Red Wines To Warm Up Winter

Not familiar with pinotage? It's South Africa's signature grape: pinot noir crossed with another French varietal, cinsaut.  Off odors, notably acetone and burnt rubber, were once associated with wine from this fruit, and it fell out of favor when South African vintners turned to more stable and popular grapes, such as cabernet sauvignon. Happily, perseverance and adjustments in how and where the grapes are cultivated has paid off: this value-priced Kanonkop blend of pinotage, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc is reminiscent of a very pleasant mid-range Bordeaux: easy to drink and easy to pair with food, with nary an off odor in the blend.

Kanonkop Kadette 2012

Kanonkop, South Africa

SRP: $14.99

The wine is a very pretty cherry red in the glass, with cherry and berry predominating in the nose and on the palate.  It is medium- to full-bodied, with smooth tannins, a hint of herb and spice, and a light whiff of smoke. 

Recommended pairings include hearty stews, pastas, and red meat; I'd add ripe cheese and roast chicken.

Backsberg Klein Babylonstoren 2007

Backsberg Estate Cellers

Paarl, South Africa

SRP: $25

This special cuvée blend from South Africa's Backsberg Estate is a bright-rimmed deep garnet in the glass, with a complex nose redolent of cassis, violet, dark fruits, and just  a hint of vanilla. 

The fruit is subservient to very strong tannins on the palate; a certain oakiness is revealed, and the finish is dry and a bit acidic.  It is lighter bodied than one would expect from a 50 percent cabernet sauvignon and 50 percent merlot blend.  It needs to be decanted for an hour or so before drinking to gentle the tannins and put it in better balance.

The 2007 won the gold medal at the 2014 New York Wine and Spirits Competition, among other awards.


Simonsig Estate 2010

Stellenbosch, South Africa

SRP: $35.99

Simonsig Tiara is the award-winning flagship wine of the Simonsig Estates, located just east of Cape Town in South Africa's Stellenbosch wine region.   

A silver medal winner at the prestigious Concours Mondial Bruxelles in 2013, the 2010  Tiara is a beautiful wine from nose to finish — deep, deep garnet in the glass with a fiery rim, it is a lush Bordeaux-style blend of 78 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent merlot, 4 percent petit verdot, with a dash of malbec and cabernet franc.

The nose is fruit-forward, rich with dark berries, fig, a scent of leather, and some smoky sweetness, cassis. It is full and balanced on the palate, well-structured, with silky tannins moderating the fruit and a fairly long finish. 

I really liked this lovely, accessible wine: I would pair it with pretty much any red meat or veal-based dish, and it is versatile enough to take on everything from entrecote bordelaise to sweetbreads.