Tag Archives: South African wine

2021 Cheap Wine of the Year: MAN Chenin Blanc 2019

man chenin blancSouth Africa’s MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual Cheap Wine of the Year

The MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, a South African white, appeals to the Wine Curmudgeon on a variety of levels. First, that it’s South African wine, and we know about that, don’t we? Second, that it’s chenin blanc, and we know about that, don’t we?

And, of course, that it’s cheap, delicious, and varietally correct. Because that’s what matters, and not any of the aforementioned criticisms. Hence, the MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc 2019 is the blog’s fourth annual cheap wine of the year.

In this, the MAN chenin blanc ($10, purchased, 12.5%) demonstrates once again that wine preconceptions are one of the problems with wine. Why pass up a wine as wonderful as this because you don’t drink chenin blanc, white wine, or South African wine? Because, of course, too many of you reading this now are thinking just that.

Does this wine taste like chardonnay or sauvignon blanc? Nope, because it’s not supposed to. It tastes like a New World chenin blanc — not as steely or stony as chenin from France’s Loire, but crisp and minerally enough, and with more fruit. It’s bone dry, with stone fruit and maybe some red apple, a richness that most $10 wines don’t have, and a longish finish. It’s surprisingly layered and sophisticated; swish it around in your mouth, and you’ll see what I mean. This is a white wine if you want a glass before dinner, as well something to drink with braised chicken.

The 2019 vintage is still be widely available, as is the 2018. The latter isn’t as impressive as the 2019, but it’s well made and enjoyable. The 2020 has been released, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

More Cheap Wine of the Year:
2020 Cheap Wine of the Year: Le Coeur de la Reine Gamay 2017
2019 Cheap Wine of the Year: Château La Gravière Blanc 2017
2018 Cheap Wine of the Year: Bieler Pere et Fils Rose 2016

Mini-reviews 140: Christmas Eve edition 2020

christmas eve 2020Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. This month, a special Christmas Eve 2020 edition.

Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rose 2020 ($15, sample, 12.5%): The South African Mulderbosch was once one of the world’s great cheap roses. This isn’t it — there has been a price hike and the wine is softer, without the edge the cabernet used to give it. Plus, there’s a touch of sweetness. Very disappointing. Imported by Third Leaf Wines

Petra Zingari 2015 ($13, purchased, 14%): This red blend is made in the popular post-modern Italian style, so that the sangiovese is surrounded by three international grapes — merlot, syrah, and petite verdot. Notice I wrote surrounded, and not complemented. It is well made and professional, and spot on if you like this style. Imported by TMT USA

Calcu Escarlata 2019 ($12, sample, 14%): This Chilean red blend is exactly the kind of supermarket wine that focus groups like — lots of dark fruit, no tannins, and very little acidity. It does what it does well enough, but there are hundreds of wines exactly like it. Imported by Global Vineyard Importers

Chasing Rain Merlot 2018 ($24, sample, 14.5%): A very dark merlot from Washinton state that tastes like it has lots of winemaking going on. It’s more heavy and tannic, more like a caberent, with less soft merlot character.

Fourth of July wine 2020

forth of july wine 2020Fourth of July wine 2020: Four bottles to enjoy for the United States’ 244th birthday

The Unites States celebrates its 244th birthday on Saturday, which means a need for quality cheap wine. Hence, these suggestions from the Wine Curmudgeon. As always, keep our summer wine and porch wine guidelines in mind: Lighter, fresher wines, even for red, since lots of oak and high alcohol aren’t especially refreshing when it’s 98 degrees outside (which is the forecast for Dallas).

Consider these Fourth of July wine 2020 suggestions:

MAN Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($10, purchased, 13%): This South African white is well-made and enjoyable — citrus (softer lemon?), but fruitier than France though not as tart as New Zealand. Simple, but enjoyable and a fine value. Imported by Vineyard Brands

Olivares Altos de la Hoya 2017 ($12, purchased, 14.5%): This Spanish red, mostly monastrell, is a heavy, more Parker-style effort that is mostly balanced. There’s lots of dark fruit, and though it’s a bit hot, there is a surprisingly clean finish. Imported by Rare Wine Co.

Masciarelli Rosato 2019 ($10, purchased, 12.5%): This Italian pink is a revelation: Barely ripe strawberry fruit, an almost chalky finish, and so much else going on it’s difficult to believe that it doesn’t cost $18 and have a too cute label. Highly recommended. Imported by Vintus, LLC

Princesa Brut Nature Cava NV ($12, purchased, 11.5%): Brut nature is the driest sparkling wine, and this Spanish bubbly doesn’t disappoint. It’s crisp, very dry, and has cava’s trademark apple and pear fruit. Highly recommended. Imported by Quintessential

Photo: “20150702_182103000_iOS” by annisette64 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

More Fourth of July wine:
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2018
Fourth of July wine 2017
Wine of the week: La Vieille Ferme Rose 2019

Wine and food pairings 9: Mushroom ragu, since it’s so difficult to find meat

mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon pairs wine with some of his favorite recipes in this occasional feature. This edition: three wines with a mushroom ragu

The Wine Curmudgeon buys dried mushrooms, and then they sit on a back shelf,  almost forgotten. So, when I found a package while rummaging through the pantry, I thought: Why not use them to make a mushroom ragu, a dish ideal for dinner at time when even ground beef is in short supply?

In fact, almost everything in this recipe can be substituted for what’s on hand. I like spinach noodles, but almost any noodle or spaghetti will work. Less expensive dried mushrooms will work just as well as pricey shitakes. Don’t have dried mushrooms? Then just use more fresh and substitute vegetable stock for the mushroom soaking liquid.

The other thing about this recipe? No tomatoes or tomato sauce. You can certainly add them if you want, but given how many of us are eating spaghetti with red sauce with regularity these days, a pasta recipe without tomatoes is likely most welcome.

Click here to download or print a PDF of the recipe. This is light red wine food (or even rose), since you don’t want to cover up the subtleties of the mushrooms. These three suggestions will get you started:

• Santa Julia Reserva Mountain Blend 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): I bought this Argentine blend of malbec and cabernet franc when the European wine tariff was wine’s biggest problem, but not because I wanted to drink it. Once again, don’t judge the wine until you taste it. There is sweet berry fruit (but the wine isn’t sweet), as well as some grit and body from the cabernet franc. Very well done for this style, and people who appreciate this approach will want to buy a case. Imported by Winesellers Ltd.

• Badenhorst The Curator Red 2017 ($11, purchased, 13.5%): Nicely done Rhone-style blend from South Africa, with rich dark fruit, soft tannins, and a pleasant mouth feel, There’s not a trace of the pinotage in the mostly shiraz mix, which is not easy to do. Imported by Broadbent Selections

• Cheap Chianti: This post, featuring five Chiantis costing $10 or less, speaks to pairing wine with food from the region. Each of them show why this is such a terrific idea.

Full disclosure: I forgot to take a picture of the ragu; the one accompanying the post is from the What James had for Dinner blog. My noodles were fettuccine size.

More about wine and food pairings:
• Wine and food pairings 8: Not quite ramen soup
• Wine and food pairings 7: Classic roast chicken
• Wine and food pairings 6: Louisiana-style shrimp boil

Slider photo: “Rome Elite Event: wine, food and nice people” by Yelp.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mini-reviews 131: Raeburn, Pigmentum, Montmirail, Excelsior

raeburnReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month

Raeburn Rose 2019 ($13, sample, 13.5%): California pink with some tart raspberry fruit that is well made, but the longer it sits in the glass, the more you notice the lingering residual sugar and that it’s not quite dry rose.

Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec 2014 ($10, purchased, 13%): Didn’t notice the vintage when I bought this French red, and that is so tasty is amazing given its age. Still has a little dark fruit and some earth, and still eminently drinkable.

Château de Montmirail “M” 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This red Rhone blend has some heft and black fruit, but isn’t overdone or too heavy. Availability may be limited, which is too bad since it’s close to a Hall of Fame wine. Imported by Kindred Vines

Excelsior Chardonnay 2018 ($10, purchased, 14%): This South African white will not help the country get back into the U.S. market. It’s a Kendall Jackson chardonnay knockoff, complete with residual sugar. Imported by Cape Classics

Wine of the week: MAN Chenin Blanc 2018

MAN Chenin BlancSouth Africa’s MAN chenin blanc offers quality and value in an $11 white wine

I’ve spent the past couple of months writing about South African wine, not only here but for the trade media. The goal? Trying to figure out if South Africa can fill the void caused by the 25 percent tariff on French, Spanish, and German wine.

Sadly, despite top quality wines like the MAN chenin blanc ($11, purchased, 12.5%), the answer seems to be no. The reasons are many, including the three-tier system (since each wine needs a distributor, which most don’t have) and problematic pricing on higher-end South African wines.

Which is too bad, since the MAN chenin blanc does everything a terrific $10 wine should do. It’s a far cry from the country’s pre-Apartheid chenin blanc, when it was called steen and was likely to be soft and flabby.

Instead, the MAN is fresh, crisp, and enjoyable, without any cloying fruit or sweetness. Look for some lime and tropical fruit and more layers of flavor than most chenins at this price have. In this, is a professional wine and very well done, and shows how far South African winemaking has come.

Imported by Vineyard Brands

Ask the WC 23: Wine prices, rose, South African wine

wine pricesThis edition of Ask the WC:  Has the wine tariff pushed up wine prices? Plus, why isn’t rose sweet and whether South African wine is worth buying

Because the customers always have questions, and the Wine Curmudgeon has answers in this irregular feature. You can Ask the Wine Curmudgeon a wine-related question by clicking here.

Greetings, WC:
Have wine prices gone up because of the tariff? I can’t tell, but I buy the same wine over and over, so I’m not a good person to ask.
Watching my pennies

Dear Pennies:
The biggest surprise with the tariff — to me, anyway — has been retailer reluctance to raise prices, and especially for the wines we write about on the blog. There have been exceptions, of course; I was in the country’s premier “natural food” grocer the other day, and it looked like every French and Spanish wine had gone up exactly 25 percent, the amount of the tariff. But many of the other retailers I have visited or talked to are making an honest effort to hold the line. I’m especially seeing many retailers bring in similarly-priced labels to replace the tariff wines. Which, all things considered, makes me a lot less cranky about the tariff. Still, as one Dallas retailer told me, all bets are off when the new rose vintages arrive in the next month or so.

Dear Wine Curmudgeon:
Is rose supposed to be sweet or not? Some taste like white zinfandel, and others don’t. When did this start?
Pinked out

Dear Pinked:
Rose is dry. White zinfandel is sweet. This used to be cut and dried. But in the wine business’ ill-conceived attempt to woo younger consumers, they’re sneaking residual sugar into “dry rose.” Typically, most European pinks are still dry, so you’re safe with French, Spanish and Italian wines. One way to tell: If the dreaded word smooth appears on the back label, I wouldn’t be surprised if the wine was sweet. Rose is supposed to be fruity, not smooth.

Hello, Wine Curmudgeon:
Am I starting to see more South African wine in the U.S.? Is it worth buying?
Curious

Dear Curious:
The answer to the first part of your question is yes and no — yes, because sales have increased substantially, and no because sales are starting from such a small base. South African wines, save for a burst of popularity in the late 1990s, have been few and far between in the U.S. But quality has improved markedly since then, and it’s possible to find Rhone-style red blends, whites like chenin blanc and sauvignon blanc, and even dry rose at a fair price.

Photo: “a Bourgogne” by miss_rogue is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0