When we think of Cabernet Sauvignon, we usually think of Bordeaux and our home state of Washington. So we were surprised to discover that Cab Sauv is the most widely planted red-wine grape in South Africa. Yes, we admit that we have just started exploring the world of South African wines. So we resoundingly said “Yes, please!” when samples of three bottles of South Africa Cab Sauv came our way. Read on for details of the three wines we tasted.
South Africa Cab Sauv
As mentioned, Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted red-wine grape in South Africa. For example, most of it comes from the Stellenbosch district of the Coastal Region, with more than 7,300 acres planted.
Most importantly, the wine is typically ripe and fruity, but not jammy. The fruit is new world, but the structure is similar to old world wines.
Our first foray into wine from South Africa was back in 2008, when we tasted Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block 2006. Its name comes from the spicy dark chocolate profile in this unique blend of Syrah, Grenache Noir, Cinsault, Cab Sauv and Viognier. We loved it.
Next, years later, we tasted Raats Family Wines Cabernet Franc 2012. We were so wowed, this wine made it to our list of Favorite 50 Wines in 2020.
Finally, we recently tasted three different bottles of South Africa Cabernet Sauvignon – one from Boekenhoutskloof and two from Stark-Condé. Here are the details.
Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon Franschhoek 2016 ($69)
Oh my, Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon is a gorgeous wine for a special occasion. This Cabernet is plush, luscious, smooth and impressive. Let’s simply call it magnificent, and our favorite of the three bottles. Dark berries, cherries and crème de cassis aromas, with hints of tobacco and spicy oak, are mirrored on the palate, along with flavors of red licorice and fennel. Marc Kent is the owner and chief winemaker, with a commitment to quality. With this wine, he says his intention is to respect the signature Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet style.
Located in the furthest corner of the pretty Franschhoek Valley, the farm’s name means “ravine of the Boekenhout.” The Boekenhout is an indigenous Cape beech tree greatly prized for furniture making. The winery, established in 1776, features labels with chairs that pay tribute to the achievements of the 18th century craftsmen “in creating beauty from natural sources, just like the pursuit of fine winemaking.”
Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($44)
Stark-Condé Three Pines is one of South Africa’s most awarded Cabernet Sauvignons. After tasting it, we understand why. Like the 2016 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet, the palate is rich, luscious and smooth. Three Pines, from the picturesque Jonkershoek Valley, blends 88% Cabernet Sauvignon with 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. The Cab Franc brings a perfumed, floral fragrance to the nose. Other aromatics echoed in the flavors include black cherries, black and blue fruit, olive tapenade and cassis.
According to winemaker Rüdger van Wyk, the 2016 vintage was a dry growing season resulting in wines that are intensely aromatic with velvety tannins. Powerful yet elegant, Three Pines is based on the oldest block of Cabernet Sauvignon on the farm. It has a very finely textured decomposed granite soil with a fairly high percentage of clay. As a result, the minerality and salinity shine through.
In addition, the story of Stark-Condé is compelling. We can’t do it justice here, so please read it on their website.
Stark-Condé Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($28)
According to Stark-Condé, this Cabernet is the bedrock of their winery, which is first and foremost a Cabernet producer. Generally referred to as their “Estate Blend,” the wine comprises 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec, 2% Petite Sirah and 1% Cabernet Franc. Aromatics of blackberries, tea leaves and cedar lead into flavors of dark fruit, cherries, red currant and mocha. This is an approachable, food-friendly Cab to pour at dinner with good friends.
Stark-Condé sources the grapes from four different Cabernet vineyards and their best Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot vineyards, all at a range of different elevations. “Although all are on the decomposed granite soils typical of the hillsides in ]onkershoek, the soil textures vary quite a lot and that, together with the differences in elevations and clones, gives a variety of different flavor profiles to the grapes.”
Vegetarian Dishes to Pair with South Africa Cab Sauv
Most of the time, we pair Cabernet Sauvignon with steak or other meat dishes. But these bottles also complement many vegetable dishes. Vegetables, when roasted, seared or grilled, take on a browned, caramelized exterior that is similar to roasted or seared meats.
Specifically, consider pairing Stark-Condé Three Pines Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 with Mushroom Bourguignon. The umami of the mushrooms creates a nice counterpoint to this earthy, dry red wine. Meanwhile, Stark-Condé Cabernet 2018 pairs with Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie. The caramelized flavors from the vegetables and the creamy potatoes warrant a full wine with ample tannins to cut the richness. Finally, a meatless burger, like a beef burger, goes exceptionally well with Boekenhout Cabernet Sauvignon Franschhoek 2016. (But we’d still rather pair it with a juicy steak.)
Summary: South Africa Cab Sauv
In conclusion, we are delighted to experience wine from South Africa. And we know the journey is just beginning. We highly recommend all three of these wines. Enjoy them with grilled meats or vegetarian dishes. Or give a bottle as a gift to special friends over the holidays.
Thank you, Vineyard Brands, for the samples.
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Margot and Dave