vibrant sauvignon blanc; fruit- and pepper-driven shiraz; daring red blends; and plenty of refined tradition with the old world chenin blanc and pinotage varietals — most of it hitting the shelves for less than $20.

* 2010 Mulderbosch, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa

Chenin blanc reigns in two places of the world – the Loire Valley in France, and in South Africa, where it's also known as "Steen." Pale straw color with aromas of pear, lime, green apple, lychee and mineral, this one's dry and crisp, with hints of white pepper and spice on the finish.

Pair it with: shellfish, roast chicken, hearty salads

How much: $13.99

Where to buy: Total Wine in River Edge; widely available

* 2010 Boekenhoutskloof, "The Wolftrap," Western Cape, South Africa

South Africa is also known to do its fair share of value priced Rhone-style blends. Medium-full bodied with blueberry, dark cherry, spice, tobacco, oak and a hint of sweet menthol followed by easy tannins and a lengthy finish.

Pair it with: grilled burgers and lean meats

How much: $9.99

Where to buy: Total Wine; widely available

* 2010 Barista, Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa

The pinotage grape, a crossing of pinot noir and hermitage, is South Africa's very own. The dominating aroma is coffee bean, with smoky undertones of cherry and dark chocolate. A mildly tannic, mid-weight wine gives much of the same on the palate with the coffee bean finish.

Pair it with: roast meats, poultry and pastas, but shows best with dark chocolate.

How much: $14.99

Where to buy: Total Wine; widely available

* 2009 Excelsior, Cabernet Sauvignon, Robertson, South Africa

Excelsior is a relatively large production cab that's solid for the price. It delivers black currant, dark cherry, and sweet licorice aromas with faint hints of tobacco and leather. Light tannins lead through a smooth, peppery finish. A nice, medium-bodied, fully approachable, everyday cab.

Pair it with: grilled meats, pastas, semi-hard cheeses

How much: $8.99

Where to buy: Total Wine; widely available

Joe Iurato is a certified sommelier, wine consultant and lecturer, and a working fine artist. For questions and comments, email him at features@northjersey.com.

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