5 minutes reading time (1030 words)
Cape Classics Zoom Tasting
The Cape Classics Zoom tasting exceeded expectations. When you attend a LIVE tasting for a popular brand, customers drift in and out of the shop and are often crowded at the counter preventing everyone from hearing the whole story. Not so on Zoom. Zingo Munger of Cape Classics took us through history, geography, terroir, winemaking and all about the particular bottles. We all heard him. And we all heard the whole story. And, best of all, when it was over, we were already home!
Zingo Munger has been the Mid-Atlantic Manager for Cape Classics for the past 14 years. Introducing him was Chris Curtis of Winebow. To explain this structure: Zingo works for the importer brings the bottles in country, sells the bottles to a North Carolina distributor, Winebow, who is represented by Chris Curtis at our shop. I took copious notes during the tasting!
Since 1992, Cape Classics has imported solely from South Africa. But over the past four or five years, the company has begun to build and import their French portfolio. In so doing, they discovered some similarities in varietals but differences in styles. Hence, the theme of the tasting: France vs. South Africa!
First up was Domaine Vincent Careme Vouvray from Loire in France by Vincent and Tanya. Vouvray is the birthplace of the varietal Chenin Blanc. Vouvray is both a collection of small towns and an appellation. To be labeled "Vouvray," the varietal must be Chenin Blanc. The area sits about 2 hours south of Paris where the climate is quite cool and perfect for the varietal. The winery is cut out of a hill of chalky limestone providing a unique mineral undertone in the wine.
I asked why so many consumers think of Vouvray as sweet. Zingo said it can be. Style ranges from dry to somewhat sweet. But the reason why Americans think of Vouvray as sweet is because it was! Decades ago, California was not farming Chenin Blanc so all the bottles of this varietal were imported from France. The American palate called for a sweeter version (demi-sec meaning half dry) than the French preferred and so they met consumer demand exporting a slightly sweeter version.
Anyway, one day Vincent went to South Africa to consult on farming the varietal. The seasons in France and South Africa are opposite so he could do Chenin all year! Vincent met Tanya who is South African and they started producing wine there which brings us to the second wine.....
The climate in South Africa is warmer than in Loire. This is the Swartland. Say what? The colonial heritage of the area is Dutch, French and English. "Swartland" means black land. In the past, farmers would burn the soil to replace nutrients.
Overall, the climate in Swartland is more like central Italy. The area is centered around CapeTown where the Atlantic ocean meets the Indian Ocean keeping the temperature warm but not too hot. These are 50 year old bush vines farmed the tradition way producing a lower yield, smaller grapes with more intensity.
The result is 2018 Terre Brûlée! Zingo says this version of Chenin Blanc is more "full, fruity with more viscosity" than the French version by Vincent and Tanya. The wine is fermented in 60% stainless steel and 40% Foudre (wood) whereas the French version is done completely in stainless steel. This method preserves the the fruit but does not allow any oxygen into the wine. The Foudre gives texture without imparting any flavor.
Both wines received 90 points from Wine Spectator and "Terre Brulee" was the only Chenin Blanc included in the Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines!
On to red wines. 2018 Feuille de Garance Cote du Rhone is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The Rhone River runs from the north where butter is king to the south where all is olive oil. This wine finds home in the area where the Rhone meets Provence. Cote means slope. And Feuille is born of, according to Chris Curtis, "a wild Southern French garrigue." A garrigue is a low open scrubland loaded with evergreen shrubs, low trees, aromatic herbs, and bunchgrasses found in poor or dry soil in the Mediterranean region. The terrain, in turn, imparts a sense of herbs in the wine.
Feuille is vinified with no oak making the wine very "light on its feet," Chris says. Scoring 92 points from Wine Enthusiast, Zingo says "this wine just makes me want to wear a beret!" And at $16.99 @MetroWines, you can afford both.
Back over to South Africa where we find Kanonkop Kadette. One of the most iconic wines of South Africa, thewine is a Bordeaux blend of varietals. What makes this wine so unique is the inclusion of Pinotage in the mix. Pinotage is a South African creation of a circa 1930 cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsualt. So, while our two reds for tasting present different grapes, the French and South African Reds are, as Zingo says, "spiritually similar" and are both meant for food. The 2018 is $14.99. Kadette has been a constant @MetroWines for at least four years. It is a quality crowd please.
And speaking of Bordeaux....Glen Elly was not part of the tasting but it fits the theme. This Bordeaux Bend is made by a French woman winemaker in South Africa. Zingo told me off camera that she is 95 years old and still working the wine! One of my favorites in the shop, 2016 Glen Elly is $14.99. I would describe it as a Bordeaux blend of flavors with a slightly fuller body and heavier feel.
Cape Classics was the Wine Enthusiast 2018 Importer of the Year. As I said during the Zoom Tasting, this is a reliable name. If you are traveling and have no idea what wine to select, ask for a Cape Classics Import. Other wines in their portfolio @MetroWines include Excelsior, RAATS, DMZ and Indaba. As Zingo summed it up, "Cape Classics takes a lot of time selecting the bottles they will import." And you can tell.
All of the bottles featured during the Zoom Tasting as well as the other noted Cape Classics wines are available @MetroWines. Call (828) 575-9525.