A general summary of what I have learnt so far

I’ve been told time and again (and firmly believe) that wine is to be enjoyed, there is no right or wrong taste or smell and its okay to prefer the 2nd tier lable to the farm’s flagship.  After all at the end of the day it’s yours to drink and enjoy.
So these are the general summaries I have come up with for myself to remember the differences and not sound comepletely clueless when I’m tasting.


CHARDONNAY – The fruit flavour is more of a gooseberry, tart berry fruit.  With a caramel / butter after taste (usually from time in wood).  It is darker than other whites, more of a golden hue.  It’s not everyone’s favourite white, but a good one (+/-R250) is very enjoyable, although not too much as it can be a bit rich.  Favourites – Jordan, Glen Carlou.

CHENIN BLANC The fruit flavour here is more peaches and apricots, it has a more “asyn” taste to it.  Some Chenins can be a bit too acidic, but a good one makes for a delicious summer wine.  Favourites – Beyerskloof, Windmuel.

RIESLING – I haven’t quite got my finger on this one.  Leaning to the more vinegary of wines??  I do like their tall skinny bottles they usually come in.

SAUVIGNON BLANC – The favoured white wine.  Fruit flavours tend to be crisp apples and lemon (lemongrass), smelling like grass and fresh asparagus.  Usually about R70-R90 for a good bottle, although there are some GEMS for R30-R40.  Favourites – Windmuel (my wedding wine, so I could be biased)

SEMILLON Quite tasteless and bland I find.  More of a tinned asparagus flavour than the fresh taste of a Sav B.  Usually used in blends.  If you would like to taste it alone, Rhebokskloof produces a good one.  It makes for interesting tasting, but I wouldn’t buy a bottle, personal preference.  I think it smooths and adds character some how to blended whites.

VIOGNIER A distinct vanilla nose and taste.  Sometimes blended with REDS.

BLENDS – I have seen them popping up more often lately.  They can be a lovely combination of summer flavours, or a heavier richer flavour etc all depending on the varietals, time spent in oak and a number of other factors.  Favourites – Vrede & Lust White Mischief.


CABERNET SAUVIGNONA more “sophisticated wine”?  Somewhere between the berries of a Merlot and the spice of a Shiraz.  Usually more full bodied (which I understand as your mouth feeling full of flavours and perhaps a little “heavy” on the tongue).  The after taste lingers longer.  Usually a lovely RED (even most 2nd tier brands) and I would choose it for a dinner party gift.

COTES DU RHONEIt reminds me of a Pinot Noir with its grey tinge and watery flavour.  But perhaps have not tasted any of the good ones.

MERLOTUsually the girls favourite.  Probably because of the berry (raspberry, blackberry) fruity flavours and limited tannins?  Tannins give you that dry mouth finish. 

MOURVERDE – Shiraz’s baby sister.  The easier drinking, lighter, fruitier RED but still with your hints of spice and tobacco on the finish.  Less bold than a Shiraz. 

PINOTAGENatively South African.  Not really that favoured elsewhere in the world.  Unless it is a really good one, it can sometimes be disappointing.  If its too coffee like bordering on earthy with a watery fruitiness not strong enough to compliment the chocolate coffee flavours.  But a good one can be quite delicious with that perfect combination and probably the only time I have actually smelt and tasted what the lady described!  Favourites – Diemersfontein, Beyerskloof.

PINOT NOIRI am not such a fan.  It is quite an American (Sonoma, California) wine I think.  I find it usually tastes like the wine has been watered down and has a greyish colour to it.  It’s similar to a Cotes du Rhone.  Some people love it as a light easy drinking RED.

SHIRAZ –   Your spicy, tobacco, cigar wine.  For the maturer palate, otherwise it can sometimes be a bit too heavy.  I quite enjoy a good Shiraz. 

SYRAHThe same grape as a Shiraz, but the wine is made using old world wine making methods, resulting in a smoother overall taste.  The spicy-ness is not as harsh as a Shiraz.  Favourites – Spice Route.

BLENDS I used to assume these were just a mix of the bottom of the barrel left overs.  But I have since learnt it is in fact a fine art of discovering and maintaining such a blend of such a standard year in and year out.  Blends are often a farm’s flagship wine. 
Find out what the blend composition is, you can usually taste when there is more Merlot (berries) or a heavier Shiraz (spice) weighting etc.  Favourites – Boet Erasmus (Vrede & Lust), Cobblers Hill (Jordan), Rust & Vrede.


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