South African Wine - South Africa and the White Wine Pioneers

In 2004 I left behind a budding career as a project manager to follow my heart and make my passion my work. That is how I joined the wine trade, and I can happily report that I haven’t looked back since.

Over 11 years of very regular tastings however, it is possible to feel a little erosion of one's enthusiasm, as yet another Cabernet, Shiraz or Sauvignon Blanc is poured for you. Over time only the truly special, particularly fine or very different wine styles really make an impact, and renew my love for the product.

Although I must admit I have had a few excellent mature Bordeaux blends from South Africa, it is South Africa's white wine that has piqued my interest. To my palate there are few things more exciting in the world of wine at the moment than the truly individual white blends that are being crafted by a few trailblazers, who are not afraid to combine grape varieties seldom before seen on the same label, rather than be content with the production of yet another avatar of crisp Sauvignon Blanc or creamy, oaky Chardonnay. Chenin Blanc and Sémillon in particular are the stars of the country, and form the core of many a blend.

I strongly believe that the world of wine as a whole is much richer for people such as Chris Alheit or John and Tasha Seccombe. The former has taken the wine microcosm by storm with his superb Cartology. Now in its 4th vintage this blend of Chenin Blanc and old vines Sémillon delivers superb texture, a unique, wonderfully complex, savoury flavour profile and plenty of ageing potential. It is no surprise therefore that it has already developed a bit of a cult following – I certainly try to get a few bottles every year!

The Seccombes started Thorne and Daughters in 2012. The first vintage of their Rocking Horse, a blend of Roussanne, Chardonnay, Sémillon and Chenin that adds gorgeous stone fruit and floral notes to the naturally rich, waxy texture Chenin and Sémillon bring to the table, absolutely took our breaths away when we tasted it at the tail end of 2014.

It is a pretty good sign for a new wine when everyone in the team immediately buys a few bottles…

I thoroughly recommend seeking out such experiments. A fine Chardonnay, be it from Burgundy, New Zealand or Argentina, is a wonderful thing – but in my opinion it is made even better when completely different styles of very fine wines are available to break the monotony and bring a little fun. They very much are the spice of my wine drinking life, so it is only right that my cellar should be peppered with a few bottles!

Published on 26/10/2015 / By Ludovic Surina