10 great-value South African reds under £15

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South Africa by Fiona McDonald 2012 DWWA Regional Chair, South Africa

South African wine makers nowadays revel in the diversity of plantings available, harnessing varieties well suited to the climate, water status and terroir.

Traditionally a grain-growing area, the Swartland (which starts about 50km north of Cape Town) is the heartland of creative winemaking – Eben Sadie, the Mullineux family and Adi Badenhorst call the area home. Consequently, many of the value picks featured here are blends that are either made in the Swartland or feature a high proportion of Swartland fruit. Ripeness and fruit purity as well as the use of Mourvedre, Grenache and even humble Cinsaut blended with Shiraz are a facet of these wines. When it’s cold and grey outside and there’s more month than money after Christmas, these are the ideal wines to turn to – tasty, approachable and affordable.

Other than value, what sets these wines apart is winemaking skill. Restraint too. Gone are the days of trying too hard: now winemakers let the fruit speak and it, in turn, is ripe, not overripe. Oaking is toned and subtle while the use of less fancied components adds complexity.

Pinotage is beginning to win friends but has a way to go before influencing people. Often dubbed green, herbaceous and stalky, South African Cabernet is improving. A long road lies ahead but today’s wines express a fynbos element rather than overt leafiness. 2009 was hailed as a great vintage in local terms – a good winter with ample rains and cold weather, cool growing season and a ripening period almost devoid of the usual heatwaves. 2010 is revealing itself as something of a sleeper vintage, and there’s great value to be found in this year.

McDonald recommends...

South African reds, Adoro Western Cape
South African reds, Bellingham The Bernard Series