Monthly Archives: September 2010

Economic Empowerment Tastes Pretty Darn Good

A few days ago my one of
coworkers called me over to the wine desk to announce, "We've got some
'Julia wines' here!" Indeed, there were five new South Africans wines at
the desk, none of which I had had before. Three were particularly interesting:
Bosman Family Vineyards Adama 2008, and two 2009 wines produced by Bosman but
under the Appollis label: a red blend based on cabernet sauvignon and merlot,
and a chardonnay-based white blend. All three are Wine of Origin Wellington (a
warmer region north of Stellenbosch) and unfamiliar to me, but what really
caught my eye was the "Fair Trade Certified" logo. I took them home
for a test drive. 


Why two brands? Bosman Family
Vineyards became FairTrade certified in 2009. Bosman formed a joint venture
with Adama Workers Trust, so farm workers own 430 ha of land


 which produces the
Appollis Project line of wines. It's an awesome example of South Africa's
economic empowerment projects active and working in the wine industry! For the
full story click 


But how's the wine? The Bosman
Adama 2008, a blend of 85% shiraz, 10% mourvedre, 3% primitivo (cool!) and 2%
viognier is the more expensive of the two at $19.99 but I actually preferred
the $10 Appollis red. Adama wasn't bad but overpoweringly oaky and showing lots
of burnt rubber and leather, rather like a shoe store. It had a nice
eucalyptus/menthol quality which I dug but wouldn't be my pick to introduce a
customer to South African wine. The Appollis, however, is a quite approachable
value. It showed bright red currant and cherry flavors, with just a hint of
smoke, and was a hit when I poured it for a couple of SA wine newbies. Ditto
for the Appollis white. A blend of 60% chardonnay, 30% chenin blanc and 10%
viognier, it was creamy and full with nice melon and kiwi tropical action and
good acidity. I served it for a girlfriend who likes whites, paired with a
dinner of roasted squash stuffed with peppers and onions, and she loved it. With
oh-so-cute polka dot labels and friendly prices, these Appollis wines (imported
by MJM) are solid SA intro wines. 


But after all that
warm-climate Wellington wine it was time to treat myself to something I've been
wanting to try for awhile: Hamilton-Russell 2007 pinot noir, a Wine Spectator


 100 wine last year. The Wine of Origin is Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (Hermanus
area, by the sea), a cooler climate befitting such a delicate grape. It cost
$40 and was imported by Vineyard Brands

A whiff of Hamilton-Russell
took me right to the kitchen of a childhood friend's mother, who is of Indian
descent and once gave me an Indian cooking lesson. Was it garam masala?
Coriander? What was that spice? I figured out that it was cardamom pods, which
Indian cooks toast in a skillet to release the flavors. Having never gotten
that flavor in wine before I was pretty excited; I'm not sure if it's an oak
thing or if other South African pinots show that kind of spice (I've only had a
few) but it was extremely cool to get that immediate sense memory. 

Indian food aside this pinot
was bursting with florals – a violet and mint bouquet. On the palate, it was
silky-smooth as expected, but there was no affectionate "love
squeeze" that a good pinot gives you on the midpalate, just to check in.
It was a lovely wine, but the best pinots I had in SA are still Oak Valley and
Catherine Marshall. Anyone who disagrees or has another favorite is more than
welcome to chime in!



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