The number of South Africans who will cite shiraz as their favourite red wine is substantial, and I guess that male consumers make up the majority.
Formerly, this was easy to understand, as local shiraz was traditionally masculine, smoky, powerful, even leathery in its tendencies.
Today’s picture is different, with our choice of shiraz ranging from Rhône-style wines that are elegant, sometimes restrained, requiring a number of years to reach their peak, to easy-drinking young fruity samples without much backbone.
In between, as usual, there’s a body of well-balanced, well-made wines, often spicy, offering full-bodied enjoyment. Some have small quantities of viognier added, and today the trend of using the term syrah in place of shiraz is growing, limited to the top end of the market.
Worth diarising is the forthcoming chance to compare a range of styles under one roof.
Hartenberg estate, one of the leading Stellenbosch producers of shiraz, offering a choice of four distinctive styles, is the venue for the Feast of Shiraz and Charcuterie on June 2, where an impressive selection of Cape syrah will be lined up for tasting and buying.
The labels reflect top quality from across the regions, such as Boschkloof and Eagle’s Nest, de Trafford and La Motte, Sadie and Saxenburg, Mullineux and Raka, among others.
The host cellar will present its new Doorkeeper shiraz 2010 (R70), which is a younger, modern fruity wine, featuring softer tannins, matured for a shorter period than its traditional cousins: it will find favour with a wide audience.
Compare this with the Hartenberg The Stork 2007 (R390), named after the late Ken Mackenzie, a long-legged, lean World War II pilot, who enjoyed his shiraz.
Several vintages have garnered international acclaim, and this just missed five Platter stars.
The savoury elegance of Hartenberg’s Gravel Hill shiraz offers a fine contrast and the classic Hartenberg shiraz completes the quartet.
Boekenhoutskloof syrah 2006 (R300) is produced from a single Wellington vineyard, berries picked at differing levels of ripeness, then blended into an elegant whole – peppery, spicy, a little restrained but sure to develop over several years.
To the Helderberg and the enchanting Kleinood syrah 2007 (R115) – a well-priced blend of shiraz with a little mourvedre and a touch of viognier in a wine certain to please most palates, with its combination of fruit, pepper and chocolate.
The Luddite shiraz 2007 (R290) is another interesting meld of fruit and spice, its numbered bottle and rustic label adding eye appeal to Bot River elegance.
The shiraz from the Cederberg (R150) is a 2009 vintage from the high-altitude vineyards, offering layers of concentrated fruit, coffee and spice – squirrel it away or pair it with venison and robust cheese now.
Top local cheesemakers and charcutiers will present a range of gourmet fare to complement the wine, along with artisanal bread, olives and more.