Try noir or grigio for a surprise sip in summer heat

A YEAR and 50 wine columns later, here we are again at the beginning of a new year, waistlines and wallets groaning in the festive season aftermath and resolutions to live better, do better, be better still shiny and fresh in the mind.

As far as A Vine Time goes, my resolution is to keep savouring and sharing great wines with Weekend Post readers. “Great” can mean top-flight, well-aged international standard reds, with price tags to match, but it can also mean the inexpensive patio quaffer that delivers great value – good quality at a reasonable price.

Food-and-wine pairing seems to be the new “big thing” for local foodies and wine lovers, with events across the city on an almost weekly basis.

So, we’ll continue to bring you news of these events, and to suggest dishes that would go well with recommended wines. Food and wine togetherbring out the best in each other and there’s an interesting experience in learning about what goes best with what, and why.

In 2014, we’re likely to see more moving away from old faithfuls and willingness to try new estates and cultivars, as the Western Cape’s winemakers turn their interest from the saturated markets of Cape Town and Gauteng, and Durban’s beer-lovers, to the growing wine market in the Eastern Cape. Hopefully, consumer demand will see more interesting and wider choices on more and more shelves.

Cultivar-wise, expect to see more of the lesser-known varietals going mainstream. Pinot noir is starting to occupy more shelf-space, with lower-priced offerings from well-known names like Van Loveren starting to appear alongside more exclusive selections from the likes of Cederberg, Creation, Groote Post and Highlands Road. Do give it a try – lightly-chilled it’s a great summer red wine, lighter than a heavy cab, for example, but still with loads of complexity in its characteristic earthiness, mushrooms, flowers and red berries that can stand up to red meat dishes.

Pinot gris (or pinot grigio) is another quietly expanding choice. This Mediterranean cultivar is well suited to SA summer sipping, with Anthonij Rupert’s Terra del Capo a great, crisp and lively example. At the budget end, look out for Flat Roof Manor and Fairview’s La Capra versions.

Many people were put off chardonnay in its early incarnations by big, oily, buttery, woody wines. Do yourself a favour and give it another chance. First off, there are now lots of unwooded versions which deliver an experience similar to a chenin blanc. More importantly, our winemakers have learned over the years to be a lot less heavy-handed with the wood, and there are some superb wooded chardonnays out there offering subtle and complex vanilla, oak and lime flavours that don’t whack you in the face.

Wishing all our readers a happy and successful 2014. Let me know what your favourite holiday wines have been so far, or send me your questions and suggestions, on sam.venter@mweb.co.za

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