5 Wines from South Africa Paired with Local Fare: Chenin Blanc, Rose, Pinotage, “Faithful Hound” Red Blend

The South African alcohol industry lost $2.5 billion in U.S. dollars “due to the country’s three separate alcohol sales bans since the coronavirus pandemic began. Industry professionals are urging their government to consider measures other than prohibition to address problems associated with the misuse of alcohol. More than 200K people who work in the wine, beer, and spirits industries are at risk of losing their jobs because of the sales bans,” according to Karen McNeil.

The devastation unleashed by COVID comes on the heals of a multi-year drought; it’s been one challenge after another for the South African wine industry. With the “South Africa” COVID variant on the loose, hard to know when the situation will change.

During the Wine Futures conference, I learned that:

  • South Africa suffered from lower yields in 2019.
  • Limited organic vineyards aren’t meeting global demand (in April we will be writing about organic Reynke).
  • Negative publicity due to a history of racism, repression, and apartheid reduces consumer interest.
    Read more from Wine Futures Days 1 and 2; Days 3 and 4.

While there has been progress in patching up South Africa’s reputation, with a great 2020 vintage after years of drought, world class wine tourism, and an increased global focus on Chenin Blanc and pinotage, which all helped the struggling South African wineries, COVID hit creating challenges in shipping with a shortage of containers due to being stuck in ports waiting to be unloaded, which has been especially damaging to sensitive products like wine, not to mention relocating thousands of people to work from home.

While the most recent ban has been lifted in a limited way as of 2/2/21, this may be a case for many of “too little too late.”

What can we do to help South Africa recover?

The recent Wine Futures 2021 virtual conference is holding a silent auction for a few more days, and the money goes to three NGOs so click this link now and do your part if you are in a position to do so because  one of the NGOs is SOS Capetown which “seeks to mitigate the impact of the water crisis on local schools and struggling communities in the Western Cape and other parts of South Africa, by collaborating with community stakeholders, government and businesses to provide alternative water sources and solutions. We provide non-potable and potable water, transportation and infrastructure. Our projects address sanitation, hygiene, climate change and education around these issues. We also focus on economic empowerment.”

And of course purchase and enjoy South African wine of course, and visit when we can!

Since traveling to South Africa to visit wineries is not on your Bingo card just yet, you can prepare a feast for yourself featuring South African wines and food which will feel exotic but won’t break the bank or have you work the weekend in the kitchen! Sue came up with an amazing menu, and I selected five South African wines to pair with the meal, a range of wines from Muldersbosch and two South African classics from Lievland, a Chenin Blanc and a pinotage.

Might not be the prettiest meal to plate but wow, so good!


all wines were provided for my review consideration with no other compensation

  • Mulderbosch Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc “Steen Op Hout”
  • 2018 Lievland Vineyards Chenin Blanc
  • 2017 Lievland Vineyards Bushvine Pinotage
  • 2016 Mulderbosch “Faithful Hound” Stellenbosch

PS Fans of Chenin Blanc should stay tuned– next month we have two organic and biodynamic wines from Reyneke and June 15th is International Drink Chenin Day!

Muldersbosch rose

Mulderbosch Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon
ABV 12.5% 

Color: Pretty in pink, pinky orange salmon, deep dark color for a rose

Nose: Strawberry chiffon, cherry, cotton candy,

Palate: Strawberry, sweet tarts, strawberry starburst, bright acidity, citric acid, ocean salinity, very drinkable, kind of like a strawberry margarita, the sweet of the fruit and the tart. Great poolside wine.

Pairing: We were yearning a rich creamy guacamole to go alongside the wine. With our traditional meal this wine was spectacular. It loves the curry and the spice, it loves the chutney on top of the veoteck, it handles the sweet and the spice with perfection. Give me food, and give me more wine, then give me more food. The two thrive on one another. While this wine worked well with the custard in the dessert, it fought tooth and nail with the crust, but the custard and the wine is devine. It would possibly work well with fresh fruit on top of the custard with the wine. But leave the crust out.

Muldersbosch Chenin

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc “Steen Op Hout”
ABV 13% 

Color: Pale buttercup, pale pure golden yellow

Nose: Lime, kefir lime, jalapeno, grasses, ocean salinity, gravely minerals

Palate: Clean fresh, nice acidity, citrus blossom, sweetness without being sweet, nice fruit, quite a bit of acidity, baking soda as opposed to citric acid.

Pairing: This wine loves the voeteck and with the chutney on top, it is amazing. While this is not a fancy meal, both the rice and the bobotie work together so very well, and the wine and the meal work so well together, it takes the ordinary to extraordinary. The wine with the melktert provides a key lime element to a pie with out key lime. If this were a sweeter dessert it would not work and fight  with one another, but together it works quite nicely. It works nicely with the cinnamon spice on top.’

Lievland Chenin

2018 Lievland Vineyards Chenin Blanc
ABV 13% 

“The first time we visited the farm, we were struck by two horses that had adopted a baby springbok. This touching scene inspired our label: Cupid, the god of love, riding a springbok, South Africa’s national animal.”
José Conde, director

Color: Pale buttercup, golden, daffodil

Nose: Florals, flinty funk, white flowers, citrus flowers, some green grassy notes, very French like

Palate: Nice mouthfeel, a touch of vanilla, nice creaminess, rich and complex, nice density. Lemon, lemon curd, lime, key lime pie,

Pairing: I want this wine with a roast chicken, or a chicken curry meal, cumin and chicken. While this wine was alright with the traditional meal, We did not enjoy it as much and wanted a roast chicken. We loved sipping on this wine for our tasting notes, but then with the traditional fare, it just didn’t do either the wine or the food justice. I want fresh sautéed scallops in butter with this wine. Give it a roast chicken, or a bit of coc a vin. Fantastic with the melktert. Super creamy and rich together on the palate. I would also like it with fresh berries on top. Sue was happy with the rich vanilla characteristics in both the wine and the dessert.

Lievland pinotage

2017 Lievland Vineyards Bushvine Pinotage
ABV 13.5%
SRP $19

88% Pinotage 9% Cinsault 3% Shiraz from two bush vine vineyards.

Because Pinot Noir is hard to grow in South Africa and Cinsault relatively easy, in 1925 the two were crossed. The result, called Pinotage, is now synonymous with South Africa, one of the most widely planted and successful wine exports. The hardy vines and thick skinned darkly colored grapes aren’t as susceptible to mildew, and when compared to Pinot Noir, the wines are denser and with higher alcohol. Lievland is a historic Stellenbosch farm that is being rejuvenated by MAN Family Wines to focus on three grapesPinotage being one, the Chenin Blanc above being a second.
Color: Extremely dense and dark, ruby, plum, pink rim

Nose: Earthen mud, clay, wet, loam, the alcohol is a bit present, mint, menthol, cherry fruit, cherry cola, cedar, sandalwood, vanilla,

Palate: Nice rich tannins, leather, tobacco, cherry pipe tobacco, pine, pine pitch, nice smokiness, campfire smoke, smooth smokiness, bold tannins up front, smooth slickness mid to back of the palate, cherry cola finish. Appealing and engaging.

Pairing: With our sweet potato dumpling and chutney on top is wonderful. It responds to both of the potatoes in the dumpling. Loves the sweetness of the sweet potato and the earthy richness of the russet, and then a lovely floral appeal. Seconds please. it navigates the spice without negating it. The wine handles all of the many different flavors so well. The wine went so well with the crust. Great with the whole wheat almond shortbread crust. No need to go beyond there because the custard just doesn’t work with the wine even though the custard is great. The earthiness of the pilotage works so well with the crust.

Suggested pairings include “traditional South African dishes such as roasted Karoo lamb or Springbok pie, or even served slightly chilled with Cape Malay curried fish.” It’s a fun wine that handles spice, even chicken tamales with mole sauce as we wrote about here in a South Africa and SoCal holiday mashup.

2016 Mulderbosch “Faithful Hound” Stellenbosch
ABV 13.5%
SRP $22

33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 17% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot

An example of why blends are so wonderful!

Color: Dense, plum, rim is pink

Nose: Mint, bell pepper vegitals, great earthy element, violets, ginger flower, orchids, kind of like a rainforest, It reminded me of when I was in Kilimanjaro, in the rainforest at 9k elevation. It is exciting and exotic, rose petals potpourri.

Palate: Grippy tannins, blue fruit, green bell pepper and jalapeño jelly. Both of us wanted to taste this wine after laying it down for another 5 years at least. We both wanted to go straight to the meal with this wine.

Pairing: I was thinking of a big juicy burger or a grilled steak with blue cheese. We loved this wine with this food. I have some wine and want some food. I take a bite of food and want to go back to the wine. Both work so well together. I likes the little bit of sweetness from the raisins. The aromatic flavors play off of the wine as well. The wine loves the cloves in the bobotie, and the cinnamon stick in the wine. It was perfect with the dumpling, loving both the sweet potato and the russet potato in the meal, absolutely fantastic with the chutney. The wine liked the cinnamon in the custard and the fact that the custard wasn’t too sweet, but doesn’t do the wine any favors, and the sweetness of the almond extract is not fantastic with the wine. A French cheese plate with a creamy blue cheese, a drizzle of honey, and a bit of herbs d Provence is Sue’s recommendation. This wine wants salt, cream, herbs and just a touch of sweetness to shine.

Favorite wine of the evening?

A very difficult question, because all of the wines had different appealing characteristics throughout the evening..

I loved the Lievland Chenin Blanc the most of all the wines on its own, but did not like it the best with all of the dishes. But on its own, it was by by far my favorite wine of the evening. Such French characteristics!

For Sue it was between the pinotage and the Faithful Hound. She loves her reds. The pinotage was a fabulous pairing with all of the spices and curries. It went so fantastically with the food. The both just married so well together. The Faithful Hound went well with most of the meal, but was a beautiful blend on its own.

Each of the wines this evening brought out different elements in the meal, each wanting more of the other.

I think I enjoyed the Faithful Hound with the evening’s meal most, loving the complexity of the wine with the complexity of the meal. It was almost like peanut butter and jelly with the potato pockets. So satisfying.

Sue went right back to the rose loving all of the components of the wine and the food together, which is so out of character because she usually goes for the big reds, and I usually go for the whites, or rose!

So very interesting!


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