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Romanced by South African Rosés

by  Maria C. Hunt on January 31, 2012
Romanced by South African Rosés

Certain combinations seem to go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Steak and eggs. Stroll through any wine shop around the beginning of February and it's clear that pink wines just go with Valentine's Day.

Just like romance, there's something frivolous and exuberant about the color pink. Pink is soft, delicate and juicy as a kiss — and rosé wines have the same appeal.

“It’s just the romance of it and the way it looks in the glass. It gives you that little warm feeling,” said Tyrone Carter of Harlem Vintage, a wine boutique in New York City. “Everyone thinks of hearts and flowers and anything fluffy. It’s really sentimental.”

South Africa may not be the first country wine drinkers consider when looking for a wine with a romantic hue but the country has a 350-year history of making quality wines from grapes ranging from shiraz and cabernet sauvignon to sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc. Rosé lovers looking for something new will be charmed by the delicious variety of affordable sparkling and still rosé wines from South Africa.

"They're fresh and fruity as a good rosé should be, but they also have that texture I love as well," said Gwendolyn Osborn, education director for, the largest online wine store, which has its headquarters in San Francisco. The site features a range of South African rosés including the earthy Goats do Roam Rhône blend and Graham Beck's brilliant sparkling brut rosé.

At Harlem Vintage, they're stocking up on a variety of South African rosés for February 14. Carter's favorite is the dry and balanced Mulderbosch Rosé made from cabernet sauvignon; the store also features the fruity and slightly sweet Seven Sisters Pinotage Rosé.

Crafted from South Africa's indigenous red grape, the Seven Sisters’ rosé is the wine that inspired Selena Cuffe to start bringing black-owned South African wines into the United States.

"Pinotage provides a balance of fruit and spiciness that you don’t get from rosés produced from other grapes," said Cuffe, owner of Heritage Link Brands based in Los Angeles. "The climate in South Africa is warmer and drier... and the arid climate matches up well (with) the pinotage grape."

Peter Koff, a Master of Wine and wine importer originally from South Africa, said winemakers there have long favored the rosé style — the wines fit the country's sunny, Mediterranean climate and lifestyle.

“In South Africa we do have an outdoor lifestyle, so there’s a lot of sitting around on patios and at cafes or places where you can sit and overlook the ocean and drink a glass of rosé,” said Koff, who owns Fairest Cape, which imports and distributes great affordable wines from around the world.

Not unlike Spanish rosés, pink wines from South Africa are often a deep shade of geranium or light red. Similar to the anti-White Zinfandel (or anything pink movement) that occurred in the U.S. in the late ‘90s, Koff said there was a blush backlash in South Africa.

“We had that situation in South Africa where pinotage fell out of favor and a lot of the blush wines were made from pinotage, though it didn’t necessarily say it on the label,” Koff said. “Now the blush wines from pinotage proudly state it on the label."

Koff said pinotage makes wonderful rosé and his Fairest Cape portfolio includes one by Delheim, a fruity wine that's fragrant with aromas of strawberries and raspberries. 

Red pinotage — a cross between cinsault and pinot noir — can often reveal leathery and smoky flavors that are challenging for some wine drinkers. But pinotage rosé is easy to love.

"The Seven Sisters (pinotage) gives people a chance to try the wine,” said Terita Noronha, general manager at Braai, a South African barbecue restaurant in New York City. “It’s a good entryway into the South African wine world.”

You just might fall for one of these South African rosés:

2010 Seven Sisters Twena Pinotage Rosé - A deeply colored and fun wine that opens with a jammy burst of strawberry. The Seven Sisters rosé is slightly sweet, and bright with spicy clove notes. About $13.

NV Pierre Jourdan Cuvée Belle Rosé - This dry, pale salmon sparkling wine is made from 100% pinot noir and elegantly delivers the lush aromas and flavors of berries and plum that the varietal is known for. About $22.

2010 Goats do Roam Rosé - A blend of the Rhône varietals syrah, grenache, gamay noir and mouvedre, this lively wine opens with delicate aromas of berries and red fruits. Those fruits blossom on the palate and linger on the tongue. About $9.

2009 Delheim Pinotage Rosé - A beautifully balanced rosé, this medium-dry wine is predominantly pinotage with a splash of muscat for fruitiness and aroma. It's full of delicious strawberry and raspberry flavors and aromas. About $12.

NV Graham Beck Brut Rosé - A lovely example of cap classique, the name for sparkling wines made in the same way as champagne. This crystal clear, 100% pinot noir wine shines with flavors of grapefruit and rhubarb. About $15.

2011 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé - The cabernet sauvignon gives this rosé more depth and weight than most pink wines. But it still charms with flavors of strawberries and zesty acidity. About $13.


Maria C. Hunt

Maria C. Hunt

Maria C. Hunt is an award-winning food and drink editor and the author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, 2009). full bio



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