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Wine Appellations
South Africa, A Spiritual Home to Wine
Meridith May

Since 1994, the trade doors opened and South Africa became a player on the world wine stage. Timing was perfect, as consumers, beverage professionals and wine writers were establishing benchmarks; South Africa possessed a surplus of well-made wines.

Plantings increased throughout the country, new technology and stellar enology practices were introduced and individual wine estates blossomed.

South Africa’s landscape is spectacular and its wine producing is centered in the southern part of the continent: The Cape of Good Hope. Touched by the Indian Ocean, cooled by winds off the Atlantic and currents from the Antarctic, the region is slightly hotter than California’s coast, but cooler than Australia’s.

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Great Wines International

Importer and Marketer Jeremy Wilkinson, CEO of Great Wines International, is himself a South African. Although his company imports and markets wines from Australia, Austria and Spain (see pages 40-41 for a close-up on Jeremy’s in-store promotions with Whole Foods Market in Las Vegas), Wilkinson claims his “heart is deeply entrenched in South Africa.”

His passion for these dynamic wines is evident in his portfolio, but his connection can be personally witnessed through his charismatic South African accent.

“I’ve seen a huge increase in interest recently from beverage buyers throughout the U.S.,” attests Wilkinson, of the various wines from South Africa. “When our company (and I) first appeared on the cover of Patterson’s in December 2003, I was just starting to promote South Africa and its uniqueness…now people have become believers.”

Great Wines International has grown its South African portfolio with a full range of wines to suit consumer’s tastes and price points. “We are focusing on quality wines-by-the glass,” explains Wilkinson, “but also offering every level up to the country’s finest wines.”

On the next few pages, we will spotlight the South African Wine Portfolio of Great Wines International.

LANZERAC

PHOTO: “LANZERAC ESTATE”: Situated on an historic property in the top notch Stellenbosch growing region is LANZERAC Estate. The property, once known for its elegant hotel, is quickly gaining more notoriety for its magnificent wines.

“I sometimes refer to Lanzerac as the ‘Caymus’ of South Africa,” Wilkinson points out. “This is a high quality wine estate, but at one half or one third of the price of Napa wines…with a wine portfolio considered as world class all the way.”

From the highly acclaimed Stellenbosch region, regarded as the top growing region in the Cape, comes Lanzerac. Famous for decades for its Five-Star restaurant and hotel, the wines are gaining ground with world-wide acclaim from critics, consumers and buyers all over the globe.

The winery benefits from a distinctive meso-climate which keeps the vineyard cool with breezes off False Bay. A new Lanzerac winery was built in 1996, which included some of the most advanced technologies in the wine business.

Lanzerac Chardonnay was rated four stars by the U.K. magazine “Decanter,” and domestic wine publications constantly laud it with accolades. The “Bordeaux style” Classic 2002 was, in 2006, voted as “Best of its Class” at the London International Wine Challenge (IWSC).

From its deliriously enigmatic Pinotage: toasted marshmallow with a smoky, cherry chocolate cover to its much-praised Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Lanzerac leads South Africa into a new era for the homeland’s wine appreciation.

PHOTO: LANZERAC Pinotage AND PHOTO B

Landskroon

Photo: Vintner/Owner Paul de Villiers Jr.

Situated along the slopes of Paarl Mountain in the heart of the Cape Winelands, Landskroon estate is owned by the family of Paul and Hugo de Villiers Jr. Paul, pictured here, is the ninth generation carrying on over 300 years of winemaking tradition.

Deep weathered granite soils and cool afternoon breezes combine to create a mircroclimate ideally suited to the cultivation of noble grape varieties. Landskroon’s production of red varieties is about 75 percent and includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Caberne Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Pinotage and Cinsault.

Landskroon Cape Vintage Port, blended from four Portuguese grape varieties, was quoted as the “Best Port in the World” by Robin Leach, “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.” Its power and refinement is defined by ripe plum and blackberry notes, entwined in a lovely aromatic bouquet.

Landskroon wines are terrific, medium-priced wine-by-the-glass pour. Patterson’s wrote up the especially superb Landskroon Shiraz in our last issue, with its subtle spice that integrates with luscious dark berry fruit. In fact, this is the wine offered by the glass at the high-end St. Regis Hotel in Dana Point as well as the local favorite in Las Vegas – Nora’s on Flamingo.

PHOTO “LANDSKROON TANKS”: A modern winemaking facility, including these large stainless steel tanks, enable Winemaker Paul de Villiers to create the exceptional wines of Landskroon Wine Estate

Van Loveren

Further inland than Stellenbosch and Paarl, with a drier  - but nonetheless fertile – climate, is Robertson (known affectionately to locals as the Valley of Wine & Roses), the up-and-coming wine region of South Africa. Robertson’s limestone soils are well suited for grape growing, especially notable for white varietals. The Van Loveren property – owned by brothers Nico and Wynand Retief – is situated on the banks of the Breede River, about 100 miles from the Cape. The land, with its 330 acres of planted vines, is bordered by bright red calla lilies which are ablaze with color for eight months out of the year. The flowers are used for the lovely eye-catching label.

Van Loveren is known for its stellar cultivars such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer.

In addition to the still wines, Van Loveren delivers an excellent sparkler called “Papillon” and a light, fruity, unwooded red called “River Red.” Its reds include a wooded Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz blend and a reserve Merlot.

South Africa’s top wine magazine named Van Loveren as “Best Value Vineyard” in the country for everyday drinking wine. At retail the prices are kept at low and mid-teens. Van Loveren is flying high: United Airlines has picked up the label for three straight years for pours on International Business and Domestic First Class flights.

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JABU – “The Joy of Africa

Great Wines International has recently acquired the worldwide rights to one of South Africa’s most popular labels: JABU. Next year promises to expand the JABU label to retailers as GWI’s entry level wine offering.

JABU’s varietals are fruit forward and consumer-friendly. The JABU 100% Shiraz from Paarl is an outstanding example of great value. Dark inky reddish purple, it envelops the mouth in sweet summer cherries, ushering in headier notes of peppercorn, bunches of scrub and fresh earth. Mocha and Plum pudding make for a delightful finish.

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And Now, Introducing SAXENBURG

The ultra-premium reputation and profile of SAXENBURG, rated in South Africa’s top ten for awards for South African wines, is now part of the Great Wines International portfolio.

“We’re readying Saxenburg and its exceptional varietal line-up for this season’s buying season,” noted Jeremy Wilkinson of the Stellenbosch-located estate winery. “Saxenburg’s Private Collection Shiraz 2003 has been voted South Africa’s top Shiraz in 2006 and the Private Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 won the Warren Winiarski Trophy at the best in the world at the London IWSC in 2006 and we are proud to be able to share these and other outstanding wines from this great Estate with our U.S. customers this year.”

The winery estate, in existence since 1693, has a motto, “Where passion turns to wine.” Its exquisite 2005 Chardonnay – with its impressive Burgundian style - has been scored top points by John Platter, the “Robert Parker of South Africa,” as have previous vintages.

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