We are all familiar with the regular garden grapes varietals that grace the wineries of our fair Cape: Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Bordeaux cultivars, et al. But what about weird and wonderful ones that you can barely pronounce, let alone know exist? Here are five of them.
Also know as Wurzburger, this is a white grape with its origins in Germany. South Africa is actually the most prominent producer of it, even though we hardly ever see it. No surprise considering there are only 77 hectares left of this varietal worldwide – probably because its shelf life is about a year, making it a less attractive grape to invest in. In taste, it’s a bit similar to Muscat – the family of which our Hannepoot grape is part of. Think honey, apricot, peach and floral flavours which become spicy and buttery if spent time in oak.
Try it: Cederberg’s semi-sweet Bukettraube 2013.
This aromatic white varietal makes up a third of Austria’s vineyard plantings and is also grown in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In parts of its homeland, it’s grown on slopes so steep that they are barely able to retain soil! Unlike Bukettraube, this is a wine capable of long ageing. It has predominantly white pepper characteristics with some minerality and freshness – but can also take on a big, buttery flavour if left in oak.
Try it: The first Gruner Veltliner planted in Africa was done so by Diemersdal in Durbanville. The maiden vintage 2013 was released last year.
Grown all over Portugal but most prominent on the island of Madeira, where it’s the most planted varietal. Typically it’s a dry and fresh, medium bodied, tropical fruit-driven wine. Outside Portugal the grape has become popular in Australia. Back in 2012 there was only one single varietal Verdelho made in the Cape – now there are at least 3, but several other wineries grow it to be used in blends.
Try it: David Cope’s Dirty Julie Verdelho 2013 – brought to you by the owner of Publik wine bar who makes this wine at A.A. Badenhorst’s winery in the Swartland.
A Portugese red varietal, Tinta Barocca is one of the five grape varietals that go into making Port. The grape makes wine that is soft and fruit driven and its job is to give Port a good body. We make some delectable Port-style wines here in the Cape, but we must call them Cape Ruby. South Africa is the only country in the world to make single varietal Tina Barocca wine – intense, ripe and high in alcohol – as well as using them to make our version of Port.
Try it: Momento Tinta Barocca 2013 – made by Young Gun winemaker Marelise Jansen van Rensberg out of her family’s Bot Rivier winery Beaumont wines. Do yourself a favour and try their Cape Ruby, too.
This red varietal comes from Italy’s Tuscany region and is the grape that makes Hannibal Lecter’s favourite wine – Chianti. One of the few things I miss about living in the UK is having access to a wide range of affordable Italian wines at the supermarket. But I need fear not, for if one looks hard enough there are a number of wineries growing Sangiovese – translation: the blood of Jupiter – for use in blends and on their own. The wines are dry and medium bodied, with red fruit or blueberry flavours, with a bit of spice and sometimes a nice cured meat vibe thrown in. The perfect companion for any hearty winter dish.