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Durban - This week saw the landmark of 355 years since South Africa’s first wine production. Few will dispute it has been a long path walked with innovation and trepidation – but one paying dividends when acknowledging there were three South African wines featured among Decanter magazine’s top 50 for 2013.

The three winemakers with their names in the lights of arguably the most influential wine publication globally were Chris Alheit of Alheit Vineyards, Donovan Rall of Vuurberg and Ian Naudé of Adoro.

The Alheit Cartology 2011 scooped fourth position; Vuurberg White 2011 36th and Adoro Red 2006 37th.

Decanter chose their list from more than 3 200 wines selected and featured last year with the final choice made on quality and value. The three recipients are ardent believers in terroir (the specific soils and microclimate in which a wine grows) and the benefits of blending for complexity and the best possible expression of site and fruit.

The Adoro 2006 blends cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot and mourvèdre with the cabernet coming from Stellenboschberg and Bottelary Hills, the shiraz from Agter-Paarl and Malmesbury, the merlot from Swartland and Stellenbosch and the mourvèdre from the Perdeberg and Darling.

Rall made his name conjuring up five-star Platter’s white blends under his own name, but the Vuurberg White 2011 from his day job is a complex mix of chenin blanc, viognier, semillon, roussanne, grenache blanc, verdelho and clairette blanc that Decanter found worthy of its 93 points.

Chris and Suzaan Alheit were virtual unknowns on the South African wine landscape – and then they scorched on to the scene with a Platter five-star rating for their maiden wine, the Alheit Cartology 2011 that received 96 points from Decanter and a place in the stratosphere.

It is a wine virtually unobtainable now, but was produced from chenin with an eight percent dash of semillon from old, dry-land bush vines the Alheits had painstakingly sought.

Still heralding innovation is a wine that came across my desk recently that seriously piqued curiosity – an effervescent Sparkling Blue (retail price: R70) produced from premium chenin and aromatic blackcurrant extract. Award-winning winemaker Erik Schlünz has been cultivating the blend for a decade before finally launching a unique (and that is not a word used lightly), low-alcohol sweet blue bubbly.

The wine boasts an original Caribbean blue colour with blackcurrant flavours following from the nose to palate. It is certain to capture a market segment looking for difference and sweetness, particularly when many bubblies are too dry – and it is worth having even if just as a conversation piece.

Diary notes: The Beverley Hills hosts Klein Constantia MD Hans Alstrom for a food and wine pairing evening on February 20. The cost is R425 a head and booking is essential.

Next month brings the annual Meander Fine Wines Bubbly Festival being held this year at Bellevue Café in Kloof on Friday, March 21, and at Piggly Wiggly in Lions River the next day. Watch the press for details. - The Mercury

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