Wine that ignites the South African section
Talk about throwing your hat into the ring—these guys are hefting a whole six-pack of them! At least, they’re identifying themselves with six hats, each standing for a noble attribute and all resulting in a high-end, low-price, great-buy, fair-trade wine just breaching our shores.
For years (ever since the comeback, in fact) I have been wondering why the South African category couldn’t seem to ignite—there were excellent wines and great prices, but consumer support seemed lacklustre. This may well be the one to set it on fire.
Brand-new in town and a specialty listing for a most reasonable $13.99 is Six Hats Shiraz 2010. Caseloads are called for, especially for summertime barbecuing.
It starts off with a lovely, deep, leaning-towards-licorice colour and a beef-gravy-but-fruity aroma, with hints of overripe black figs, cassis, and spices. It’s mellow in the mouth but with lots of definition and a nice, dinner-companionable edge.
The name comes from the label artwork, showing six different hats, which stand for “partnership, change, potential, equity, dignity and sustainability, to highlight the various roles and responsibilities that are assumed and pursued by everyone involved in the wine’s production.” (It is one of the many new Fair Trade Certified wines coming out of South Africa.)
As well, from the label: “Terroir is a word commonly used to describe the elements that contribute to a great wine. However, people are often not included in this. The fruits of their labours are what brings character to the wine and it is the human aspect that makes each wine intriguing and unique.”
The wine is cassis-rich, with a gently peppery finish and excellent, soft balance. This Shiraz pairs beautifully with hearty food and complements sharp cheeses as well as my favourite combo—Port Salut with Wasa rye crackers and some French blackcurrant spread. Look for this one soon in the South African section of your B.C. LDB store. A winner. And a steal.
Hillside Muscat Ottonel 2011 ($19.99, 781 cases)
Naramata’s Hillside Winery (and Bistro) has burst into the season with a new clean label look, still showcasing the tower that’s always been an identifier of the place but dropping the black and gold in favour of black-and-white line drawings. Looking good. Various reds and whites form the initial release, but the one that really does it for me is the Muscat Ottonel 2011.
Ever since they started releasing this, in 2002 I think it was, it’s been an early-summer favourite on my deck; indeed, it has become something of a cult wine in B.C. I don’t know if it’s the only wine made from this fragrant, florally grape in the Okanagan, but if there is another one, I’d love to know about it, and taste it.
With its clean, lean new look it’s even more appealing: the floral aromas are held nicely in check, so as never to be cloying; there are hints and eddies of spice that swirl onto the palate, but the finish is pleasingly dry and fresh. With its unique flavours and fabulous fresh finish, it has been, year after year, one of my favourite Naramata wines.
Here it is again, but not for long, for sure: that 781-case lot will probably be gone by midsummer, and I intend to put a bit of a dent in it myself. The winery is your best bet and I’m sure the bistro attached will serve you a glass, or you can sample it in the tasting room. Congrats to winemaker Kathy Malone for fashioning another solid summertime treat.
Orofino Moscato Frizzante 2010
($24.90, 300 cases)
Cause for celebration and the bubble to fuel it with, all in one: here is the Similkameen winery’s first sparkler, and a handsome addition to your bubble cellar it is. The bottle itself is gorgeous, and the wine inside—well, what else is there to say? It’s solid Orofino. There are few small wineries of my acquaintance anywhere that have such a consistently lovely portfolio of wines; John and Virginia Weber ought to be giving master classes.
This wine is a blend of various Muscats, plus some Pinot Gris and a bit of Riesling. Initially, the aroma is quite shy, but it soon flowers in the glass and asserts itself on the nose. Then the lovely, gently apple-y fruit coats the palate, making it a good and fresh food wine. Yes, sparkling wine with dinner: time to make it a tradition if you haven’t tried it yet. The bubbles are gentle and easy, as befits one labelled “frizzante”; it’s fruity and not too sweet. (Some Muscats can pack a sugar punch; not this one.)
I can’t imagine that supply of 300 cases will be around for long, so get yours soon. State-of-the-art stuff from a B.C. winery that never disappoints, vintage after vintage.
Two delicious warm-weather (lunch and dinner) table wines from St. Hubertus, near Kelowna, to wrap it up for this week. Both are best sourced directly from the winery, although there are some enterprising Metro Vancouver private wine stores known to stock some of these excellent-value wines, especially the whites.
St. Hubertus Chasselas 2010 ($17.50)
“Perfect for your fondue or raclette party,” say the Gebert brothers about their flagship food white; at 10 percent alcohol, it’s meant for all-afternoon sipping, too. They point to its “grassy, floral notes”, and the bright, slightly sweet fruit makes it an any-meal food companion and a gulping favourite. If it’s unfamiliar to you—Chasselas is only produced by a handful of B.C. wineries—get to know it soon. Your dinner guests—or raclette party pals!—will thank you.
St. Hubertus Dry Riesling 2009 ($15.75)
The winemakers think “this is possibly the perfect white wine,” and it certainly is packed with versatility. “Have it with friends over a bowl of green chicken curry or just sip it at your romantic lakeside picnic,” they recommend, savouring honey and lime, apple and flowers. A classic and, among B.C. whites, really great value.