Swartland, South Africa
South African wines have a fascinating history; Dutch winemakers have been plying their trade there since the mid-seventeenth century. Alas, some sloppy viticulture and a devastating late nineteenth-century influx of phylloxera threatened the area’s reputation as a serious contender in the global market. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, however, modern vintners, using much-improved viticulture techniques, have focused on replanting and achieving consistency from one harvest to the next. Some have enjoyed stellar success; others are still wildly missing their mark. I am not aware of another country where the quality is as dramatically polarized, ranging from superb to skunky.
Stellenbosch and Paarl have seen the most impressive and consistent growth in quality wines, but a few other regions are making themselves known. Swartland’s critically acclaimed vintner, Adi Badenhorst, is leading the movement in his territory, and has created a whole stable of interesting wines.
Badenhorst’s 2014 Secateurs Rosé, clocking in at just under $15, is a wonderful value. Named for the shears used to prune and harvest, the wine is French Rhone in style, a beautiful salmon-pink in the glass, with a faintly floral and red fruit nose. The blend of 57 percent cinsault, 27 percent shiraz, and 16 percent grenache gives way to strawberries, red fruit, a hit of spice, and citrus on the palate, with a refreshing, well-balanced blend of mineral and bright citrus in the moderate finish. Light-to-medium bodied, this rosé is refreshing rather than lush, and would easily pair with a variety of foods, although lamb kebabs come to mind. Me, I’ll just pour a glass and sit on my porch and sip.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Another offering at an even lower price point comes from the storied Stellenbosch region. De Morgenzon (Dutch for “the morning sun”) is a felicitously located winery enjoying a high elevation and spectacular views in all directions. The owners are passionate about maintaining the integrity of their vineyard’s ecology and unique terroir, and are devoted to biodiversity. The vineyard’s DMZ line reflects their commitment to creating quality wines at affordable prices.
The DMZ 2013 Cabernet Rosé is made entirely from 100 percent cabernet sauvignon grapes. A lovely apricot-tinted pink in the glass, it is lightly floral with some fruit in the nose, and juicy with strawberries and watermelon with just a hint of current and light spice on the palate. It is surprisingly well-structured for a budget wine, with impressive mineral elements and good acidity in the finish.
Giving a garden party? This may be the ultimate picnic wine: pretty, highly drinkable, and punching way above its price class.