1. YOU GOTTA GET GROOVY WITH GRENACHE
This is one of the hottest grape varieties this winter as winemakers rediscover forgotten vineyards full of gnarly old bush vines producing wonderful, flavoursome fruit. Try the Neil Ellis Grenache 2011 for a ripe mouthful of juicy, red-berried fruit.
2. BLENDS ARE BEST
If you thought a blend was merely a way to hide leftover wine, it’s time to think again. Ravishing Rhône blends, captivating Cape blends or brilliant Bordeaux blends are the order of the day – try the Oldenburg Rhodium 2012, dominated by plush, velvety Merlot for a warming winter fix.
3. HEAD A LITTLE OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Ever had a wine from Greyton? Or one from the Karoo? Expand your horizons beyond Stellenbosch and Paarl and seek out Greyton’s Lismore Estate Syrah 2014, or the elegant Mount Sutherland wines from the coldest wine-growing region in Africa. You’ll be rewarded with oodles of excitement in every glass.
4. LIGHTEN UP A LITTLE
From being known for huge 15% alcoholic monsters, the trend for SA wines these days is more towards lower alcohol, lighter bodied wines. Look for delicate red wines with around 12% alcohol and minimise the headache the following day.
5. CHILLIN’ CINSAUT VIBES
Another cool kid on the block – Cinsaut is the perfect red for those occasional warmer days. Waterkloof’s Seriously Cool Cinsault 2014 should be served as it says – seriously cool. I’d recommend sticking it in the fridge for half an hour for a lively, fresh mouthful of bright red fruit.
6. FORTIFIED WINTER FARE
Forget about ports and muscadels at your peril because if anything was made for winter, it’s these rich, warming styles of wine. Delicious rubies from Boplaas or toffee/coffee/nutty tawnies from KWV are the perfect accompaniment to hearty food, so don’t save them for the cheese course – sip them throughout the meal and relish the combination of sweet and savoury.
7. RED WINES WITH FISH (YES, REALLY!)
Time to throw the old food- and wine-matching rule book out the window. Choose firm fish with lots of flavour, such as SASSI approved tuna, swordfish or even Cape salmon, then bake it, smothered in tomatoes, olives, capers and feta, and pair with a juicy red with good acidity such as the Raats Granite Blocks Cabernet Franc.
8. COOKING WITH BOX WINE IS ALLOWED
That old rubbish about cooking with the same wine you’re going to drink with the dish needs to stop right now! So many wintery recipes involve wine – stews, casseroles, potjies and bredies – and they all work equally well with an inexpensive box wine. Save your money for the stuff you’re actually going to taste.
9. THE NEW CORK IS COOL
Most red wines tend to be sealed with a cork and the good news for those of us worried about cork taint is that the use of technical corks by companies such as Amorim and Diam is on the rise. These are made up of lots of tiny pieces of cork, carefully washed and sterilised, then moulded into the correct shape so you get that nice, satisfying “ploep” noise without any of the nasty flavours of cork taint.
10. MADE FOR MULLING
Warming and spicy, mulled wine is cool-weather happy juice. Choose something low in tannins, such as Delheim Oakleaf Merlot, add cinnamon, cloves, allspice and citrus fruit, and gently bring to a simmer. A great party-starter.