One of the reasons I love my new wine retail gig is our impressive South African wine selection, and since we routinely do free, open-to-the-public wine classes, I decided my first project at the new job would be Wines of South Africa 101.
The first thing I learned was that picking out wines is about a lot more than just "what's good?" Of course, I'd love to have featured De Trafford 2004 Blueprint Shiraz – but at the $40 price point and with less than two cases in stock it wasn't logistically possible. So many factors went into play that had nothing to do with my personal taste for the wines, but it was a great opportunity to learn what goes into planning these events.
After much deliberation, I ended up with a list I could be proud of, chosen from our inventory as a good first introduction to the wines of SA:
Graham Beck MCC Brut – a lovely example of Methode Cap Classique!
Graham Beck Game Reserve 2009 Chenin Blanc – two Graham Beck wines didn't seem so superfluous in light of his recent demise – Rest in Peace, Mr. Beck! Plus, this was the freshest Chenin Blanc we had.
Painted Wolf 2007 Pinotage – probably necessary to do a pinotage, and this one is among the more restrained and elegant that I've had.
Edgebaston 2008 The Pepper Pot – a tasty Rhone blend with a sexy label and totally South African.
Warwick 2008 The First Lady – a gorgeous, honest-to-terroir Cabernet Sauvignon from a great producer with a terrific US presence. The stars were aligned on this one.
The wines of the night for my full-to-capacity class (hello, SA wine peeps – there is real interest here in western New York!) were the Game Reserve Chenin Blanc and The First Lady. Lots of takers on the Pepper Pot as well. I was able to teach attendees how to pick out Brett using the Pepper Pot's meaty, iodine-y finish, and one woman couldn't get enough of the flavor and wanted to know which wines were "Brettier." I named some of the more barnyard-tasting Chinon wines I could think of.
I was pleased but not surprised at the success of The First Lady, and delighted a wine with such truly South African character was the belle of the ball, so to speak.