Getting to Know Unusual Wine Varietals

Words: Karen Glanfield

Unusual Wine Varietals
Wine Concepts LB 728 x 90Most consumers see wine as an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes. It can be white, red or pink and, if it’s a moment of celebration, may even have bubbles floating to the top. If the tipple of choice is white, it will in all probability be Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, and if red, a Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon will suffice. On very adventurous outings, a Chenin Blanc or Pinotage may even make it to the table.

Then there are other lesser-known unusual wine varietals that have been banned to the outer extremities of the known winemaking world, not for any other reason than for the fact that they are not deemed to be fashionable enough for the modern palate (though fashion seems to be swinging back especially on the cases of Cinsaut and Grenache!) Or, in some cases, it may just be too difficult to pronounce.

A Few Unusual Wine Varietals

Bukettraube, Carignan, Cinsaut, Durif, Gruner Veltliner, Hárslevelű, Nero d’Avola, Pinot Blanc, Roobernet, Rousanne, Tannat, Tempranillo, Verdelho and Zinfandel. No, I am not trying to create a new phonetic alphabet but rather mentioning just a few of the 30 odd “unusual varieties” planted in South Africa at present. It is with huge delight that I see more and more of these unusual varieties making their way into the bottle these days – both as blends as well as single variety wines.

As in most established wine-producing countries, new plantings or grafting are taking place and new varieties of wine grapes, as well as new regions, are being explored as the country finds itself at the frontline of modern market requirements.

Why we should be trying these Unusual Wine Varietals

The focus, I have no doubt, will always remain on the more commonly planted varieties but when I am lucky enough to come across something unusual in my glass it makes me stop and contemplate it for longer, even if it is not quite to my personal taste.

These wines awaken the palate and the mind to look deeper, explore further and often unravel a real gem.

While it may often seem that the tunnel for introducing new and interesting varieties is quite dark, there are still producers who boldly go where others fear to tread. While government rules and regulations are daunting to ensure that imported plant material is virus-free, the bureaucracy can often also lead to new varieties taking more than five years before go-ahead is given for their production.

So where does this place the lesser-known grape varieties? Real interest would lie in sniffing out wines made from lesser, or should one say unusual wine varietals.

3 facts you should know about Unusual Wine Varietals

  • There are more than 10,000 different grape varieties known to scientists. These include wine grapes and table grapes, most of which originated in Europe and the Americas.
  • In 1950 in France, the most popular 20 grapes – Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay and so on – made up only 50 percent of the vineyard. Now those same 20 varieties account for 93 percent.
  • Who knew that Thailand even made wine? China does, as do Brazil and Japan. In this international age perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

South African produced Unusual Varietal Wines

BOSMAN NERO D’AVOLA 2015

The grapes for the Bosman Family Vineyards Nero d’Avola 2015 were picked ripe and kept on the skins for 2 weeks post fermentation. The wine spent a year in a combination of 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill barrels resulting in an elegant, medium-bodied wine with fresh berry flavours and a hint of pepper. It can be served slightly chilled in summer with a midday meal, or enjoyed with hearty Italian fare such as pizza, pasta or grilled meat.

WINEMAKERCorlea Fourie
WOWellington
TASTING NOTESFresh berry flavours with hints of violets, lavender and purple prunes. A medium bodied wine with a persistent finish and reminiscent tannins.
WE LOVE IT WITHDeconstructed Lasagne
PRICER150

 

bosmanwines.com


Capa Roca 2014
(Touriga Nacional 48%, Souzao 48%, Tinta Barocca 4%)

The team at Cape Rock have always believed in the potential of Portuguese varieties grown in the Olifants River area. The local co-operative cellar made great dry red wines from a friend’s vineyards year after year. They tasted the Souzao and Touriga Naçional components at the local young wine show but never saw them ending up in a bottle. They decided to buy some of the grapes and make their own small batch experimental co-fermented blend. Cape Roca is the result.

WINEMAKERGavin Brand
WOVredendal area, Olifants River, West Coast
TASTING NOTESThe wine is full bodied with a sweet nose of red and darker summer berries and red fruits. It was made to be enjoyed early but should improve with age for up to 7 years after release. The wine is ideal to be enjoyed on its own in winter or slightly chilled during summer evenings and will go well with charcuterie, breads and hard cheeses, hearty meat stews or barbecues.
WE LOVE IT WITHOld School Coke Short Ribs
PRICER135

 

unusual wine varietals

caperockwines.co.za


Cederberg Bukettraube

A rare cultivar with 77 hectares left in the world. Cederberg Bukettraube is an explosion of aroma and flavour.

WINEMAKERDavid Nieuwoudt
WOCederburg
TASTING NOTESIt has prominent muscat flavours with apricot and floral notes on the nose. A well-balanced wine with a delicate sweetness and a crisp acidity. Enjoyed as an aperitif; partner to spicy fusion foods – not hot; sweet Cape curries, or goose liver and baked fruits.
WE LOVE IT WITHCape Malay Sosaties
PRICER85

 

unusual wine varietals

cederbergwine.com


Diemersdal Grüner Veltliner 2017

The grapes from this traditional Austrian variety where harvested at the beginning of March, right after the Sauvignon Blanc and just shortly before the ripe Chardonnay. The grapes were picked in the early hours of the morning and have been treated similarly to Diemersdal’s unwooded Chardonnay. This variety is known for its food-friendliness and can pair well with all kinds of dishes.

WINEMAKERThys Louw
WODurbanville
TASTING NOTESMade in riper style than the maiden vintage. A lemon-lime colour, inviting aromas of kiwi, stone fruit and lime with sweet melon, ripe pear and white pepper note. A medium bodied wine, with a concentrated palate and a long lingering and mineral finish.
WE LOVE IT WITHChargrilled Asparagus and Avocado Salad with Prawns
PRICER95

 

unusual wine varietals

diemersdal.co.za


Dornier Tempranillo

The focus behind this range was to showcase single varietals grown on the Dornier Estate. Produced only in very small quantities, these wines have been nurtured to bring across the true expression of the Dornier Terroir as well as the unique characteristic of the single varietal.

WINEMAKERPhillip van Staden
WOStellenbosch
TASTING NOTESThe nose is filled with plush aromas of molasses with a hint of spice and a leathery appeal. On the palate, the wine shows a savoury character and is full-bodied with excellent length and chewy tannins, which will allow this wine to age well.
WE LOVE IT WITHSpringbok Shoulder with Glazed Pumpkin
PRICER153

 

unusual wine varietals

dornier.co.za


Fairview Tannat

Forever pushing the envelope of winemaking, Fairview brings South Africans more never before seen plantings, such as Tannat. Historically grown in the Basque region of France, today Tannat is one of the most prominent grapes grown in Uruguay. Having rooted itself just as comfortably in local soils, this red shows off abundant yet elegant tannins and spiced dark fruits on the nose.

WINEMAKERAnthony De Jager
WOPaarl
TASTING NOTESThe nose is filled with plush aromas of molasses with a hint of spice and a leathery appeal. On the palate, the wine shows a savoury character and is full-bodied with excellent length and chewy tannins, which will allow this wine to age well.
WE LOVE IT WITHHarissa-Marinated Lamb Loin Grilled Peach Salad
PRICER115

 

unusual wine varietals


fairview.co.za


Ken Forrester Roussanne

There is only a limited quantity of this gorgeous and most sensuous white wine. The older large barrels have added richness and texture without any hint of flab.

WINEMAKERKen Forrester
WOStellenbosch
TASTING NOTESElegant, rich restrained, hints of lime blossom, soft on the palate with a gentle structure, this classic Rhone grape thrives in the Mediterranean climate here at The Cape of Good Hope.
WE LOVE IT WITHCaesar Salad with Homemade Croutons
PRICER195

 

unusual wine varietals

kenforresterwines.com


Lemberg Hárslevelű

Lemberg Wine Estate is located in the scenic Tulbagh Valley, surrounded by the views of the majestic Witzenberg and Winterhoek mountains. It lies 120 km northeast of Cape Town and 5 km south of historic Tulbagh.Vines planted in 1983 in Tulbagh provide Lemberg with the platform to relaunch Hárslevelü again after 29 years.

WINEMAKERNiel Rossouw
WOStellenbosch
TASTING NOTESElegant, rich restrained, hints of lime blossom, soft on the palate with a gentle structure, this classic Rhone grape thrives in the Mediterranean climate here at The Cape of Good Hope.
WE LOVE IT WITHPear, Blue Cheese and Walnut Open Tart
PRICER205

 

unusual wine varietals

lemberg.co.za

Now that you know more about unusual wine varietals, why not increase your wine knowledge and get to know Red and White Blends | Shiraz | Chardonnay | Chenin Blanc | Cabernet Sauvignon | Merlot Pinotage | Rosé

Wine Concepts LB 728 x 90

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