After all of my winters in Minnesota, I have determined that I can handle winter here only by spending January in the southern hemisphere each year from now on. I am returning to New Zealand in January 2022, and have decided that South Africa will be my January 2023 trip. I am very excited, and will have plenty of pictures, videos, stories, and insights to share about wine production.
I have been excited by the wines of South Africa for many years. They do not dominate the market in Minnesota by any stretch, but when I find them they always show cool and interesting characteristics. At this stage in my career, unique, different, or interesting wines are far more important to me than seeing the current showing of a traditional style. Wines of South Africa are still foreign enough in my market that it will give me plenty of new things to research, as well as open my mind to more variety.
When we learn about wines from South Africa we have a small group of products available in my market. Chenin Blanc, which in South Africa is often called Steen, Pinotage which is a genetic cross of Cinsault and Pinot Noir, I have had little opportunity to see multiple Pinotage examples, and the ones I have seen were underwhelming. This relatively new cross, will have 20 years of beneficial production process improvements, since I really studied them in 2004. The third category that we see in Minnesota with some market presence are Cape Blends. Modeled after Bordeaux blends, they contain Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. These blends are really beautiful, and moderately priced, for an import. South Africa has Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc in pretty large quantity as well, and I don't intend to skip those, but as they say "When in Stellenbosch..."
It will be a great exercise for me to walk through the vineyards in South Africa. The relatively moderate climate near the cape will be a refreshing change from several feet of snow that I will be leaving behind. I will see many production regions, but I have producers I want to visit in Paarl, Swellendam, Stellenbosch, and Robertson. If you have been, and have tips please contact me.