Wine talk: Enjoy this South African merlot
Many producers in South Africa quickly adopted new wine making technologies, and focused on well-known varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay.
Next stop during my New World's wine journey is part of a continent. Today I'll be talking about South Africa.
Most people, including myself, are very skeptical about African wines. When we think of about Cabernet, we think of California; Malbec associates with Argentina; Amarone with Italy, and Sauvignion Blanc with New Zealand. But what do we know about African wines?
South African wine has a history that goes back more than 300 years to a vineyard near Cape Town, when the first governor of the Cape - Jan van Riebeeck - planted a vineyard in 1655, and four years later the first wine was made from Cape grapes.
Now wines from this area are considered among the greatest in the world - reflecting the classic Old World, and influenced by the contemporary, fruit-driven styles of New World.
South African winemaking went through very bad times.
In the early 1900s more than 80 million vines had been replanted, which created a "wine lake" because some producers simply had to pour unsalable wine into local rivers and streams.
For much of the 20th Century the wine industry of South Africa received very little attention on the world stage because of its Apartheid political system and subsequent isolation from the rest of the world. It was not until the late 80s and 90s when Apartheid was ended, and South Africa's wines began to experience a renaissance.
Many producers in South Africa quickly adopted new winemaking technologies, and focused on well-known varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay. Recent estimates put South Africa as the 7th largest wine producer in the world.
The majority of the wine production takes place in the Cape, the southwest corner near costal region. This region has a Mediterranean climate that is marked by intense sunlight and dry heat. A strong wind current brings gale force winds, which has positive benefit of limiting the risk of various mildew and fungal grape disease.
If I have convinced you to try South Africa wines – look no further than Guardian Peak Merlot to start. This wine, consisting of strawberry, coffee and vanilla notes, is great value and would be perfect with grilled burgers at Marco Prime restaurant, or wood fired pizza, if you decide to try it at DaVinci's.
Buon apettito and salute.
Adamo Serravalle is co-owner of Marco Prime and DaVinci's at Marco Walk, and is a wine expert. Along with Laura Owen of CJ's on the Bay and Marco Porto of chop239, he is a regular contributor to this column.