As I am writing this the rain is hammering against my window, a sublime sound if you are snuggled up inside your house, with a warm blanket draped over your legs, a book in one hand and a glass of red in the other.
I am quite the nostalgic wine drinker. In summer I love a crisp, gooseberry-asparagus Sauvignon Blanc because it takes me back to warm days on a beach somewhere cooking mussels in a white wine sauce, watching the sun break into diamonds as it hits the water. Winter, on the the other hand, makes me think of walking around in the glistening Stellenbosch streets, inhaling the smell of wet leaves under my shoes, of damp soil, and that sweet smoky hint in the air rising from chimneys. Every now and then I find a red wine that captures all these notes and allows me to sink deep into those happy memories.
For me there is something quite special about a full red wine, with a nose that brings up wet forests, truffles, spice, tobacco and leather, and when you finally take a sip the tastes flood over your palette, revealing layer upon layer of flavour, with a finish that lingers in the back of your mouth until you are ready for that next taste. For me all wines have something special to appreciate, but these ones speak right to my heart.
I think it is safe to say the big chill has finally settled in, so make sure you are stocked up on firewood and on a few fat red wines. Here are five of our favourites.
Nederburg Two Centuries Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Rising from a series of already high-quality wines comes this truly classic gem that will entice even the most skeptical of critics. Few times in my life has a Cab come so close to what I envision the perfect South African Cabernet Sauvignon should taste like. A complex nose of cassis, cherry and cigar box is beautifully carried through on the palate, with the addition of rich, black fruit and a soft, lingering finish on the palate. Have it on its own or enjoy it with lamb roast or venison.
Credo Quattuor Shiraz 2012
Since it is almost time for Wimbledon, it is only apt to say that Stellenbosch Vineyards is really starting to dominate the game with ace after ace. Their Credo wines range contains some of their champions of late, with the Shiraz being a formidable all-rounder: red fruit and delicate white pepper on the nose, a perfectly placed palate of soft plum and spicy-smoky flavours and a gracious and friendly aftertaste – all signs of a true legend in the making. I’d suggest oxtail or leg of lamb with this one, but make sure that the flavours do not overpower the wine’s more subtle nuances.
Delheim Grand Reserve 2013
Delheim’s Grand Reserve has such a spectacular reputation, it makes sense that the wine is only bottled under this label when Delheim really believes they’ve conjured something exceptional. Contrary to many New World wines, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon shows a lot of its secondary flavours (flavours that come from the barrel in which it was matured). Delightful pencil shavings and cedarwood on the nose are complimented by a fascinating herbaceous character on the palate and a soft, lasting finish of cassis. With smoked gammon or a hearty winter stew, this wine could take first prize any day.
Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
This little superstar recently managed to earn 90 points in the Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report. It is not difficult to see why. “Cassis and pencil shavings on the nose. A great core of fruit with fresh acidity and firm but fine tannins. Very pure and long,” is how Christian Eedes, chairman of the tasting panel, describes the wine. I don’t think I’d be able to describe it better myself, although I would like to add that the colour of the wine is truly mesmerising: alluring ruby red with just the right amount of deep purple. It comes at a very affordable price and will match perfectly with any winter-inspired dish.
Hartenberg Shiraz 2013
It is the varietal that made Hartenberg famous and they manage to keep up with our magnanimous expectations year after year. Although a complex wine, Hartenberg manages to perfectly express the uncomplicated spice-and-fruit-combo that we love so much of the Shiraz grape. An earthy nose containing hints of cinnamon is balanced with a fruit-driven and red berry-inspired palate. Food-wise, I am leaning towards more traditional South African cuisine here – Hartenberg’s website recommends Karoo lamb. Flavourful vegetarian meals, like a rich mushroom risotto, could also work. A South African thoroughbred!