Then keep these three C's in mind: Chenin Blanc, Cap Classique and Caperitif. There is a P you must remember also.
Chenin Blanc may not sound unusual, but if from South Africa, it fits the guidelines. This is because South African wines are off the mainstream radar, although wine making there goes back centuries.
The Dutch planted wine grapes in 1659. The map above shows vineyard regions now. Later, the industry was set back by a phylloxera attack in the late 1800s, post World War economic depression and apartheid, when protesters against racial discrimination refused to buy the wines.
Now, South African wines are on the move. Starting in 2007-2008, a new generation of winemakers reasserted South African identity, said Jim Clarke, marketing manager for Wines of South Africa (above). Marketing budget is low, Clarke admitted, so the wines aren't promoted as extensively as they deserve.
"It is a grape capable of a wide range of expression," Clarke said. Some, like the Fram Chenin poured at the class, are lean and minerally. Others, like the DeMorgenzon Chenin, are round and rich.
Before these, the class sampled a sparkling wine, the Colmant brut (in the glass at left). This is a Cap Classique, the South African equivalent of Champagne, tactfully named so as not to offend the French. It's 52% Chardonnay and 48% Pinot Noir and spent 28 months on the lees.
The third C, the Badenhorst Caperitif, showed up at a "Blanc Your Brains Out" white wine class led by Christopher Lavin of Broadbent Selections. This intensely herbal aperitif is sweet with grape sugar, bitter with Chinchona bark and flavored with South African botanicals, some of them unique to the country.
A recreation of a popular aperitif that disappeared more than a century ago, it's based on Chenin Blanc, fortified to 17.5% alcohol. Try this historic golden wine as a pre-dinner sipper or as a base for cocktails, the way it was used long ago.
And finally the P, which stands for Pinotage. This is South Africa's signature red wine. A blend of Cinsault and Pinot Noir, the grape is unique to South Africa, although a tiny amount does grow in California.
Pinotage has "a bad rep in the trade," Clarke said. A shame, when there are such beautiful examples as the Kanonkop Estate Pinotage 2015 (above). From 63-year-old vines, this wine was cement-fermented and spent 18 months in 75% new French oak.
Clarke said that South Africa is concerned with responsible wine production. Organic certification is expensive, so the winemakers tend not to get it. Instead, 95% of the wines are certified with this label (above).
This rising industry may seem new, but it's based on what Clarke said are the "oldest viticultural soils in the world." Let's hope it won't be another 10 years before we see them again.