Cathy and Craig wave the flag in the Observer

Fully 10% of the 20 reds David Williams (who’s he?) recommends to readers of the Observer for Christmas this year hail from SA. So its hats off to Cathy Marshall (below) and Craig Hawkins for keeping brand SA flying high.

IMG 1145 615x345 Cathy and Craig wave the flag in the Observer

Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir, Elgin, South Africa 2011 (from £12.95, The Wine Society; Harrogate Fine Wine Company)

South Africa isn’t known for the quality of its pinot noir (its vineyards are generally better suited to warmer-climate varieties such as syrah and grenache) but a handful of producers are proving that it can thrive in the country’s cooler spots such as, in this case, coastal Elgin. Like all the best pinots, it’s seductively light and silky in texture, and so pretty in its red fruit and subtle earthiness.

Lammershoek LAM Syrah, Swartland, South Africa 2011 (£13.25, Harvey Nichols)

Part of a coterie of young producers that have made the Swartland region one of the world’s most exciting wine regions, Lammershoek’s Craig Hawkins makes thrillingly pure and expressive natural wines. A mix of red fruit, pepper, rosemary and thyme, this vibrant Rhône-style syrah is a succulent treat.

In the white department, SA fares less well with a single wine from Waterkloof:

Waterkloof Circle of Life White, Stellenbosch, South Africa 2011 (from £12.95, Swig; All About Wine; Rannoch Scott Wines; SA Wines Online)

The South Africans excel at making white blends, and this is one of the best around. Seamlessly weaving together chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and semillon into a live-wire package that fizzes with nervous energy behind the intense citrus, minerals and richer tropical and orchard fruit flavours, it would work right through the Christmas meal.

There were no SA bubbly picks at all.

Interestingly all the wines recommended are from the 2011 vintage which speaks volumes to the availability of SA wines in the UK. Back in SA, consumers could care less about the Christmas stocking recommendations of Sunday journos as none of them have any following at all. Their latest freebee would be about the size of any picks. Hopeless.