Tag Archives: South Africa

Vinogram: Waterkloof Cape Coral 2015

For more information on Waterkloof from South Africa’s Western Cape visit waterkloofwines.co.za.

Wallet-Friendly Red Wines for Fall

Looking for a new great value wine to try this fall? Try one of these three reds:

Esporao Monte Velho RedHerdade do Esporão Monte Velho Red 2012


Set a place at the dinner table for this medium bodied, food-friendly wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. The wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Aragonês (40%) and Trincadeira (35%) along with Touriga Nacional (20%) and Syrah (5%). Vibrant berry aromas introduce flavors of cherry, raspberry, and cassis. The fruit is layered with white pepper, clove and subtle toasted oak. If you’re not familiar with the wines of Portugal, Esporão offers an excellent introduction.

$10, 14% alcohol by volume

Rib Shack RedRib Shack Red 2012

South Africa

With its smoky and earthy flavors, this wine from the Western Cape in South Africa is the perfect pairing for barbecues and tailgates. The wine from Douglas Green is 60% Pinotage and 40% Shiraz. Intense tobacco, leather and wood smoke aromas and flavors are supported nicely by black cherry, boysenberry and plum. Silky tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel, and the finish is satisfying with lingering dark berry and mocha.

$10, 13% alcohol by volume

Dead Bolt Winemaker's BlendDead Bolt Winemaker’s Red Blend 2011


Juicy and jammy, this wine can warm you up as the temperature drops. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Shiraz from California by Australian winemaker Philip Laffer. Black plum, baked cherries and sweet tannins make for a bold first impression. This is followed by a silky finish that has a touch of nutmeg. From the flashy label to the full flavor, this wine is anything but shy.

$14, 13% alcohol by volume


More Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

Wines for Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Whether you prefer to say “I love you” with something sparkling, sweet or pink, here are wines that are perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Demarie Birbet Brachetto
Roero, Italy
$20, 6.5% alcohol by volume

Lightly sparkling, a touch sweet and a deep magenta hue make Brachetto an ideal sip on Valentine’s Day. This wine comes from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy and is made entirely from the Brachetto grape. Like Prosecco, Brachetto gets its bubbles from the Charmat method.

The Demarie Birbet Brachetto has flavors of ripe raspberry, strawberry and cherry, with floral notes of rose and violet. Enjoy the Brachetto as an aperitif or with dessert.


Biltmore Pas de Deux
Monterey & Arroyo Seco, California
$19, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The Biltmore Estate, a popular destination in Asheville, North Carolina, produces a range of wines using grapes grown at the estate and sourced from California. The Pas de Deux, a gently sweet Methode Champenoise sparkling wine, is made entirely from Muscat Canelli grapes from California’s Central Coast.

Meaning “a dance for two,” the Pas de Deux is meant to be shared with someone special. It has round flavors of orange, lemon, white raspberry and wildflower honey, with small and energetic bubbles. Enjoy the Biltmore Pas de Deux as an aperitif or with lightly sweet or cream based dishes.

Click here for more sparkling wine suggestions


Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer 2011
Alsace, France
$30, 14% alcohol by volume

If it’s flowers you enjoy giving or receiving on Valentine’s Day, then Gewurztraminer is the grape for you. This white wine is extremely aromatic – take a sniff and you may be able to smell honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia and rose.

The gentle sweetness in the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer is nicely balanced with mouth-tingling acidity. Flavors of Meyer lemon, tangerine and a hint of white chocolate culminate in a pleasing finish that has a lingering touch of orange blossom honey. Oysters are a great pairing with the Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer, as are other shellfish, seafood, and spicy dishes.


Domaine de Triennes Rosé 2011
Var, France
$18, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The French know love – and rosé wine. This rosé from Provence is a partnership of two of Burgundy’s great estates: Aubert de Villane, co-owner of Domaine Romanee-Conti and Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac. The wine is mainly made from Cinsault, with some Grenache and a dash of Merlot.

Light peachy-pink in color, the Triennes Rosé is elegant and aromatic with red fruit and floral notes. Round flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and a hint of herbes de Provence come together in a clean, dry finish.

Mini Rosé 2010
Languedoc, France
$11, 11% alcohol by volume

This rosé from southwest France is made from the Cinsault grape. Pale salmon in color, the Mini Rosé has delicate flavors of white raspberry, strawberry and red grapefruit with refreshing acidity. Enjoy this wine with fish, grilled chicken, salad or pasta. Bonus: with only 87 calories per glass, you won’t feel guilty consuming a few extra pieces of chocolate.


Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage 2011
Wellington, South Africa
$20, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Smoky and seductive, the Dark Lady Pinotage is sure to spice up your Valentine’s Day. This red wine from South Africa offers a unique alternative to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

Intense aromas of smoked meat, leather and black fruit introduce a palate of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, mocha and pipe tobacco. The wine has a silky mouthfeel, with gentle tannins and a long, satisfying finish. This wine demands to be served with a steak.

Sparkling Wines from the New World

Ring in the new year with a New World sparkling wine!

These sparkling wines are produced like their European counterparts, either by Méthode Champenoise (also called the traditional method), or the Charmat method. Champagne, Crémant, Cava and Franciacorta are produced by traditional method, and Prosecco is produced by the Charmat method.

Click here to read how sparkling wines are produced around the world

Both in quantity and quality, the United States is a dominant producer of New World sparkling wines. California is a sure bet for great bubbly, but there is so much more to discover beyond the west coast of the U.S.

Toast to 2012 with these New World bubbles:

Wolf Mountain Blanc de Blancs Brut

Sparkling wine from Georgia, United States ($26)

Yes, it is possible to get an excellent sparkling wine in the southeast U.S. — and Wolf Mountain Vineyards proves it. The family owned and operated winery is located in the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains in Dahlonega, about 60 miles north of Atlanta.

The Blanc de Blancs Brut is made from Chardonnay grapes and is produced by the same traditional method as Champagne. The sparkling wine is pale yellow in color with a light and engaging taste. Notes of citrus and golden apple are rounded out with a hint of spice. The bubbles give the sparkling wine a nice fullness in the mouth, with crisp acidity making for a refreshing finish.

2008 Biltmore Estate Château Reserve Blanc de Blancs

Sparkling wine from North Carolina, United States ($29)

This dry sparkling wine is made from grapes grown at the Biltmore Estate, a popular attraction in Asheville, North Carolina and the home of George Vanderbilt. While the estate and gardens date back to the late 1800s, the vineyards are more recent and were planted in the 1970s. Today the Biltmore Estate is the most visited winery in the U.S., welcoming more than one million visitors each year.

The Blanc de Blancs is made from Chardonnay grapes grown in North Carolina. It is dry and elegant, with flavors of tart lemon, white grapefruit and pineapple. A hint of toast rounds out the palate, and the finish is clean and crisp.

Santa Julia Brut Rosé NV

Rosé sparkling wine from Mendoza, Argentina ($13)

Santa Julia is part of Bodega Familia Zuccardi, one of Argentina’s largest family owned wineries and a leading exporter of Argentine wine. The vineyards are located in Mendoza, at the foot of the Andes Mountains.

The Brut Rosé is made entirely from Pinot Noir grapes and produced using the Charmat method. Vibrant pink in color, the sparkling wine has a fresh and aromatic nose of red berries. The taste is soft, ripe and lively, with flavors of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and rose. Small bubbles and a touch of sweetness make this wine fun to sip.

Yellow Tail Bubbles Sparkling White

Sparkling wine from South Eastern Australia ($10)

The recognizable Australian wine label has brought its friendly approach to sparkling wine. This white sparkling wine is made with a blend of Semillon, Traminer, Viognier and Trebbiano grapes and produced using the Charmat method.

Extremely fragrant, the Australian bubbly has slightly sweet citrus and tropical fruit flavors. Notes of Meyer lemon, tangerine, guava, white peach and honeysuckle come together for a clean, refreshing finish.

What is interesting about the Yellow Tail sparkling wine is that it is sealed not with a traditional mushroom-shaped cork but with a “Zork” — a plastic cork. After removing the foil you remove a coil of plastic from the neck, then press the button at the top of the Zork to release it from the bottle. The Zork still makes that satisfying pop sound when the bottle is opened (and you still feel the force inside the bottle pushing it out), with the bonus that it can be used to reseal the bottle.

Graham Beck Brut Rosé

Cap Classique from South Africa ($17)

Cap Classique is the name for sparkling wine produced in South Africa using the traditional method. Graham Beck has been producing Cap Classique in the Western Cape province since 1991, and had the honor of serving their Brut at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela in 1994.

If you’re a fan of rosé sparkling wines, you must give this a taste. Pale peachy-pink in color, this is rosé at its prettiest. The wine is a blend of Chardonnay (55%) and Pinot Noir (45%) from estate vineyards in Robertson, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Pleasantly sophisticated in flavor with hints of raspberries and cherries, this is an upbeat mix of fun and finesse.

AG Pick: Dark Lady Pinotage 2010

Pinotage, whether it deserves it or not, is one of the most notorious New World grapes. Those who have tasted this South African red wine either love it or hate it, with many American wine drinkers falling into the latter category.

South Africa’s signature varietal, Pinotage was created in the 1920s by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage). Done well, Pinotage can have flavors of chocolate, coffee, red fruit and smoke. Done poorly, Pinotage can taste gamey with notes of burnt rubber and rusted metal.

Forget what you’ve heard or previously tasted. Just try the Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage 2010 and you will never think the same way about Pinotage.

This red from Doolhof Wine Estate is soft, supple and elegant.

Doolhof Wine Estate is located in the Bovlei Valley northeast of Wellington. Its name, meaning labyrinth, is meant to evoke images of the valley’s topography. Doolhof Wine Estate is a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, a partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector.

A lot of care was put into the Dark Lady Pinotage during and after fermentation to tame the wine. Wood played an important role in softening the wine and enhancing the desirable flavors; malolactic fermentation took place in oak and the wine spent time in heavily toasted French oak barrels.

While most Pinotage is big and bold like a Petit Sirah or Zinfandel, the Dark Lady Pinotage is lighter and more nuanced, like a fuller-bodied Pinot Noir.

The wine lures you in with intense aromas of cherry, chocolate and spice. The taste unfolds gradually, with flavors of black plum, cherry and boysenberry mixed with chocolate, coffee, white pepper, licorice and cedar. It is velvety in texture with a long and satisfying finish.

Lush and layered, the Dark Lady Pinotage is a real surprise — and a treat. Before you make up your mind about Pinotage you must give this wine a taste.

A bottle of the Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage 2010 costs $20.

alcohol 13% by volume

Earlier: What’s the Deal with Pinotage?

More Red Wines | White Wines | Under $20

Champagne Alternatives for Valentine’s Day

When you’re toasting with that special someone this Valentine’s Day, you don’t need to splurge on Champagne.  Excellent sparkling wine is produced around the world using the same method and often with the same varietals (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).  And there’s an added bonus of seeking sparkling wines outside of Champagne – often they come with a much lower price tag.

A quick note on Champagne production: Champagne is produced using the “traditional method,” during which the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle.  After the first fermentation, a measured amount of sugar and yeast is added to the dry still wine to initiate fermentation in the sealed bottle, producing the pressurized gas that gives the sparkling wine its bubbles.

Click here for more facts and figures on Champagne

Here are some Champagne alternatives for Valentine’s Day:


You don’t have to leave France to find an alternative to Champagne.  Crémant is sparkling wine made in other regions, using the traditional method.  There are seven appellations which include this designation in their name: Crémant d’Alsace, Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant de Bourgogne, Crémant de Die, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Limoux and Crémant de Loire

Crémant may contain one or a blend of several grapes, as not all grapes grow in all regions.  The most common grapes include Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Suggested wines:

Jean Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Reserve ($18)
This Alsace sparkling wine is made in the traditional method from 100% Pinot Blanc.  Delicate and dry with elegant notes of apricot and toast, this Crémant is always a crowd-pleaser.

Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Bourgogne Cuvée Brut ($10)
This sparkling wine from Burgundy is easy to drink and light on the tongue.  Aromas of pear, apple and toasted bread continue to develop on the palate, culminating in a crisp finish that has a hint of toasted almonds.


Franciacorta is Italy’s answer to Champagne.  It comes from the Lombardy region in north central Italy and is made using the traditional method.  The grapes used in Franciacorta are mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc), along with a small amount of Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir).

Franciacorta may not be as well known in the United States as Prosecco, but its high quality means it should be sought out by bubbly enthusiasts.

Suggested wine:

Ca’ Del Bosco “Cuvee Prestige” Franciacorta DOCG ($43)
Made mainly from Chardonnay (75%), along with Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero, everything about this wine is elegant.  Pale lemon yellow in color with citrus, floral and toast notes, this sparkling wine is delicate and refreshing with nice acidity.


Prosecco is a familiar name for people who enjoy budget-friendly bubbly.  Prosecco is a sparking wine made from the Prosecco grape and produced in the Veneto region in northeast Italy.  It can be both fully sparkling (spumante) or lightly sparkling (frizzante).

Unlike Franciacorta, Prosecco is not made using the traditional method.  Instead the “charmat” method is used, whereby the wine undergoes its second fermentation in stainless steel tanks, rather than in the bottle.  This is a less expensive way of producing sparkling wine.

Suggested wine:

Nino Franco Prosecco Rustico ($17)
Frothy, delicate and fresh, this is a great sparkling wine if you prefer your Prosecco on the dry side.  Lively flavors of apple, pear and citrus culminate in a crisp finish.


Cava is an ideal sparkling wine for people who are looking for budget-friendly Champagne alternatives.  Though generally around the same price point as Prosecco, this sparkling wine from Spain has an advantage – it is produced using the traditional method.

Cava is mainly produced in the Penedès region in Catalonia.  It is traditionally a blend of the Spanish varietals Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo, though Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Subirat may also be used.

Suggested wines:

Poema Brut Cava ($9)
Easy to find (try Publix), and costing less than $10, this Cava is hard to beat.  A blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo, this sparkling wine is fresh and lively with subtle citrus flavors.

Codorníu Pinot Noir Rosé Brut ($16)
With its bright pink color, this Cava is perfect for Valentine’s Day.  Made from Pinot Noir instead of the traditional Spanish varietals, this sparkling wine has flavors of strawberry, raspberry and toast that come together in a crisp citrus finish.

Cap Classique

Cap Classique is what South Africa calls its sparkling wine.  It is produced using the traditional method, from Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.

If you like staying ahead of the trend, seek out a bottle of Cap Classique this Valentine’s Day — relatively new to many U.S. markets (which may make it tough to find), this sparkling wine is an excellent alternative to other New World sparkling wines.

Suggested wines:

Graham Beck Brut Rosé ($17)
Pale peachy-pink in color, Rosé doesn’t get any prettier.  This sparkler from the Western Cape is 58% Chardonnay and 42% Pinot Noir. Pleasantly sophisticated in flavor with hints of raspberries and cherries, it’s a fun and elegant sparkling wine.

Graham Beck “Bliss” Demi-Sec ($17)
If you’re looking for a sparkling wine that is a touch sweet but will still appeal to those who prefer it dry, try this demi-sec.  It is a mix of 54% Chardonnay and 47% Pinot Noir, with apple and citrus flavors that are rounded out by sweet almond, praline and a hint of honey.

Brachetto d’Acqui

On a holiday that’s saturated with the color red, Brachetto d’Acqui fits in perfectly.  This deep garnet sparkling wine comes from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy and is made from the Brachetto grape.  Like Prosecco, it is produced using the Charmat method.

Suggested wine:

Banfi “Rosa Regale” Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG ($21)
This sparkling wine is easy to spot at a wine shop because of its vivid magenta color – and yes, that’s the color of the wine inside the clear bottle.  Rosa Regale says romance, with its notes of fresh raspberries, strawberries and rose petals.  Slightly sweet and light and body, it’s perfect as an after dinner drink and goes great with chocolate.