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Unusual South African Wines You Should Be Drinking in 2018


We all have our go-to bottles, but when you’re in the mood to try something new, where do you turn? When planning your next soiree, why not skip the conventional vino varieties and opt for a type that’s made from unconventional variety you’ve probably never heard of.

Most South African wineries (and others across the world) rely far too much on the classic French grapes from the regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Northern Rhone Valley – Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc. Why? Because that’s what we, the consumers, demand.

Thankfully a handful of wineries in South Africa are experimenting with wonderful heat and drought tolerant varieties such as Touriga Nacional from Portugal and Vermentino from Italy. Morgenster Estate, situated near the foothills of the Helderberg Mountain in Somerset West, is one of them.

morgester wine estate e1515487051998 Unusual South African Wines You Should Be Drinking in 2018

Morgenster Vespri 2017, made from Vermentino grapes, marks the entrance of the fourth of Giulio Bertrand’s opera themed Italian Collection wines, and is part of his project to produce excellent wine in South Africa from Italian cultivars.

Vespri is named for Verdi’s opera I Vespri Siciliani which has a historical theme reflecting powerful tensions of national and personal loyalties. The wine echoes its namesake’s complexity in its light-bodied but creamy textured palate of perfume, spice and fruit sweetness.

As Morgenster’s Vermentino vineyards are in their infancy, winemaker Henry Kotzé bought in grapes from a clone originating from the Italian island of Sardinia. These were whole bunch pressed to lessen extraction of colour and tannins and ensure a cleaner fruit expression. Fermentation was in stainless steel tanks and the wine was kept on its primary fine lees till preparations were made to bottle on 27 April 2017.

Serve this bottle chilled and notes of lemon and citrus stand out. As it warms up, a floral bouquet kicks in and the finish develops a pleasing softness. It’s mellow but sophisticated enough to question the very reasonable price of R120 a bottle.

With this aromatic variety, the estate has added a white to its existing collection of Italian reds: Morgenster Nabucco (Nebbiolo), Tosca (Sangiovese and Bordeaux blends) and Caruso (Sangiovese rosé). 

tosca morgenster e1515486893195 Unusual South African Wines You Should Be Drinking in 2018

It’s going to be very hard for many regions to continue growing the exact varieties they’ve grown in the past due to climate change. If you are prepared to become a flexible wine drinker and move away from the ordinary at times, then I suggest you give these wines a try. Not only will you challenge and excite your palate, you will also be part of a wine generation who sees climate change as one of the biggest challenges of our age.