World Cup Wine Series 2010
South Africa wines vs. Mexican Wines
With most of the world ready to explode with excitement over the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by The Republic of South Africa (it’s the Super Bowl of Soccer but countries from all over the world participate, not just America) I wanted a way to experience this phenomenon. Since my idea of football involves helmets, shoulder pads, an oval-shaped ball and some big-time hits, I thought that as an American, one way to get involved in the mania was by discussing the various wines from the competing countries.
Naturally, I’ll start with host nation South Africa and its match against Mexico. Surprisingly, both countries have very long wine-making traditions. With the end of Apartheid in1994, the world began to learn of the amazing wines from this emerging region. The most award-winning wines are Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. South Africa, the 8th largest wine-producing country has more than 500 producers in this maritime region with nearly 60 official appellations.
The first-three listed regions form a golden triangle in the heart of Cape Winelands. The top players are as follows:
Stellenbosch – This jewel region is home to some of the best reds in the nation, hailing from renowned producers such as Kanonkop, Rustenberg and Warwick to name few. The all-star varietals are Cabernet Sauvingnon, Merlot, Chenin Blanc and the controversial and often maligned Pinotage.
I spent a day tasting at Morgenhof, a French style winery. There I enjoyed their Merlot (surprisingly fruity given the strong tannins), Chardonnay (apricot and citrus flavors) and found the Cape Late Bottle vintage fortified wine absolutely fabulous.
Paarl- Home to the country’s most well-known brand Nederburg. One of my favorites from this appellation are Glen Carlou’s Chardonnay and Shiraz.
Franschhoek – This winemaking valley dates back to 1688. The white wines include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon and several blends and rosés. I’ve tasted some great wines at Boschendal including a Blanc de Noir (salmon-colored, complex and busting with fruit flavor), Chardonnay (buttery) and Le Bouquet (site-specify blend)
Durbanville – A hilly, emerging region with Sauvignon Blancs, Shiraz and Merlot.
Walker Bay – Here you’ll find great Pinot Noir. Growers have benefitted greatly by the end of Apartheid, gaining access to nursery material for plantings. This region is influenced by the cool climate of the ocean. This region also makes solid Chardonnay.
Constantia – Located just outside Cape Town, this region has some superb Sauvignon Blancs and Semillions. It’s home to celebrated estates such as Groot.
Now on to the opposition, Mexico. Although the boom in winemaking here has occurred in the last 15-20 years, the Spaniards planted the first vines back in 1524. Today, the best vines are grown in northern Baja, near Ensenada. The sub-regions of Calafia, San Vincente, Guadalupe and Santa Tomas Valleys benefit from the cool breezes off the nearby Pacific and the hot days are instrumental in fruit development. The oldest winery in the “New World” is located in Santa Maris de las Parras in the state of Caohuila.
Since the Mexican government seems unconcerned about following tradition by establishing official appellations, only a handful even exist. Presently, foreign and domestic investment has led to a potpourri of producers with a mish mash of winemaking techniques.
As a result, I’ll focus my discussion on specific wineries and the adjacent towns. The following represent Mexico’s top players:
Ensenada, Baja – Ninety percentage of all wine in the country comes from this coastal town. Located just 70 miles south of my hometown, San Diego, Ensenada is home to the Guadalupe Valley, a rich and fertile region which has ideal growing conditions for producing some damned fine grapes.
Red wine producers tend to lean toward Bordeaux style grapes while white wine producers favor California flavor profiles. Part of the preference toward Old World varietals is due to Mexico’s export arrangements with Europe, which accounts for about half of wine sales abroad.
Chateau Camou – This house is located in the Valle de Guadalupe, a wine-growing region that has been compared to Napa, at least for similar growing conditions. Time will tell. It had an auspicious beginning, winning a silver medal in 1998 at the Challenge International du Win in Bordeaux for its 1995 El Gran Vino Yinto. You can try this Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot blend and judge for yourself.
Casa de Piedra – Located in the San Antonio de las Minas Valley, this winery is cutting edge and takes a keen interest in the local economy. Winemaker Hugo D’Acosta opened a wine school to help locals become more self-sufficient. Besides his humanitarian works, D’Acosta produces some outstanding wines. The Vino de Piedra, a red is worthy of a tasting as is the Emblena Sauvignon Blanc.
With an influx of foreign investment by European and Californian producers, expect to see further improvement in the quality of Mexican wines.
BTW, The World Cup game between the two nations ended in a 1-1 tie.Tags: Mexican Wine, South African Wine, Wine tasting