David’s article as prepared for the Duluth News Tribune for the column which ran on 8/5/2015:
South African BBQ Blends
South Africa has a secret wine weapon. It is the only country that is growing, in any meaningful way, a grape called pinotage. Pinotage is a cross between two French varieties, pinot noir and cinsaut. This cross was an intentional cross pollination made by Abraham Perold in 1925. Perold crossed the plants and planted the resulting seeds only to leave them at Stellenbosch University in 1927. Since grape plants don’t mature for wine production until at least 6 years of age, Perold had no idea that what he was crossing and planting was going to be South Africa’s signature red wine.
Pinotage inherits the best qualities of its parents: soft, high acid and fruity from pinot noir and deep red, slightly tannic with smoky aromas from cinsaut. This combination is a shockingly perfect pairing for Thanksgiving dinner or a summer barbecue.
Imagine this – summertime, friends coming over for dinner, bundles of lettuce from the garden, a beautiful rib eye beef steak from Old World Meats and a rack of pork ribs from Lake Superior CSA. Here is the perfect opportunity to heat up the grill. For the wine I turned my attention to three bottles of South African red wines that were begging me for a dinner opportunity such as this.
Here’s how the three wines tasted with the steak, barbecue ribs, garden salad with buttermilk blue cheese dressing and baked russet potatoes with all the toppings.
2012 Landskroon Pinotage, 100% pinotage from Paarl South Africa, costs $14. I served this wine with a slight chill, at about 60 degrees. It smelled like cherries and wet pine forest, its body was light and the wine was refreshing. This wine also took on a bit of a smoked, or roasted meat aroma when we paired it with the steak. This wine paired very well with the heavy blue cheese dressing on the salad, its acidity cutting right through the fats. The wine finished crisp and left the mouth feeling clean.
2012 Kanonkop Kadette, 54% pinotage, 29% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 7% cabernet franc from Stellenbosch South Africa, costs $12. Again served with a bit of a chill, this wine was more intense and slightly sweeter and more tannic when compared to the 100% pinotage. The mouth feel was very smooth, with aromas of berries and chocolate. This sweetness paired perfectly with the sweet barbecue ribs.
2011 John X Merriman Rustenberg, 55% cabernet sauvignon, 37% merlot, 4% petit verdot, 2% cabernet franc, 2% malbec from Stellenbosch South Africa, costs $25. This was an intense bold wine. It had aromas of cedar, tobacco, wet pine and dark chocolate. It was smooth in the mouth and had a pleasing chocolate-cherry finish. This was a wine bold enough to stand alone but when paired with high a quality rib eye steak the two conspired to make multiple mouth watering flavors. This is considered a Bordeaux blend, as these are the same grapes, in similar concentrations used to make some of the biggest and best wines France has to offer. While this wine lacked the addition of South Africa’s signature grape, pinotage, it was equal to similar Bordeaux or Napa cabernet sauvignon blends that would cost you much more.
All three wines were great choices for pairing with our summertime dinner on the grill. The pinotage was light, crisp and uplifting and the blends were perfect for pairing with steak and bold barbecue flavors. South African wines are a great value and deliver more flavor than either French or Californian wines at the same price. If you are looking for wines that will please a range of tastes from light and fruit driven to bold, intense saturated flavors take a peek at the offerings in the South African selection. Choose one, or two, or three then throw something on the grill, invite some friends over and enjoy the warmth of summer.
David Devere is a certified specialist of wine. He teaches wine classes mainly in the Duluth, MN area. Contact him at email@example.com.