Wine: Trip across the globe

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From the June 13, 2013 edition

It’s time to explore a little-known wine-producing region: South Africa. Your favorite wine shop might not have an overwhelming selection, but at least a few bottles will likely be devoted to some of its many syrah, sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc choices. Among them, you might find pinotage.

Pinotage is a South African original — the pinot noir-cinsaut blend was created in the region, although it is now grown elsewhere as well. It’s gotten the reputation among wine connoisseurs as the South African wine of choice for people who don’t know very much about South African wine — the equivalent of, maybe, Olive Garden as a prized Italian restaurant.

Of course to them, that’s a problem. To us, it sounds like something worth trying (who doesn’t love a cheeky dinner out at Olive Garden?).

Behold Stellar Organics 2012 Pinotage ($11 at Hausfrau Haven), the bells-and-whistles bottle among the pinotage choices.

At least in the case of this vineyard near Cape Town, the interest in organically grown, no-sulfite-added wine has been well received. This bottle takes things a step further with the “fair trade” designation — the mark that says the growers, bottlers and distributors involved are fairly compensated for their work isn’t one I think I’ve seen on a wine bottle before. The $11 price tag suddenly makes it seem like a steal.

But how does it drink?

In short, pretty well. The pour smells — quite literally — like red wine at a campfire might: intensely smoky. The taste, while cedar-y, isn’t as heavy as you might think; instead, it’s a bit tannic and acidic while still having a smooth, “watery” quality. Fruit flavors mostly pointed to dark berries and plums or prunes.

This wine might be best enjoyed with something a little charred on the grill — sausage, onion and cheese pizza or maybe barbecue kebabs, which the wine would cut through with refreshing ease.