Among the many grape varieties it is often said that Cabernet is king and Chardonnay is queen.
This may be so, but not all of us enjoy the social strain of associating with kings and queens every day. Sometimes we prefer to relax in the company of a favourite uncle instead.
And when it comes to favourite uncles among grapes, mine is undoubtedly shiraz. Shiraz (or Syrah) makes warming, comfortable wines for everyday enjoyment.
It’s a surprising versatile grape, too, and can add an appealing dimension to a red blend.
David Frost uses shiraz as one of the components of his very easy-drinking, and well-named, Soft Smooth Red. The other ingredients are cabernet sauvignon and cinsaut. The result is a comfortable and unpretentious red that’s great for drinking by the fireside or with a meal.
(I may add here that cinsaut was once the backbone of the Cape’s wine world, used in such great names as Tassenberg, but it has sadly fallen out of favour and there’s very little left. Such a pity.)
Still on the subject of Shiraz, when I visited Opstal winery in the Breedekloof Valley recently I was delighted to taste their very charming pink wine labelled Opstal Blush 2009. Unusually, it’s a blend of a red and white grape.
Most South African rosé wines are made by giving red grapes just a few hours of skin contact before separating the juice from the skins.
With Opstal Blush the shiraz (which they have called syrah) is grown and harvested together with viognier grapes, and the two are vinified together. In other words, it’s blended in the vineyard.
The result is a very grown-up wine, pretty salmon pink and loaded with peppery fruit flavours with a clean, dry finish.
Shiraz makes a good everyday budget quaffer too.
The Obikwa shiraz 2009 was recently voted the Best Value wine in the Wine Magazine Shiraz Challenge, scoring a very creditable three stars.
I first encountered Obikwa wines in Canada before I’d even heard of them in South Africa. They’ve grabbed a big slice of the wine market in more than 40 countries and represent excellent value for money.
The Obikwa Shiraz is full-bodied and full of fruit flavours, with a nice clean tannin bite. It’s easy to see why it sells well.
It’s always interesting to see how sweet wines are sneakily appreciated by wine lovers who would never admit to enjoying them.
I like to offer a muscadel to guests, who usually turn it down, claiming to prefer a chardonnay or a elegant red wine. However I leave the muscadel bottle out and invite people to help themselves, and there’s seldom very much left at the end of the evening.
The latest muscadel to bite the dust in my house was a lusciously rich Dutoitskloof Red Muscadel 2009. It provided a comfortingly warm end to a chilly winter’s evening.
Our climate and soils are ideally suited for the production of sweet wines and we produce some deliciously juicy fortified wines that are sadly under-rated by local wine lovers. I believe they capture the warmth of our country and its people perfectly.
Photo: Courtesy of Opstal Estate and Restaurant