By Zoltan Szabo (with video by Malcolm Jolley)

Wines of South Africa
presented a series of workshops and seminars in Toronto recently as part of a North American tour of some of their more innovative winemakers, including Johan Reyneke, the philosopher turned biodynamic winemaker Malcolm interviews in the video below.

Some of the visiting winemakers took part in smart and eye–opening panel discussions, intelligently moderated by Vines Magazine’s Chris Waters. These trade sessions focussed on The Cape area and its long winemaking heritage. I enjoyed the talks about terroir, sustainability, organic and biodynamic farming by the talented and motivated artisans of the grape.

Aside learning that this part of Africa is the botanical garden of the world, with splendid beaches and whale watching opportunity, the wines were way above my expectations, in fact some blew my mind.

And, what a great, inspiring story behind Thandi, must look into, read, couple of the red wines also very good, soft and fruity, easy – drinking. “With love we grow together”, amen to that.

We tasted a whole lineup of Chenin Blanc and witnessed an incredible diversity, from aged on Sauvignon Blanc lees to barrel fermented with wild yeast, to biodynamic and late harvest. The second biggest plantings of Chenin Blanc in the world are in The Cape, grape that was first planted for making brandy.  Johan Reyneke’s ‘White’ had everyone guessing as tot he varietal, until he revealed it was simply Sauvignon Blanc from a wild ferment.

The most impressive flight, in my view, was the ‘Flagship reds’ with many world class wines, from any perspective.

2007 Vilafonté ‘series m’ – Merlot – based, aged in new French oak to an extent of 45%. Juicy with ripe tannins, perfectly balanced, pure and elegant. Vilafonté’s 2007 ‘series c’ is Cabernet – driven and with a bit more oak treatment and supple tannins. Both are excellent reds and a fine treat with Morton’s filet mignon with courageous amount of béarnaise sauce. Winery is partly Canadian – owned and the name of it comes from the “Vilafontes” soil type. 5 stars out of 5.
Other fantastic red wines tasted throughout the day were De Toren ’09 ‘Z’, Morgenster ’03, Raats Family ’07 Cabernet Franc & MR de Compostella, I overheard Bruwer Raats saying “If my wife doesn’t want me anymore, I’d marry Cabernet Franc”.

Another couple of pleasant red blends, Plaisir de Merle ’07 ‘Grand Plaisir’ and Nederburg ’08 ‘Ingenuity’ blend of Sangiovese, Barbera and Nebbiolo aged in 500 L Romanian oak barrels.

For whites, Lomond ’09 ‘Snowbush’ – Sauvignon Blanc – driven with Nouvelle, Semillon and Viognier, citrus-tropical, spicy-floral and mineral, fresh, spent 9 months on lees in partial French barrels.

De Morgenzon 2007 Chenin Blanc – liking this a lot, bit of botrytis there maybe, in any case, it is very good and turned out that it was a great match with the Caesar salad with creamy garlic dressing served at Morton’s Steakhouse for lunch. De Morgenzon is playing classical music for their Chenin Blanc vines and vineyards 24/7.

Impressed by Paul Cluver ’10 ‘Close Encounter’ Riesling – pure with great freshness, stone fruit, honey – lanolin nuances and a touch sweetness.

Kanu Kia-Ora ’06 Noble Late Harvest Chenin Blanc – 50% botrytis affected grapes with the rest partially dehydrated, acidified a bit, 160 gr/L r. sugar, 10 gr/L TA here and delicious

Raats Family ’09 Chenin Blanc – grown in Dolomitic granite & sandstone, 50 years old vines, supple, mineral, nutty, 16 months on lees, characterful

Rudera de Tradisie ’09 Chenin Blanc – minimalist approach here, vineyards’ close proximity to ocean give low yields, citrus, mineral, straightforward.

The Bernard Series ’10 Old Vine Chenin Blanc – 40 years old bushvines average, very good intensity with pear, lime, floral and mineral accents.

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Read more of sommelier Zoltan Szabo at and follow him at This video is made possible through the kind support of Fortessa Canada/Schott Zwiesel: casual elegance for everyday living.