SRQ Reviews Network

We are beginning a tasting tour of wines from the Southern Hemisphere; in particular wines from Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and South Africa. Today we are tasting a strong blended white wine from South Africa.

South African winery

Background: Something old is something new again!

Even though wines have been produced in South Africa for 350 years, the country itself is still considered to be a new world producer. In the earliest of years, wine production and techniques were influenced by  European settlers from the Netherlands, England, Italy, and Germany. Although the South African wine industry was growing and production improving, the exportation of South African wines was still quite limited through the 20th century.

In the 1990’s a confluence of events:

1) Nelson Mandela’s freedom in 1990
2) The introduction of democracy in 1994
3) The economic and political desire to reemerge on the international trading market
4) Investment capital in export industries i.e. wine

truly opened up the world market potential for South African wines. As such, an old world wine industry becomes a new world wine producer. 

The winery: Bouchard Finlayson

Established in 1989, Bouchard Finlayson is a boutique winery dedicated to the making of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc wines of outstanding quality.

Peter Finlayson was the very highly regarded wine-maker at Hamilton Russell Vineyards in the cool-climate of the Walker Bay area in South Africa. In 1989, Paul Bouchard of the great Burgundy domaine/negociant was invited to South Africa to judge a prestigious wine competition. He offered a special prize for the top wine-maker: a visit to his home in Burgundy. Peter Finlayson won the prize, and spent a week visiting with Bouchard. Around the same time, Peter had spotted a small, coastal farm for sale in Walker Bay, which he believed had the perfect terroir for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. He started a campaign of fund-raising to establish his own winery, and he persuaded Bouchard to join him in the new venture. And so, the New World/Old World partnership of Bouchard-Finlayson was born.

The climate of Walker Bay is largely influenced by the nearby, cold Atlantic Ocean rendering it one of the coolest wine growing areas on the Cape. The valley is surrounded and sheltered by a mountain barrier which traps the cloud cover and moisture brought in from the sea by the prevailing wind. The sea breezes work to keep the vines cool thereby encouraging slow ripening and flavor rich grapes.

Total annual production is approximately 12,000 cases.

The Wine: Blanc DE Mer 2007

A varietal blend consisting of 39% Riesling, 33% Viognier, 17% Sauvignon Blanc, and 11% Chenin Blanc

Alcohol: 14% vol
pH: 3.40
RS: 1.35 g/l
Total Acid: 5.5 g/l

Our Tasting:

On our 1st pour we noticed the color: a very pleasing light golden hue. Upon 1st taste we were surprised by the character of the wine. This is a big tasting wine, strong for a white but in no way overpowering. The taste of the fruit was evident and in no way overshadowed.  Since the Blanc De Mer is a varietal blend, we knew the individual characteristics of the grapes would be enhanced with selective food pairings.

We decided to make a Tuscan olive oil (spicy pepper, herbs and salt), dip some crusty bread, and see how the wine stood up to these tastes. Very nice indeed. The Riesling and Viogneir components of the wine easily handled the spiciness of the oil. It was a nice combination fruity and  refreshing.

For the next course, we served grilled Italian Grouper (olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper), carmelized grilled beets, and quinoa. With this pairing the wine was outstanding.  Citrus undertones, undoubtedly from the sauvignon blanc, truly enhanced the taste of the fish. The wine has a rich taste and an almost silky texture which pairs very well with the sweet grilled tastes of the beets and the crunchy nutty texture of the quinoa.

The Blanc DE Mer is a versatile all round white wine which can easily pair with a wide variety of foods. It will be outstanding with seafood, especially grilled firm fish such as: salmon, snapper, grouper, sea bass, or swordfish. The wine easily displays characteristics of  higher priced wines and with a retail price range of $14-$18 offers a good price to value ratio.

 Where to buy the wine:

A special thank you to the folks at Terry Seitz Inc. for their support in providing information on the wine.