Most people, when asked to describe the flavour of something new, will come up eventually with, “Well, it tastes rather like chicken actually”.
I’ve heard people describe rabbit, crocodile and frogs’ legs as tasting “rather like chicken”.
I just hope the day isn’t approaching when people around the world say: “South African wine? Oh, I don’t know about it. It all tastes rather like coffee to me.”
More and more South African winemakers are following the lead of Robertson’s Bertus “Starbucks” Fourie and producing wines deliberately made to taste like coffee.
Wines with labels like Fourie’s Barista and KWV’s Café Culture boldly advertise the fact they’re meant to taste like coffee.
Van Loveren recently joined the ranks of the coffee producers by launching their African Java Pinotage 2010, and De Krans has introduced a fortified wine called De Krans Espresso, which winemakers Boets and Stroebel Nel describe as “not a port, although it is has been produced using the classic port varietals. It’s not coffee, although it has sweet aromas of freshly ground coffee. De Krans Espresso is the perfect ‘’dessert to end off a delicious meal with good friends.”
Many others – Pinotages in particular – are coming out with the distinct flavour of coffee, even if this fact is not always reflected in their labels. I believe the coffee character is created by using very well toasted oak staves and not real coffee beans.
Now I have nothing against coffee, and I have tasted many of these coffee-flavoured wines and enjoyed some of them immensely.
I do see a danger, however, that they may become regarded as our flagship style, just as retsina is often thought to be typical of Greek wines.
I’ve tasted many fine Greek wines in Greece, where wine has been part of daily life for thousands of years. I’ve enjoyed excellent white and red wines in a variety of styles. I believe retsina accounts for only a tiny part of the country’s wine production. I didn’t even find many Greeks who enjoyed retsina. It’s definitely an acquired taste.
But ask anybody who hasn’t tried many Greek wines and you’re likely to get: “Oh no, I don’t like Greek wines. That retsina! Horrible stuff!”
At least the Greeks warn us by clearly labelling their retsinas as such.
Maybe our winemakers should get together to think up a generic name for coffee-flavoured wines.
May I suggest “SA Moerkoffie Wine”.