Shiraz Day takes place on 21 August 2023 and since it’s a wine varietal I’ve found many people often underestimate, I thought I’d share some suggestions on which wines to try come the day that pays homage to its brilliant characteristics.
According to wine.co.za, the first confirmed Shiraz vineyards were planted in Groot Constantia towards the end of the 1890s. The first bottling of Shiraz was a single varietal for Bellingham in 1957.
Shiraz is known for key notes like pepper, black fruits, savoury (meaty, bacon fat) and even dark chocolate. It is also said that the cooler the climate and the higher the altitude, the leaner, more elegant and more peppery the wine.
Terroir plays a very important role in the final product when it comes to wine. For Zandvliet wines, it’s the magical key. “Known as calcareous Karoo, with a red clay underlay dotted with pockets of chalky limestone, this is what we call kalkveld. It’s the driving force behind our classical wines,” says winemaker Jacques Cilliers. “Firm acidity, concentrated flavours and mineral traces are delicately managed from vineyard to cellar.”
Shiraz is Zandvliet’s brightest star and it comes in three expressions: The Estate, Kalkveld and Hill of Enon. So, come Shiraz Day on 21 August, you can choose between these three brilliant wines (or try them all) and taste the terroir for yourself.
Zandvliet Estate (R150 per bottle)
The Zandvliet Estate is the direct descendant of the farm’s first vintage of Shiraz, which was made in 1975, but only released the following year. Back then, most Shiraz varietals were used in blends rather than being bottled individually. Yet, Zandvliet’s owners at the time knew their soil and they knew that Shiraz would thrive. The Zandvliet Estate’s vines were planted in a red, weathered, shale soil rich in minerals. The wines that come from these vineyards spend 20 to 24 months maturing in a 4000-litre foudre of French oak, finally resulting in a complex wine with a soft, supple palate. It’s a wine that ages gracefully, too, said to mature well for up to twenty years from vintage.
Kalkveld Shiraz (R280 per bottle)
The Kalkveld range translates to limestone field and hails from vineyards on a hill that dominates the centre of the Zandvliet farm. The terroir is complex with a conglomerate of limestone, pebbles and clay. In addition, there is a daily south-easterly breeze that tempers the heat and ensures optimal slow ripening of the vines’ fruit. This wine range is elegant and refined, true to the classic Shiraz characteristics. The wine continues to develop in the bottle and can be kept for up to two decades after vintage too.
Hill of Enon (R525 per bottle)
Last, but not least, Zandvliet’s Hill of Enon Shiraz was named after the geological formation created by the break-up of the Gondwana supercontinent of which Africa was part of once. The vineyards for the Hill of Enon (as well as the Kalkveld wines) grow in these ancient soils – a part of the farm so defined that it is preferred by colonies of termites. The grapes for the Hill of Enon range are harvested from vines with roots that are planted at the epicentre of termite mounds. Here, the pH is at its highest and nutrients are limited, hence the vines work hard and grow conservatively. While the berries are smaller, they have a more intense flavour and therefore, they are harvested separately for this range. These berries ripen days before the main crop and every year, they are handpicked two weeks before the main harvest. This is also why you will see that this wine costs a little more.
Theuniskraal Shiraz 2020 (R80 per bottle)
Theuniskraal has been in the Jordaan family since 1927. While it is known as one of South Africa’s white wine producing estates, they also have a Shiraz, which winemaker Andries Jordaan Jnr says flourishes in colder weather. The 2020 vintage received a gold medal at the prestigious 2022 Gilbert & Gaillard International Challenge, which in my book justifies a sip of it on Shiraz Day. The wine is ruby red in colour and displays aromas of prunes and cherries, with nuances of nut and oak spices. What I like about it, is that it is a medium-bodied wine, which makes it suitable for interchanging seasons. You’ll find berry and oak flavours on the palate, supported by soft tannins.
Theuniskraal Shiraz 2020 should go well with game or red meat, or for this time of year, consider pairing it with a big bowl of pasta.
Fairview Goats Do Roam Red 2021 (R73 per bottle)
If you’re not a huge fan of Shiraz (for some, it takes getting used to since it’s renowned for its spicy characteristics), you might want to opt for a red blend that features a hint of Shiraz. Fairview’s G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time) Red Blend recently received the joint highest score of 94 points in Winemag.co.za’s Prescient Signature Red Blends Report 2023. The bonus is that this wine is a bargain, considering that the average price of the wines that rated 90-plus in the report is R224 per bottle.
The Goats Do Roam Red was inspired by the revered Southern French region of the Rhône Valley. The blend consists of Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Petite Sirah (also known as Durif) and Tempranillo. On the palate, you will find fresh berries, plums and a hint of pepper. In fact, it comes with lovely layers of berry fruit and spices, balanced with integrated oak nuances. It’s a smooth wine with fine tannins and a long, fresh finish. It pairs very well with Mediterranean cuisine, braised lamb or sirloin with Roquefort mushrooms.
Happy Shiraz Day! Let me know what you’re drinking by sharing your stories with me on social media, tagging @suitcaseandchardonnay.