This Is Africa.  Or T.I.A for short.  You may or may not have heard this before.  Maybe you heard it in the movie Blood Diamond, or maybe you have been to Africa, and so you know.  It is a saying throughout Africa, and unless you have been there, you may not actually know what it means.  I will try and sum it up by simply saying it means something like this:  that in Africa, all rules, expectations, and preconceptions are subject to an unexpected changeability which can often defy logic and reason.  When something happens there which leaves one scratching their head (which can happen often) the simple response is T.I.A.  And that, for those who understand it, explains everything (or perhaps nothing).

One of the most beautiful places in the world, the Western Cape of Africa.

So, sometimes I just need to do something different when it comes to wine.  While most of the time I am chasing the esoteric and the natural, sometimes I just need go in the opposite direction.  Like other side of the hemisphere opposite direction.  I have been fortunate enough to have visited Cape Town South Africa on three occasions.  A more beautiful place filled with great people, great food and great wine, I cannot imagine.  The wines of South Africa compose but a very, very small percentage of the wine that is imported into the United States.  But savvy wine drinkers would be remiss to dismiss what are some of the best wines coming out of the southern hemisphere.  I put the wines of South Africa ahead of Australia, Argentina, Chile, and the like in terms of quality, and especially, character.  There seems to be a real thread running through the best reds from the best and brightest wine growing areas around the Cape, and especially in Stellenbosch.  Namely, what I have found, is a decided smokiness, and a fresh uplifting quality that can often described as minty.  This posting is a revisit to some of the wines I tried at a South African tasting here in NYC last year with a surprise or two thrown in for good measure.  You can read my thoughts on those earlier impressions here, and see where I think these wines stand now after further time in the cellar and a changed palate.  Therefore, I tried to focus on the higher end Bordeaux varietal bottlings from some of the top producers in South Africa.  I have a few more of some of these wines for the cellar and I think I am going to let them ride and see where they end up with some real age on them.  So, though I may exhibit some bias having been seduced by the beauty of Cape Town and the wine country which literally surrounds it, I think I can fairly say that the wines of South Africa merit serious attention.  Don’t let the prices fool you, these are the top wines coming out of South Africa, there are many great bargains in both the red and white categories.  And, if you have never been, and you can swing it, a trip to the Cape is certainly a must.  And remember, This Is Africa.

De Toren “Fusion V” 2007  $49.99

Medium sanguine red in color, the spearmint campfire thing is in full effect here.  There is also a nice mix of sweet tobacco leaf, fresh leather, dates, and dark chocolate.  The wine is a delicious blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot.  Kind of hard not to like.  14.5% ABV.  Purchased at Union Square Wines.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Meerlust “Rubicon” 2006  $32.99

This bottle of Meerlust Rubicon was a gift from a near and dear friend from the UK with whom I have shared some adventures on the Cape.  So I may seem partial to it for that reason, as I can recall drinking Meerlust whilst there with said friend, but this was perhaps the lightest and most uplifting of the bunch.  The Rubicon is a medium red crimson blend of the Bordeaux varieties.  It has a nose of spearmint, lite campfire, and pepper spice.  It is not overdone, and has decent acidity and good lift.  Almost refreshing for a wine of its ilk.  14% ABV.  Available at 67 Wine.  RECOMMENDED

Thelema 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon “The Mint”  $52.99

Medium dark crimson this was the only 100% Cabernet in the bunch.  It has the mint going on, hence the name, and it also has dark brambly fruit and beef jerky notes.  The oak is well integrated and there are hints of smokiness, vanilla spice, and moderate tannins.  14% ABV.  Purchased at Union Square Wines.  RECOMMENDED

2006 Glen Carlou “Grand Classique”

The Grand Classique is a blend of Bordeaux varieties with a dark garnet color and a nose of spiced French oak with dark fruit and dried dates.  It only hints at smoke and mint.  It is delicious and balanced if bit straight forward.  Should age well but is drinking well now.  14% ABV.  Purchased at D.O.C. Wine Shop.  RECOMMENDED