Lately, I’ve been drinking some very good South African wine. S.A. wines used to be my whipping boy of wines. To say I was not a fan would be an understatement. I don’t know if it’s because of the World Cup or maybe it’s just we’re now getting better S.A. wines here in England but whatever it is, I’m pleased by the result.
Diemersfontein Wines is known as one of the best pinotage producers around. We met owner David Sonneberg at the Le Meridien Hotel in Piccadilly to taste his pinotages as well as his other red and white wines. David says pinotage is like Marmite, either you love it or you hate it. I love Marmite but I’ve never quite gotten around to liking pinotage. Pinotage is uniquely South African, developed there by a professor who wanted a grape that could withstand the South African climate. He crossed cinsault and pinot noir to come up with pinotage.
We tried the Diemersfontein 2007 pinotage and the 2009 pinotage. David’s pinotages are different from the rest in that he aims to produce pinotages that have chocolate and coffee flavours and aromas. He came onto the scene in 2001 with his pinotage and that flavour profile has gained his pinotages quite a following. I quite liked the 2007 pinotage. Give a wine a bit of age and it can do wonders for it. This pinotage while still showing some smoky coffee, had loads of cherries and blueberries, sweet vanilla and dark chocolate to it with lots of nice round tannins at work. Finally a pinotage that didn’t make me instantly wrinkle my nose as soon as I smelled it.
Pinotage is often accused of having burnt, pongy flavours and while David’s wines did not have a pongy character to them, the 2009 was overpoweringly smoky. Give this one a few years to mellow out.
Of his whites, the best was certainly the Diemersfontein 2008 chenin blanc. Chenin is another varietal that South Africa seems to be laying claim to and this one was very well done. Pineapple citrus nose with green apples and pears on a toasty waxy palate. Finely balanced acidity and well integrated oak made this one a good’un!
After the tasting, we were invited to a charity operatic recital sponsored by Diemersfontein in St James’ Church just across the street. They not only make wine but they also do their best to help out the local population. Diemersfontein has set up a school on the grounds of the vineyard to educate the locals and the concert was to raise funds for the school. The up and coming soprano Pretty Yende was the star of the show. I’m not an opera critic but I do like opera. Pretty has an amazing voice and it was a fantastic way to end the evening. Pretty will be performing at the closing ceremonies of the World Cup and she is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Thanks to Focus PR and Diemersfontein for inviting me to both the tasting and the opera recital.