Defending Blends

Tim James, wine journalist and author of Wines of the New South Africa:  Tradition and Revolution, recently introduced his list of fine red blends to an audience of Hermanus FynArts attendees.  The tasting got going with observations about the many white and red blends available in South Africa and the great skills local winemakers apply to excel at producing good blends.  In the Hemel-en-Aarde all the wineries produce a blend except for Hamilton Russell Vineyards and Restless River – two winegrowers producing only two single varietal wines each.  Tim explained the motivation for blending wines as follows:

  • Winemakers use what they have available in the vineyards.
  • For insurance.  Vintners blend with the varietals that did well in a particular year – varietals that can be counted on to produce good results.
  • For the effect achieved with the blend. Sauvignon Blanc adds freshness while Chenin gives weight.
  • Tradition.  Continuing with blends that brands are known for.
  • Playing by the rules.  In Bordeaux you have to use what is allowed – combinations of any two or more of the following five varietals:  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec.
  • Expressing creativity.
Tim James selected a variety of South Africa red blends
Tim James selected a variety of South Africa red blends

Tim looked beyond Hemel-en-Aarde for his line up of red blends and included:

Beyerskloof Synergy                  54% Pinotage; 23% Cabernet Sauvignon: 23% Merlot

Chamonix Troika                        50% Cabernet Franc, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot

David Sadie Elpidios                  Syrah, Carignan, Cinsaut, Grenache and a little Pinotage

Delaire Botmaskop                     2013 vintage is a Bordeaux blend, 2012 had some shiraz as well

Mount Abora The Abyssinian     57% Syrah, 29% Mourvèdre, 14% Cinsault

Nederburg Ingenuity Spanish    90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano

Peter Bayly III                             Portuguese varietals: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca & Souzao

Tokara Directors Reserve           Bordeaux blend (not presented – only white blend available)

Getting it right like South African winemakers does provides more than enough evidence to defend the blend.