PIWOSA. PieWHOHsuh. Not the snappiest or most elegant of acronyms - ironically enough. But then Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa is also quite a mouthful too. So, PIWOSA it is.
Until recently, I would have summed up South Africa as mostly a source of cheap and cheerful, somewhat rustic, supermarket wines - a sort of less-sophisticated Australia - whose main characteristics are a banana-ey rubberiness from overstressed vines.
Perusing a wine list, my eyes would skip over any South African entries in search of the classics or emerging European regions.
And yet at one tasting after another recently, I have met winemakers and winery owners who have told me that South Africa has terroirs that are as good as anywhere in the world - and who have the wines to prove it.
The "wine safari" tasting at The Groucho (whites) and Quo Vadis (reds) was a presentation of the wines of all 15 PIWOSA members, covering all regions in the Western Cape.
It is hard to pick out any single wine that stands out above all others as quality and consistency were high, but the ones that I found most interesting were:
- the Chardonnays generally; the word Burgundian comes up a lot in my notes, lots of fresh acidity, pure fruit, savoury, leesy butteriness and complex, elegant oaking.
- the Pinots generally; like a ballerina with a sassy attitude, they showed a classic Pinot funky nose with lots of ripe, red berry fruit
- Ken Forrester's wines generally; a fresh, linear Old Vine Chenin, a rich-yet-fresh single vineyard FMC Chenin, a mellow harmonious GSM-blend Renegade 2007 and a fresh, brambly Gypsy 2009
- Raats' wines generally; the Chenins, the varietal Cab Franc and Cab Franc blend, Jasper, all show an assured elegance and balance with great attention to detail.
- the 2002 Journey's End Chardonnay; standing shyly amidst a bunch of (very good) current vintage chardies was this little aged beauty - golden in the glass with an evolved nose, it was complex and weighty yet incredibly fresh
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