South African wines priced right under $20

Nicely balanced and very food friendly, these reds are worth grabbing for your next barbecue or picnic

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      It seems sort of sinful to complain about the glorious sunshine of late, but that’s exactly what I’m doing today. Enough already.

      I’ve got a handful of reds (and a quartet of whites) from South Africa that I’ve been trying to keep from overheating in the wine closet but can’t wait any longer. You might have noticed the South Africa feature that continues at your local LDB store until the end of the month. As far as this lineup is concerned, almost all the wines are under $20 and most are nicely balanced and very food friendly.

      So even though I’m whining about the great Vancouver weather, I’m happy for it to hold on just a little longer, so that you can enjoy a few of these wines with family and friends at your next barbecue or picnic.

      Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($14.99) This refreshing white offers traditional Savvy aromatics, leaning to the tropical side, with a citrusy, kiwi, and medium-length saline finish. It paired nicely with our apéritif course featuring olives and white anchovies.

      Spier Signature Chenin Blanc 2013 ($12.90 until August 30) Crisp and clean, South African Chenins are some of the best-value whites around. Not the honeyed version you’d get from other regions of the world, but smooth and dry, with a touch of sweetness in the finish. The acidity cut nicely through the avocado atop our cold angel-hair pasta salad with fresh heirloom tomatoes, pecans, and grilled asparagus.

      Moreson Miss Molly Hoity Toity 2012 ($14.99) Dog lovers, unite! This blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier shows notes of tropical oranges and walnuts, and a nice length. Superb on its own, where its great aromatics aren’t overwhelmed by food. But if I had to… How about alongside some takeout sushi on our way to the beach? Every bottle sold gives money back to the South African Guide Dog Association and Animals in Distress, charities close to my heart, only adding to your drinking pleasure.

      Jam Jar Moscato 2011 ($14.99) Tried this when it was on limited-time offer earlier this summer and had to grab another for the tasting panel. Sweet, dried apricot and freshly jarred peaches on the nose, with similar flavours in the off-dry finish. Jam Jar Sweet Shiraz 2012 ($14.99) is crafted in a similarly crowd-pleasing vein, giving a perception of ripe red-berry sweetness while finishing dry.

      The Beach House Red 2012 ($12.99) This particular smoky, peppery nose always takes me right back to South Africa. The Beach House Red is an easy-drinking blend of Shiraz, Mourvèdre, and Viognier that suggests ripe cherries and raspberries along with a kiss of heat that reminds me of blistered shishito peppers. The label says “a holiday in a glass”, but how about a campfire on the beach?

      Citrusdal Six Hats Fairtrade Shiraz ($12.99 until August 30) This was a favourite of the panel for a couple of reasons. The wine itself was quite tasty, with flavours of blackcurrant and coffee balanced with juicy acidity. Beyond the bottle, Six Hats Shiraz is certified Fairtrade, which gives farmers and workers improved wages and living conditions, reducing poverty and providing independence.

      Painted Wolf Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($14.99) Surprisingly complex for the price, this Cab opens with a nose of green peppercorns, boysenberry jam, and black olive tapenade, with a blueberry and cocoa finish. Pleasant acidity. Get me a burger or two and we’ll call it a night.

      Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($17.99) You might mistake this one for a young Bordeaux after your first whiff of blackberry and cassis. It could use a bit more time to soften and integrate, but there’s a lot of potential here for not a lot of money. Buy one. Try it this weekend. Buy another. Try it in a year.

      The Grinder Pinotage 2012 ($13.99 until August 30) There are great Pinotage wines from B.C., but it is a made-in-South Africa cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. With this one, the savoury black-fruit aromas and trademark pepper, dark plum, and coffee notes on the palate paired perfectly with our grilled lamb chops and smoked chorizo.

      Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2010 ($20.99) A terrific meat-pairing wine, this blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, and Merlot, rounded out with Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, shows notes of game meats, sweet smoke, and creamy leather, finishing with grippy but smooth tannins. Try it with an Italian pot roast stuffed with pockets of herbs and Fraser Valley garlic.

      After 732 Uncorked columns...

      ...involving the consumption, at a conservative estimate, of about 500 cases of wine, Jurgen Gothe has finally decided to hang up his tastevin.

      Gothe has been sharing his wit, wisdom, and strong opinions about food, drink, music, and the good life in general for half a century in local, national, and international print and broadcast media, starting in the 1960s at the late-lamented easy-listening station CHQM (“beautiful music for a beautiful city”). He hosted CBC Radio’s DiscDrive for over two decades, winning three New York Festival gold medals in the process, and is a member of the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame and the B.C. Restaurant Hall of Fame. In 2011, the Vancouver International Wine Festival awarded him its SIP (“Spirited Industry Professional”) Award.

      The Straight has been proud to be one of his homes for more than 15 years.

      Here’s to you, Jurgen! Cheers, and uncork one on us.




      Aug 19, 2014 at 5:19pm

      Sorry to see you hanging up the tastevin.

      Will there be anyone else taking up the duties in this space?

      Carolyn Ali

      Aug 20, 2014 at 10:30am


      Wine coverage will continue in the Straight; we'll keep you posted shortly

      John Ford

      Aug 27, 2014 at 6:45am

      Auf wiedersehn, Jurgen. Hope you enjoy retirement as much as I have.

      Carolyn Ali

      Sep 10, 2014 at 10:39am

      The Straight now has a new wine column called the Bottle, written by Kurtis Kolt. Here's where to find it

      bernard Ple

      Sep 10, 2014 at 3:16pm

      Enjoy your retirement Jurgen, remember be from the kentucky bread pudding from the Hyatt Regency. Cheers