Much like Australia and their wine labels with kangaroos and surfers, South Africa has suffered a bit from mass produced, cheap wines that have tried to sell the exotic, safari experience to the wine consumer. All you need is a lion's roar and a dream. What the Mad Men of the southern hemisphere wine world don't seem to get, is that these this type of marketing cheapens the better wines, making people less likely to spend over $15 for a bottle when there are so many other great wines to choose from in the world. This is a real shame as the small producers are the ones to suffer.
With this in mind, today's line up of wines do not need a lion on the label. Winemaker Johan Meyer stopped by the store last week for a visit and quite frankly, I was really blown away. So much so, that I am telling you about it now in this newsletter. Not only are these the first natural wines to arrive from SA, but as Johan was telling me, these -- and a handful of others -- are part of a new generation to really showcase and understand the various terroir that this country has to offer The grape Pinotage has become the flagship wine of South Africa in the last few decades but as Johan explained, while there are good examples, there are many more exciting red grapes to be had, with a big future for Pinot Noir in particular but Cinsault, Mourvedre, Grenache and Syrah have not been utilized to their full potential.
With that being said, the lineup of wines below are really something special. Apart from the extremely low price point for being natural, these are truly amazing examples of expression unlike others I have seen from SA. With natural wines, I often come to expect some extreme funkiness -- most of the time in a good way -- but with these, the more strange elements are subdued and a real sense of "raw earth" --for lack of a better term -- is displayed. If nothing else, they are by far the most unique expressions of these grapes that I have seen in the new world let alone in South Africa and I am quite confident that wines like this will be leading into the future.
Check out the wines below!
2017 Mother Rock, Force Celeste Semillon: $17.99
From granite soils, the grapes are handpicked across three pick dates;. the majority of the grapes were whole bunch pressed to stainless steel with 10% being barrel fermented. 20% stainless ferment on skins for two weeks; aged for seven months on the gross lees prior to racking. Aromas of fresh grass, green melon, and yellow nectarines burst from the glass with subtle notes of cucumber water, honeycomb and a ginger mojito evolving with time. The palate brings a macadamia nut oil profile with intense texture and grip. There is a good bit of acid initially that dissipates leaving a long, persistent and round finish.
2017 Mother Rock, Force Celeste Chenin Blanc: $19.99
Semi-orange with mild skin contact. Unfined and unfiltered. Zesty style of Chenin but unlike some of the others from SA that could be mistaken for New Zealand Sauv Blanc. There is fine dichotomy of white stones and herbal edge with quenching acidity and intense flowing energy. The minerality is unique and hard to pin down as it fights between rocky intensity and herbal salinity. A fine example of new world Chenin.
2017 Mother Rock, Force Celeste Red Blend: $24.99
Under 700 cases made. This is a field blend made of mostly Syrah, Pinotage, Carignan, Cinsault, and Mourvédre. with the Syrah fermented 100% carbonically and the remaining grapes fermented entirely whole bunch with the pressed juice was poured over the Syrah portion to continue the ferment. What I love about this wine is the duality of being fresh, light, juicy and easy going; with a simultaneous meaty substance that is fresh and wholesome from grapes that tend to be more burly, rich and spice driven. This is one of those "quaffing" reds that frankly can be dangerous as one finds themselves finishing several glasses a little bit too quickly.