Just Released: L’Avenir Wines From South Africa

South Africa is finally getting its dues for its great wines

For several years now, the international wine community has been praising the improvement of South African wines and waiting for it to become a full-fledged member of the great-wines countries. In spite of this encouragement, total recognition has been slow in coming, reminding me of someone’s new home whose foundation and walls are quickly erected but whose doors and windows are slow to get installed. Which is why I’m pleased with what Burgundy-based Laroche is doing with its L’Avenir line of South African wines. While not stellar, the three that have just been released are all solid performers that use two of South Africa’s most-prominent, yet often frustrating, varietals – pinotage and chenin blanc.

The 2011 L’Avenir Western Cape Chenin Blanc ($12.50) is quite nice, with light and creamy flavors of tart grapefruit and other tropical fruits, which would go quite nicely with shellfish.

The 2009 L’Avenir Stellenbosch Pinotage ($28) comes from one of South Africa’s premium regions, and it is a very enjoyable, dark, and murky wine. While the flavors are not quite the same, it reminds me in its impact of an American zinfandel — dark berry flavors and a hint of balsamic prickliness and chocolate creaminess. It has good body and good acidity that would go well with a dessert such as chocolate decadence

The 2011 L’Avenir Western Cape Pinotage ($12.50) is an obviously less-complex wine that the older one from Stellenbosch, yet it does have nice, dark pinot flavors — pinot noir and cinsault are the parentage of pinotage — with the same pickly, balsamic finish and hints of citrus. Drink it with spicy deli sandwiches.