Category Archives: below the equator

$15 Fridays- Cape (Town) Crusaders

charlize_drinking_wineCharlize Theron and I are basically the same person. We are tall, love South African wine, and have both ghosted Sean Penn.

People often ask me what my favorite wine is, which is, frankly, a ridiculous question. It is akin to asking an astronomer their favorite star or Derek Jeter his favorite lay: there are so many and they’re all so beautiful. The truth is, and I think I speak on behalf of all wine nerds, it depends on so many factors. The occasion, the meal, the company, the direction of the wind, the strength of the yen, the day of my menstrual cycle. What people are really asking is: what should I drink so I can understand just how you’ve made a career out of being a lush?

My blanket answer for these queries of late has been South African wines. I recommend these wines because it gets people out of the California aisle of the wine shop, opens their eyes to some new varietals, and, most importantly, is a great value. South Africa has made some incredible strides in the way of production and quality, but is still flying somewhat under the US commercial radar resulting in low prices. Its like when you knew about Jack Johnson before anyone else and could see him for like $20 then Ben Harper and his stupid slide guitar blew him all up and now you can’t even get a lawn seat at a goddamn amphitheater show for less than what will diaper an infant for two months. Heed the warning: drink South African wine before it gets too cool. Yes, I define cool as Jack Johnson in 2001. And that’s probably all you really need to know about me.

2013 Raats Original Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, $13.99


 While chenin blanc has a classic and famous home in the Loire Valley of France, it definitely has a hold in South Africa. Chenin blanc, or steen in Afrikaans, is by far the most widely planted varietal in the country. For years, the versatile workhorse of a grape served as a base for the country’s mass brandy production. But now these wines are standing on their own just fine. In addition to its relative ease in growth, the other incredible thing about this grape is its array of styles, from bone dry to dessert sweet and even sparkling. South African chenin blancs are typically dry, but can be blended with other white varietals or aged in oak to alter its profile. This particular bottle doesn’t see oak, resulting in a wine round with tropical and citrus fruit and a zesty mineral driven backbone. Jesus. Sometimes I sound like such an asshole.

2013 Lammershoek “Lam” Pinotage, Swartland, $13


Pinotage, like Britney Spears, went through some tough times. While Britney was dabbling with drugs and driving around Malibu with babies in her lap, pinotage’s overproduction was resulting in thin low-quality wine rought with burnt rubber flavors. Basically the same thing.  However, over the course of the last decade, South African growers and winemakers have joined together to reign in crop yields and improve winemaking. And its flourishing under this *ahem* conservatorship.  New and improved pinotage is medium bodied and ripe with black and purple fruit as well as some umami (think soy sauce) tones. And since this grape is actually a pinot noir/cinsault hybrid native to South Africa, I see it as a perfect introduction to the country’s unique varietals. As this specific wine is a bit on the lighter side, I wouldn’t be above serving it slightly chilled, especially on a hot summer evening. Trust me, you’ll be hitting this bottle… one more time.

 So that’s what I love right now because although my musical tastes haven’t changed since the Bush presidency, my wine preferences are always in flux.

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