ALISTAIR GIBSON: South African wine! You’re kidding – we only drink French

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013
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I was told an amazing story recently of someone who took a bottle of South African wine to a dinner party and the hosts turned up their noses saying they only drank French wine and wouldn’t touch ‘new world’.

I fully accept individual wine choices are a personal thing but really, only drinking French? That’s missing the point entirely. As I’ve said often before, one of the joys of wine is the endless choice from different grapes and regions.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna

Here in the UK we are so lucky to have more choice on our shelves than virtually any other country.

We’ve always been more open to wine in this country from far and wide. So only drinking French wine is cutting your nose off to spite yourself.

I’ve actually just come back from a few days in Paris where I drank wonderful bottles of wine.

There is no doubt that France produces some of the finest wines in the world. But believe me there is an awful lot of not-so-good, even poor-quality wine produced there.

This is a lesson in what this grape can achieve outside the Loire Valley

Some of the most memorable wine experiences I’ve ever had have been with new world wines.

It is some time ago now that highly-regarded wine journalist and commentator Oz Clarke said that ‘the quintessential sauvignon blanc is now produced in Marlborough not France’. So that’s a good place to start.

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough (Majestic £25.99 or £22.99 for a mixed six, Amazon £21) is without question the wine that threw down the Kiwi sauv blanc gauntlet. I’m the first to agree there are now many equally good Marlborough sauv blancs and indeed many which cost slightly less. But never mind, this is still a lesson in what this grape can achieve outside the Loire Valley.

There are lots of tropical fruits, green herbs, blackcurrant leaf and of course a touch of gooseberry, before a palate with crisp, crunchy acidity and a long finish. The 2017 is on its way and is, according to the maker, an even better vintage. Drink with a warm goat’s cheese salad.

Some of the most memorable wine experiences I have had involve Australian wine producer Penfolds which produces the iconic Penfolds Grange, one of the world’s great interpretations of shiraz.

Beyond the reach of most consumers these days – much like top drawer French wine – Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2014, South Australia (Majestic £27 or £23.50 in a mixed six, Ocado £22.75) is a multi-layered red that can age beautifully. The nose shows black fruits, roasted coffee, spices and dark chocolate, before more black fruits and savoury notes with firm tannins and a long, long finish. Try with roast beef, or maybe that should be rôti de bœuf?

n Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail alistair@hermitagecellars.co.uk.