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Time for spicy sumptuous Shiraz
Written for Jozi Life Issue 7
By Janice Scheckter
As I write this column it’s 32 degrees in Durban, 26 degrees in Nelspruit, 28 degrees in Cape Town and 25
degrees in fabulous Jozi. So the Durbanites may still be quaffing those chilled Sauvignon Blancs and Chardonnays,
but for us it’s autumn, the city is slowly changing colours to match Bafana Bafana yellow in honour of the 2010 FIFA
World CupTM and it’s time to get our best reds out the cellar, wine room, linen cupboard – wherever.
This week’s focus in on Shiraz or Syrah, as the French call it. Syrah or Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape grown
throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines. Whether sold as Syrah or Shiraz, these wines
enjoy great popularity and here in South Africa we make this one really well!
There’s much legend around this particular varietal. DNA profiling in 1999 found Syrah to be the offspring of two
really obscure grapes from southeastern France, Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.
It’s most famed home is the Rhône region of Southeastern France, but it’s really produced quite widely with both
South Africa and Australia producing great Shiraz wines.
For me, apart from enjoying more red wine in a slightly cooler climate, I find that while a number of whites are for
quaffing sans food, reds need to be part of a meal. Shiraz pairs nicely with dishes that complement its fruit and
spicy qualities. It is often a nice match for spicy Mexican, Cajun and Barbeque dishes. The fruit and spicy qualities
can be brought out by dishes such as a rich beef stew cooked with red wine, pasta arrabiata, and even pizza. Steak au
poivre is also an excellent match for a full-bodied tannic Shiraz. See some of the proposed tastings in my
recommendations below. What I love is the chocolate pairings. Enjoy.
See Shiraz wines under Wines Tasted.
The Cost Vs. Quality Debate
Written for Jozi Life Issue 6
By Janice Scheckter
How many times have you sat in a restaurant gripping the wine list and wondering whether the R150 bottle of wine is a
complete dog and to get anything decent, you’re probably going to fork out closer to R300. A couple of months ago I
designed a blind tasting for my wine club where I selected six 4 star Platter red wines and let the team vote for
their favourites. The prices of the wines ranged from around R40 to over R250 and the club favourite – Lindhorst Max’s
Shiraz at around R70 a bottle.
Now I’m not suggesting for a minute that my private wine club has the most discerning palate. In fact I have to admit
that some of them border on wine snobbery at times. They have in the past turned their noses up at anything that felt
too cheap. I also don’t want to confuse the topic which discusses Cost vs. Quality and not Cost vs. Taste.
Winemakers will tell you what it costs to produce premium wines and it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. The age
old joke, “How do you make a small fortune in the wine industry” – “start with a large one” probably holds some
In my opinion we should recognise that good wines need good money behind them, but at the same time, a R400 bottle of
wine doesn’t give 5 times the quality of a R100 bottle of wine. Many factors play a role in the pricing of wine;
whether the fruit is grown on the producing estate or bought in, the yield of the fruit, the selection of the barrels
and the closure and more. Ultimately though it’s about product positioning, as it is within any other marketing
So what’s the verdict? Can an inexpensive wine be good in terms of quality? Of course it can and at the end of the
day, you don’t drink the label – you drink what you love.
An ambassador of wine?
Written for Jozi Life, Issue 5
By Janice Scheckter
A short while ago I spotted an ad in an online wine publication calling for applications for brand ambassadors for
Kleine Zalze, an estate near Stellenbosch. It was a bit of a no-brainer for me. I got married on Kleine Zalze, I love their wines
and I’m a huge fan of the internationally recognised and highly awarded restaurant Terroir. The criteria however, to become a
brand ambassador had nothing to do with being married on the estate or some of my other attributes relating to this estate. What
was required was that one blogged and tweeted and generally shared Kleine Zalze wine commentary with online communities.
A case of six wines, two bottles of Kleine Zalze Sauvignon Blanc, two of Kleine Zalze Chardonnay and two of Kleine Zalze
Gamay Noir Rosè, were duly dispatched to the 58 selected brand ambassadors.
The first challenge to the ambassadors was around sharing the wines and writing about it. I encourage you to visit the site
Not only does this estate produce great award winning wines at seriously
competitive prices, but they’re clever marketers too. The ambassadors have been blogging up a storm as you will
see on the site. The wines have been everywhere from Gandhi Square to the top of Table Mountain. Not to be outdone,
I designed a food pairing experience for some friends from my private wine club. The pairing with the wines was a huge hit.
For the Sauvignon Blanc tasting I prepared a simple smoked snoek green salad dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
For the Chardonnay a soba pasta with pesto and for the Gamay Noir Rosè, Brie, ginger oat cakes and an olive and fig jam.
My group thought that everything paired really well and while none of us started out as Rosè fans, opinions were definitely
Is the ABC era truly over?
Written for Jozi Life, Issue 4
By Janice Scheckter
About a decade or so ago, there was a very active ABC movement among the wine community. ABC stands for Anything
But Chardonnay. Chardonnay was flowing through bars and restaurants like the Vaal River. At the same time other
varietals caught the fancy of premium producers and Chenin Blancs, Viogniers, Semillons and others came to the fore.
Despite a strong movement against Chardonnay, it remains one of the most popular white wine varietals and very
possibly the ABC era is over.
It’s a highly versatile varietal that produces anything from dry crisp to more rounded fuller styles of wine.
And it’s important to note that South African Chardonnays fair well when pitted against the world’s best. In
the Du Monde top Chardonnay awards 2009, three South African Chardonnays got gold. They were La Motte, Moreson
and Glen Carlou with La Motte in the top ten ranking.
So how exactly did Chardonnay get the bad rap? Many producers in the new world (US, South Africa, Aus, New
Zealand, etc) started producing sweeter, heavily wooded Chardonnays. What was great about these Chardonnays
was that they brought in a load of new consumers who may not have considered drinking wine before. But for
those wine drinkers who sought out more of a finessed style, these big bold brazen Chardonnays were highly
Today South African Chardonnay producers describe themselves as somewhere between the old world and the new
producing a range of style, some with wood and some without and many of those with wood offer a sophisticated
taste that invites the ABC club right back in.
While I was never really a true member of the ABC club, I am a bigger fan of the unwooded style. Having said
that I believe that there are some wooded Chardonnays that pair exceptionally well with foods like duck l’orange
for example and that make a great accompaniment for a number of cheeses including Brie and Gruyere.
Just loving SA’s Sauvignon Blancs
Written for Jozi Life, Issue 3
By Janice Scheckter
A few weeks ago I attended Wine Magazine’s top 10 Sauvingon Blanc tasting. Having enjoyed wines “critically” for
want of a better word, for about the last nine years, I have probably only truly appreciated Sauvignon Blanc for
the last four or five. I think that good Sauvignon Blanc is something of an acquired taste, and wine drinkers need
to mature into it. It’s kind of like novice wine drinkers who start with Grunberger Stein and the likes and as a
mother I see that throughout our lives our palate keeps changing and maturing. Today I grimace at tomato sauce, but
there was a time that it was my accompaniment to life itself.
So after years of chewy wooded Chardonnays I suddenly found myself in the ABC club (anything but Chardonnay). I’ve
always enjoyed Chenin and find myself wanting to seek out more Semillons which seem to get a raw deal in South Africa.
So now I’ve rambled to get to the point where I need to state my love for Sauvignon Blanc and the top ten, bar a few
which I just didn’t get, proved a real treat. At the end of the night, the Johannesburg audience, probably about 150
strong, voted on their favourites and guess what – for once we concurred with Cape Town.
In top spot – Fleur du Cap Unfiltered
2nd fav: Delaire
3rd fav: De Grendel
Presentation on the night was by Charles Hopkins, De Grendel’s winemaker and even if the wines had disappointed (which they didn’t), Charles’ presentation was highly entertaining. I encourage Jozi-ites to look out for tastings like these, especially those presented by wine makers. They’re down to earth and honest and there’s none of that pretentious poser $#@% that I so detest.
Until next week, follow The Wine School on twitter. www.twitter.com/wineschoolsa
When restaurants get it right – the wine tastes so much better
Written for Jozi Life, Issue 2
By Janice Scheckter
I have never been to a restaurant where the wine steward has asked whether I’d like to choose my meal and then
take a look at the wine list and for the life of me, I just can’t understand why? I’m not the world’s fussiest
when it comes to matching food and wine and as you’ll see as you continue reading my column (if you continue
reading it that is!) I believe that you should drink what you enjoy and enjoy it with what you love to eat.
BUT...at the same time I also know that there are certain food/wine matches that just make huge taste sense
and there are many that don’t.
A great rump steak accompanied by a big bold Shiraz or a Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend, for example, makes
for great taste bud harmony, while the same steak with a Sauvignon Blanc just wouldn’t have the same result.
So why are restaurants, who boast great wine lists, not briefing their wine stewards a little better. I have
to ask? My next wine gripe goes to how the wines are poured. If I’m paying in excess of R140 for a main course
and over R300 for a bottle of wine, I’d like to think that the wine service is up to scratch. Some experiences
however include the wine steward immediately handing the wine list to what he/she perceives to be the dominant
male at the table. For goodness sake ask who is selecting the wine. It’s not that hard! So the wine’s ordered
and the bottle arrives for tasting. The tasting sample is poured. If correct protocol is followed, the first
glass should be the person to the right of the one who tested and approved the wine. This again is often not
the case and the wine is poured into the taster’s glass. Making things worse is the level to which each glass
is filled. I have to wonder whether the instruction is to get the first bottle finished as quickly as possible
and get the table ordering another?
In a country that produces great wines, has great restaurants with exceptional food and a wine list to match –
surely we can get the simple stuff right.
Written for Jozi Life, Issue 1
By Janice Scheckter
I recall a really entertaining article I read a year or so ago by a Joel Stein, US columnist/blogger where he wrote the
following; “when wine drinkers tell me they taste notes of cherries, tobacco and rose petals, usually all I can detect is
a whole lot of jackass. The language of sommeliers, winemakers, sellers and writers has devolved into nothing besides a
long list of obscure smells that tells me nothing. I get a lot of cherry and cassis from Manischewitz too, but it would
help a lot more if you told me it was cough-syrup-goopy sugar-water.”
As this is the first Wine Notes column in Jozi Life, it may be worthwhile setting the stage and talking a little about my
philosophy on wine. I believe that wine is for everyone and should be enjoyed by newbies, aficionados and everyone in
between. My problem is when the latter create an intimidating environment for everyone else. Unlike Joel Stein, I have no
problem with those (I include myself in this group) who like to discuss the flavours and the nose. It’s these multiple
flavours that make for complexity in wines and that make the wines so interesting. I also have no problem with those who
simply choose to quaff and enjoy without running a detailed commentary.
I read that in 1988, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" author Roald Dahl, an avid wine drinker, wrote a letter to
Decanter magazine, a leading wine publication in the US in which he said that wine "tastes primarily of wine --
grape-juice, tannin, and so on. If I am wrong about this, and the great wine writers are right, then there is only
one conclusion. The chateaux in Bordeaux have begun to lace their grape-juice with all manner of other exotic fruit
juices, as well as slinging in a bale or two of straw and a few packets of ginger biscuits for extra flavouring."
Many would applaud him, but again I note my well worn philosophy – wine is for everyone and enjoy it however you like.
Janice is the founder of The Wine School. www.thewineschool.co.za
Follow The Wine School on twitter – www.twitter.com/wineschoolsa