Most of us, when confronted with the job of picking out a decent wine, will spend more than we’d hoped on one of the more expensive bottles on the shelf.
Expensive wine is good wine, right?
Well, that’s true to a degree, but not across the board. I suffered through a particularly horrid, but expensive, red over the weekend and would gladly pay double its worth never to have to drink it again.
Short of some training as a sommelier the problem of choosing an excellent vintage without breaking the bank isn’t going anywhere unless you do a bit of research or learn a few tricks that make navigating the wine aisle a little easier.
And that’s where the New York Times comes in.
They compiled a list of things to look out for when reading a wine label. Once you know what the label says and means, you’re just a quick Google away from everything that you need to know.
To keep things local, we picked three of the most popular types of wine to decode from our friends over at Anthonij Rupert Wyne, with a specific focus on the Cape of Good Hope range.
At the top of the wine label, you’ll find the range (in this case, The Cape Of Good Hope).
This refers to the ‘terroir’, or the natural environment in which a particular wine is produced. This will also tell you a bit about the characteristic taste or flavour of the wine.
In 2006, Johann Rupert initiated the search for all vineyards in South Africa that were older than 35 years. Traditionally the South African wine industry depended on tonnage, meaning that the meagre yields of older vines dictated them to be removed.
What was left was some pretty spectacular pockets of vines tended by people who either kept them out of sentiment or foresight.
Old vine wine produces intensity, texture, and taste.
Cape of Good Hope Altima Sauvignon Blanc
Now that we know where to find the range, let’s move on to the next line: ALTIMA.
This is the name of the estate upon which the grapes were grown and harvested. The next line, ‘Elandskloof’, tells you where it is situated and where the wine was produced.
We then have the type of wine or ‘cultivar’ – Sauvignon Blanc – followed by the vintage.
The vintage refers to the year in which the grapes were harvested.
You’ll find a crest at the bottom which tells you about the winemaker, Anthonij Rupert Wyne.
Not all winemakers choose to go this route and some prefer to use their full name on the label.
Turn the bottle over and you’ll likely find some tasting notes. This from the wine pictured above:
The initial aromas of intense asparagus and green pepper are followed by upfront passion fruit and gooseberry on the nose. The palate is rich and full of the same intense and powerful flavour, beautifully balanced by the tangy acidity which gives length and vibrancy to the succulent tropical sweetness. A lip-smacking wine with a long, juicy finish.
You’ll pull out the tasting notes when you open the wine, pour a little in your glass, and go through the tasting ritual before sharing it with your friends.
You can also point out that Tim Atkin, the last word on wine, gave this particular beauty a stunning 92/100.
Let’s run through it again with two more wine labels to make sure it all hits home.
Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Syrah
And your tasting notes:
This wine displays aromatics of fynbos with herbaceous whiffs, extending to plum and dark fruit characteristics on the nose. Hints of lavender present interesting floral notes. This wine is a bold, structured and powerful wine yet simultaneously refined. Supple oak tannin provides a frame for the plum fruit flavour and complements the light, peppery spice lift. The palate is savoury and appealing with a velvety texture from the well-judged seamless oak integration. It is layered and complex with a long defined finish.
Cape of Good Hope Sneeuwkrans Pinot Noir
Your buzzwords, again from the tasting notes:
Delicate hints of rose petal with red berries being most prominent. A light brush of vanilla and sandalwood. The palate offers up bright red cherries and strawberries. Deliciously alluring with deeper, spice nuance. Elegant, refined and poised with a solid core of fruit ably supported by integrated, seamless barrel maturation. Creamy oak richness which lingers long. A wine which changes in the glass but always holds your interest.
Now that you know how to decode the label, a simple search on your phone will give you all the information that you need about where your grapes and wine came from.
If you can’t be bothered to do that research, you could just buy the Cape Of Good Hope Heritage Box, which includes six gorgeous bottles from the range for R950.
I’ll leave you with a reminder that Rupert’s Heritage Month competition to win 12 bottles of Riebeeksrivier Syrah, valued at R1 800, ends tomorrow, so you might want to stop procrastinating and get on that.
[imagesource: Anthony Molyneaux] There are some things you can put a price on. For e...
[imagesource:here] I've been fortunate enough to limit my dealings with the South African...
[imagesource: Latest Sightings] The honey badger has a reputation for being one of Afri...
[imagesource: Rolf Konow] Fancy a movie with a few dark quips amidst pure pulpy chaos? ...
[imagesource: iStock] We have the Waldos, a group of five students at San Rafael High S...