In search of red wines with the “bevebilita” factor!

“The best wine is the one you like most, irrespective of brand, price or awards. Listen to your tongue and ignore what others say,” answered the late Ronnie Melck of Muratie and SFW fame to a question by an ignorant Matie student nearly five decades ago.

But life is a moving target and things never stay the same. Five decades ago the wine selection was very limited compared to today, and wine styles equally so. This makes choosing the right wine for every occasion more complicated, especially with so many “experts” telling us what to drink and why. Do you go for red or white (or rosé), full-bodied or easy-drinking?

There are times and occasions when big, bold and full-bodied red wines work their magic spell to perfection, but I find that most of the time people prefer to just enjoy the wine in their glass instead of “intellectualising” it. That’s when they open a bottle of red wine made in a light to medium style. It’s about serious versus friendly!

Whereas “serious” reds demand food to be enjoyed fully, as far as I’m concerned, the “friendly” ones provide complete enjoyment on their own, although they can certainly double up as partner to most dishes.

So why not just base your choice on the results of wine competitions? Almost all wine scoring systems purport to reflect the quality of a particular bottle of wine. Wine reviewers like to fool themselves, some very effectively, that what they do, is somehow objective. It’s true that there are objective observations that can be made, using scientific analysis, regarding a wine’s alcohol, sugar, tannin, acid and dry extract levels, but this is not what gets written about. Let there be no doubt about it, a typical numerical score for a wine reflects one person’s opinion and no more.

This is where the concept of bevebilita comes in. Bevebilita is the Italian word for “drinkability”, but let’s face it, it just sounds so much better in Italian! Simply put, milk is more drinkable than vodka, much more, and that’s bevebilita for you! But again, this is subjective as palates differ and what’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander, in a manner of speaking.

My bevelita score for wine is an average of two qualities important to drinkability, namely the drinkability itself, which boils down to balance, freshness and well, ease of drinking, and the ease with which the wine can be paired with food. This is far from a perfect system, but I think to most people it will be an improvement over the status quo.

My Bevebilita Factor (BF) will be a score that ranges from 0 to 10 and will be arrived at by adding up a wine’s drinkability and food friendliness. Wines that score less than 7½ points (because they fall outside the bevebilita range of “friendliness”!) won’t be included in this article, mainly because they are getting too serious, in a manner of speaking!

So let’s get going!

As a surprising number of wines were provided for this article (a BIG thank you to all these producers), we are going to “evaluate” them in more than one article. The first will be dedicated to wines from Piekenierskloof Wine Company, Namaqua Wines, Nederburg and Paul Cluver Wines.

  • PIEKENIERSKLOOF WINE COMPANY

With the Cederberg Mountains to the east and the Olifants River Mountains to the west, the Piekenierskloof Valley is brimming with stories to share. Not only was the area home to herds of elephants more than 300 years ago and the Dutch soldiers (known as Piekeniers) who protected what today is known as the Piekenierskloof Pass, but history says that San and Khoisan families set up temporary homes here too. It is here that wines are crafted from quality fruit by people with a passion for the soil and a commitment to do justice to the art of making fine wine. 

Piekenierskloof Cinsault 2018 – BF 8,5

Cinsaut (or cinsault) is making a comeback after many years in the wine wilderness. And about time! It’s a variety that never disappoints when made well, and this one is made well. Although the wine is still young, it already shows a velvety elegance with flavours of red berries and cherries balanced by savoury black olives and spice. Lively but fine tannins, an elegant complexity and a lingering finish add to its bevebilita score.

About 50% of the wine was matured for 12 months in second, third and fourth fill 500 litre French oak barrels, and the rest in stainless steel tanks.

Food Pairing

For the foodies, reduced bone marrow tomato pasta with black olives – to give the dish a Mediterranean twist – will fit this Cinsault like a glove. It also goes well with seafood, sushi, pizza, pasta and chicken dishes.

Serve between 10 -12ºC for best results and cellar for 5 – 6 years.

Price: R130

Piekenierskloof Grenache 2017 – BF 9,0

Considering that grenache is the driving force behind one of the world’s best-known wine brands, namely Chateauneuf-du-Pape, it’s quite shocking that it took so long for it to get a foothold in South Africa, but now that it’s here … Okay, it’s been here for some time, but it’s been hiding in plain sight!

This particular wine was matured for 12 months in 500 litre French oak barrels and shows loads of juicy red berry, strawberry, earthy and elegant notes of pepper on the palate with hints of cloves, cardamom pod and some smokiness. It is well-balanced with fine tannins and a long finish.

Food Pairing

The spicy notes of this Grenache makes it a perfect partner for foods with spices and herbs, including roasted or grilled meats, lamb shank, duck breast, sausage, vegetables and tapas. It also goes well with seafood, sushi, pizza, pasta and chicken dishes. Yes, a red wine you can partner with seafood and white meat! What is the world coming to!!!

Serve between 10 -12ºC for best results and cellar for 5 – 6 years.

Price: R130

Stonedance Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – BF 8,0

The “King of Grapes” is the offspring of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc. It is a “bold” grape – dense, dark and tannic – and it typically gives off flavours and aromas of dark berries, cigar box, pepper and eucalyptus. Cabernet sauvignon usually lends itself to the production of full-bodied wines, serious wines, but it can also be made in a style that surprises you with its silkiness and velvety softness.

Thirty per cent of this wine was matured for 12 months in 6-year-old 225 litre barrels, 20% in new 225 litre French and American oak barrels and 50% in stainless steel tanks with 2g/hl of French and American oak staves.

This medium-bodied wine offers aromas of ripe blackcurrant, plums and hints of dark chocolate. It is well-balanced, velvety and elegant on the palate, with a gentle oak texture.

Food Pairing

Among the dishes that would suit this wine perfectly, are beef ribs, braaivleis and garlic chicken wings, and serve between 16 – 18ºC for best results.

Price: R80

Six Hats Pinotage 2017 – BF 8,0

This unique South African wine grape variety, a marriage between pinot noir and cinsaut/hermitage, can come in many “shapes”, from lighter and fruity to big and bold. This particular one is medium in body and boasts ripe plum flavours with violets and black pepper. It was matured for 6 months in a combination of French and American oak.

Food Pairing

Although it’s a wine that can be enjoyed on its own, it also pairs well with roasted poultry and barbequed meats (braaivleis). Serve between 10 – 12ºC and cellar for 3 – 5 years for best results.

Price:  R55

  • NAMAQUA WINES

So-called easy-drinking wines (friendly wines in my vocabulary) can sometimes be too fruity with little balance, but with the four red wines Namaqua provided for this article, that’s not the case. On the contrary, all four are well-balanced, elegant and a joy to behold!

These four wines have also proved themselves to be worthy “flag bearers” for the brand with gold and double gold awards at the Ultra Value Awards, Vitis Vinifera Wine Awards and Gold Wine Awards where both quality and price play a role. And when you see their prices, you won’t believe your eyes!

Namaqua Shiraz 2016 – BF 8,0

This wine shows off the softer side of the shiraz grape despite the fact that it says “full-bodied” on the back label. If Sophia Loren is full-bodied, this one is Bo Derek – less but more!

The wine displays ripe, dark berries, mouth-watering mocha and vanilla on the palate with typical varietal spiciness. It has a lingering aftertaste that adds to its enjoyment.

After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, a portion of the wine was matured in older oak barrels while the remainder of the wine in the tanks was treated with oak staves and blocks. After 8 to 12 months the components were blended and bottled.

Food Pairing

Enjoy this wine on its own or with red meat dishes, pizza with salami, tomato-based pasta or spaghetti bolognaise.

Price: R45 (Nope, your eyes are not deceiving you!)

Namaqua Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 – BF 8,5

Another wine that claims to be full-bodied, but reminds me more of Bo Derek than Sophia Loren! Full-bodied reds simply aren’t as drinkable on their own as these two!

This voluptuous Cab pleases the palate with dark fruit flavours of black currants and blackberries, and surprises with an elegant and velvety finish.

After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, a portion of the wine was matured in older oak barrels while the remainder of the wine in the tanks was treated with oak staves and blocks. After 8 to 12 months the components were blended and bottled.

Food Pairing

Strongly flavoured cheese and beef, lamb or pasta dishes will complement this wine, or just savour it on its own.

Price: R45

Namaqua Merlot 2017 – BF 9,0

Remember the 2004 American comedy-drama Sideways in which Paul Giamatti’s character Miles speaks fondly of pinot noir while denigrating merlot? At one stage Miles says: “If anyone orders merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any fucking merlot.” Shame, the poor fellow clearly didn’t know what he was talking about.

Consider for a moment that the most famous merlot wine is Pétrus from the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, one of the world’s best-known wine brands, and you’ll realize that poor Miles needed some serious wine education.

This version has re-affirmed my love for this varietal. It is smooth on the palate with hints of red cherries, ripe plums and mulberries, tempered by mild tannins. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, a portion of the wine was matured in older oak barrels while the remainder of the wine in the tanks was treated with oak staves and blocks. After 8 to 12 months the components were blended and bottled.

Food Pairing:

This wine doesn’t need food to be enjoyed, but if you want to go that route, try red meat dishes, hearty tomato-based food and desserts with dark chocolate.

Price: R45

Namaqua Pinotage 2018 – BF 8,0

Pinotage has had its ups and downs over the years, but this uniquely South African varietal has shaken off all criticism thanks to today’s winemakers crafting superb wines and blends from this “marriage” between pinot noir and cinsaut/hermitage. It’s a true chameleon of a wine as it can be made in different styles, including rosé.

This medium-bodied version spoils the mouth with decadent flavours of plums and red berries, well balanced by gentle oak and a smoky finish.

After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, a portion of the wine was matured in older oak barrels while the remainder of the wine in the tanks was treated with oak staves and blocks. After 8 to 12 months the components were blended and bottled.

Food Pairing:

Enjoy it on its own, slightly chilled in summer, or with anything meaty, like a traditional South African braai, potjiekos (casserole) with red meat, spaghetti bolognaise or a biltong and droëwors platter.

Price: R45

  • NEDERBURG

Nederburg Private Bin Grenache 2009 – BF 9,0

Nederburg needs no introduction, whether you’re new to wine or an old hat! Its long and rich history of wine-making and the many awards it has garnered over the years speak volumes, so I’m not going to do any PR for the brand!

I had something of an epiphany last August in the southwest of France, first savouring the salmon pink wines of Provence made from grenache and then being treated to a vertical tasting of 5 Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintages driven by, you guess it, grenache! Suffice it so say, I’m a convert!

But back to Nederburg’s Private Bin Grenache. The Private Bin label is reserved for those wines sold exclusively on the prestigious annual Nederburg Auction. The wines are all limited-edition, sourced from exceptional fruit and made by hand.

Just 1 200 litres of this vintage were made from old Paarl bush vines. The wine was fermented in open tanks. Once taken off the skins and malolactic fermentation was completed, the wine was aged in 500-litre French oak barrels for 24 months. It has a maturation potential of 12 to 15 years.

The nose offers inviting aromas of succulent fruit with notes of dark chocolate, pepper and sweet spice. While the winemaker’s notes say the palate boasts big, bold and intense flavours with a plush mouth-feel, this wine has mellowed with age into something you may find difficult to share with others!

Food Pairing

This wine I enjoyed on my own, apparently with a big smile on my dial, but it also goes well with tapas, as well as grills, roasts and casseroles, and also vegetarian dishes.

Price: R760 (I know, I know, this article is supposed to be about friendly wines and there’s nothing friendly about R760, but boy oh boy, it’s worth every buck … especially when you don’t have to cough it up!).

  • PAUL CLUVER WINES

Paul Cluver Village Pinot Noir 2017 – BF 9,5

noir wines are among the most popular in the world. Joel Fleischman of Vanity Fair magazine has described pinot noir as “the most romantic of wines, with so voluptuous a perfume, so sweet an edge, and so powerful a punch that, like falling in love, they make the blood run hot and the soul wax embarrassingly poetic.” Master sommelier Madeline Triffon calls the varietal “sex in a glass”.

Pinot noir’s home is France’s Burgundy region, particularly in the Côte d’Or. The grapes’ thin skins and low levels of phenolic compounds lend pinot to producing mostly lightly coloured, light to medium-bodied and low tannin wines that can often go through phases of uneven and unpredictable aging. When young, wines made from pinot noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. As the wine ages, pinot has the potential to develop more vegetal and “barnyard” aromas that can contribute to its complexity.

This wine was transferred to French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks where malolactic fermentation took place. It was partially matured in French oak for 9 months to add complexity and silkiness. After tasting and blending trials, the wine was racked and prepared for bottling.

The wine boasts beautiful aromas of red fruit intermingled with roasted spices followed by a delicious, elegant silky palate of poached ripe plums resulting in medium-bodied wine with soft edges. This wine has been crafted for enjoyment, to be savoured, drop by drop, make no mistake about it, but it has the structure and fruit to be enjoyed for two years and beyond.

Food Pairing:

Serve with rosemary and mustard infused lamb, Asian style fish dishes or vegetarian lentil burgers.

Price:  R120

That’s a wrap … for now! Keep an eye open for the next article on red wines with a bevebilita factor!

And remember, all palates differ and wine is very personal and subjective.

Cheers!

END

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