South Africa Wines: Why to Buy
1. Seek Out Shiraz
Many of South Africa's top red winesalong with many of its best valuescome from this intense, spicy variety.
2008 DMZ Shiraz ($15)
De Morgenzon is primarily known for its wonderful, oak-aged Chenin Blanc. But in the 2008 vintage, the owners added a second, more affordable brand, DMZ. The best bottling is this green peppercorninflected Shiraz.
2007 Darling Cellars Onyx Shiraz ($16)
Bright blackberry fruit with a hint of smoke is the hallmark of this exuberant red. It comes from the Darling district, on the country's western coast.
2008 Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block ($39)
Video: What Does Wine Taste Like?
2. Look for Values
South African white wines are phenomenal deals.
2009 Excelsior Chardonnay ($10)
This refreshing, lime-scented bottling is from a Robertson Valley property that is also one of the country's most famed thoroughbred horse farms.
2009 Fairvalley Chenin Blanc ($10)
Profits from this mandarin orangescented Chenin help build houses and a community center for the Fairvalley Farm Workers Association.
2008 Kanu Chenin Blanc ($10)
Creamy and melony, Kanu's affordable bottling is on the full-bodied side of South African Chenin Blanc, with a light herbal note in the finish that lasts.
2009 Backsberg Sauvignon Blanc ($13)
Grapefruit peel and chalk notes are at the heart of this peppery Sauvignon from a winery founded in 1916.
3. Go for 2009 Bottles
South Africa's 2009 vintage was stellar. The white wines are here now; look for reds to start arriving later this year.
2009 Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc ($14)
Chenin Blanc is one of South Africa's premier white-wine grapes. Despite its moderate price, this Mulderbosch Chenin is complex and luscious.
2009 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc ($14)
Vineyards in both the Groenekloof ward and the Stellenbosch region produced the grapes for this racy, grapefruit-scented white from noted winemaker Neil Ellis.
2009 Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc ($15)
Scents of lime peel and chalk define this zesty white. It's sourced from low-yielding vineyards near Stellenbosch's Helderberg Mountain.
2009 Warwick Estate Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc ($19)
Three months on lees (the spent yeasts from fermentation) give this Sauvignon more body and richness than many, though its citrus flavor stays bright.
Plus: Pinotage Artist Charles Black
Many people find South Africa's Pinotage grape an acquired taste, to say the least ("horse blanket" is occasionally used to describe its aroma). But Charles Back, one of South Africa's most talented winemakers, has a knack for bringing out the variety's lush, savory, blackberry character, while dialing back that in-your-face funkiness. His 2008 La Capra ($10) is a case in point.