Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Guest Blog: South African wines at Java Monkey, 5/29/08

In case y'all were wondering what my husband does when I'm out of town, the answer is simple: he goes to wine tastings and is my guest blogger.

Oh, and about my Baltimore adventures: I'm over it and ready to go home.

Here's Hubby's take on the most recent Java Monkey tasting:

I really should have written this sooner. In fact, I had intended to take some time to write this while wandering through Virginia and Maryland (that’s “Merlin” if your local, hon’) to perform my duties as backup JavaMonkey wine reviewer. But I just couldn’t find the motivation on the road. Oh well, at least I’m in good company.

I digress.

South Africa was the theme of this tasting. I’m pretty much ignorant of anything interesting about South Africa. Growing up in Alabama, about the only thing I ever heard about it was its strict segregationist government and culture, and that it was generally not a good place to be. (In other words, just like Alabama. But the people sound way cooler saying things like “open up a can of whoopass.”)

Hmm… Let’s see what Wikipedia has to offer:

The Republic of South Africa (also known by other official names) is a country located at the southern tip of Africa.

Wow! Glad they cleared that up. Now on to the wines…

Fairvalley Sauvignon Blanc ‘07
Coastal Region, South Africa

Fairvalley is, for the most part, a commune set up by the employees of the Fairview Wine and Cheese Estate. The glossy marketing material on their website states that it “shows asparagus, garlic chive, and citrus notes, with a fresh, juicy finish.” I’ll buy the fresh juiciness, but only if it’s a fresh, juicy bale of hay. This stuff was grassy, man. Further swirling revealed notes of peanut shells (think Turner Field after game day). (Disclaimer: Everybody looked at me funny after the peanut shell comment.)

Rating: :-(

Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc ‘06
Stellenbosch, South Africa

My notes indicate that this wine is sustainable and hand-harvested, but there’s no word on whether the grapes are foot pressed. It was fairly unremarkable. On the front end, it was very acidic and alcoholic. The information I found online states that the winemaker’s philosophy is to get in the way as little as possible once he’s got good grapes. In that fashion, this wine got in the way as little as possible on the finish. It mellowed and mellowed and mellowed until there was simply nothing left. So my “fairly unremarkable” comment was probably not correct in retrospect. This is the first time I’ve ever had a wine – or any beverage, for that matter – go from Everclear to Pinot Grigio while traveling from the front of my mouth to the back.

Maybe with food. But probably not.

Rating: :-|

Slowine Rose ‘07
Overburg, South Africa

Every wine tasting provides me with new insights and tips on life. It was while sampling this rose that one of our companions taught me all about vacationing with Germans, why it was a bad idea, and how to cope should you ever find yourself on a vacation with a German. Kid of like vacationing with Yankees only you gain back the letter R and lose the letter W. Seriously, information like this should be written down with the words “DON’T PANIC” printed on the front cover.

I also made some notes about having a lustful look at a beautiful, seductive glass of Campos Reales Tempranillo that was being ordered by another patron at this time. Sadly, I cannot say more about that because it inspires feelings of inferiority about how I can’t say “Tempranillo” like a true Latino. (Maybe I can find a psychologist to help me with that and my road issues.)

Oh yeah, this is about the rose, right? Being a Southern Gentleman (stop laughing) allows me to say things like, “Momma always told me that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” When words like “cough medicine” and “Strawberry Alka-Seltzer” appear in ones tasting notes, there’s not much nice to say.

Wait, I did write down one nice thing. It didn’t taste like Robitussin.

Rating: :-(

Fairvalley Cabernet Sauvignon ‘05
Coastal Region, South Africa

FINALLY! This one was nice, although very soft and smooth for a Cab. I wouldn’t have been able to peg the grape at a blind tasting.

Rating: :-)

TMV Viktoria ‘04
Western Cape, South Africa

This one gets the award for best marketing description. Quoth their website, “This sexy, feminine Syrah based blend is all about freshness, spice and attraction. The appearance is youthful ruby red with a seductive nose.”

Wow! Careful with this one, boys! Somebody might be watching.

The 2004 TMV is a blend of 82% Syrah, 11% Cinsault, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. On my first sip, I got a ton of eucalyptus on the finish of what was an otherwise smooth wine. There was just a little bit of toast in there, too, but it didn’t get in the way. Thankfully, the eucalyptus wore off as the wine opened. By the end, I was a fan. Hopefully it won’t lead to a divorce.

Rating: :-) after it opened

Kumkani Pinotage ‘04
Stellenbosch, South Africa

Cultural lesson: Kumkani is derived from the Xhosa word for regal or king. The Xhosa people are about 18% of the population of the country, and their population includes Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Hey, no South African tasting is complete without a Pinotage, right? According to the winemaker’s website, these grapes are grown on the edge of False Bay, home of the world’s largest concentration of Great White Sharks. Thankfully, this wine didn’t have the bite of a shark. It was very smooth, and a good ending to a wine tasting that had gotten off to a rough start.

Rating: :-)

Mercifully, my tenure as guest blogger has come to an end. If you’d like to bribe my wife so that she doesn’t go on another trip and leave me to write one of these, feel free.

Join us next time for “Blends,” or “What I Did with All My Leftover Grapes.”

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