This week I’m drinking. . . . a very nice South African Chenin

In Blackheath there are two clothes shops: one caters for Richard Hammond, all expensive jeans and mid life crisis leather jackets, and the other for James May. I often wondered who is buying all the paisley, surely even millionaire former Top Gear presenters can’t buy that many shirts. . . . . and then I went to the New Wave South Africa tasting earlier this month.

Image result for james may

It took place in a warehouse/ nightclub type venue in Shoreditch, the PA was playing Led Zeppelin at deafening volume and everywhere you looked there were middle-aged men in floral shirts like the one above.

Never mind the wines where good. South Africa has long been my least favourite large wine-producing country but the new wave Rhoney blends from Swartland have a verve to them (and not a single stinky red at the whole tasting, hurrah!) that makes me want another sip and then another. They’re real drinkers wines. One producer described his Cinsault as “smashable” which seems about right to me though whether the general public is happy to spend £17 on a wine for knocking back is another matter.

As good as the reds were, and some were very good indeed, it was the whites however that stole the show: vivid appley Chenins with magical acidity and textured Cape blends of Chenin, Viognier, Grenache Blanc etc and a couple of Palominos that were like flor-free Manzanillas if you can imagine such a thing.

I noticed that The Wine Society is doing one of my favourites for only £11.95:

Tania & Vincent Careme Chenin Blanc Terre Brûlée 2015

This is made by a Loire producer so you’d expect they know their way around Chenin. It smells sweet, like cooked apples and cake, it’s very ripe but balanced by a bracing acidity – it’s a made to make your mouth water.

I left the tasting with my ears ringing and my eyes assaulted by paisley but my palate thoroughly refreshed.

Marketing by Dan Brown

Wine marketing has to be the least imaginative in the world. It takes one of two forms: there’s the plea to authenticity. So even wines from young countries such as Australia feel that they have to have a story about how in 1834 Hector McDougall arrived from Paisley and planted some grapes etc etc etc. Or there’s the lifestyle one which you see on the rare moments when wine makes it on telly: it’s all Pinot Grigio, chatty but sophisticated women, big sofas and a little Simply Red to get the party started. Compared with other alcoholic drinks, beer sold through humour, gin sold through culture (Hendricks) and whisky sold through national identity, wine is lagging behind.

That was why I was delighted to receive information from a new wine that is being launched over here called Apothic as it seems that Dan Brown was involved with their marketing campaign. Here’s an exert from their press release:

“Named after a mysterious place, Apotheca, where vintners stored their most coveted concoctions in 13th century Europe. . . ”

The fiction angle is continued on the bottle which looks like the cover of an upmarket horror writer, John Connolly perhaps. And, most audaciously, this angle is continued in the bottle because the contents actually have nothing to do with medieval vintners. The wine isn’t even from Europe, it’s Californian.

And the wine itself? Well I don’t think it’s really aimed at me. It’s a smooth, sweet red without any of the tannin or bitterness that red wine lovers learn to love. Basically it’s a red wine for people who wouldn’t normally drink red wine. Top wine writer Jamie Goode sums up its qualities rather well here.

Let’s hope that Apothic encourages wine marketing people to come up with something a bit more interesting in future. If Apothic can be inspired by Dan Brown, why don’t Tio Pepe do something with PG Wodehouse or KWV with Wilbur Smith?

Apothic Winemaker’s Blend 2011 soon to be ubiquitous for around £9 a bottle.