One of the corners of the winemaking world we hadn't set foot in before this week is South Africa. We chose as our first wine from the Western Cape region of that country the 2007 Graham Beck Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (about $12 at big box stores), based both on chatter about this particular value wine and on the winery's impressive international reputation.
To begin, we have just two words for you: cherry cola. This is not a slam. The wine is far from soda pop, but in its dark intensity it evokes the mouth-filling buzz of an old-fashioned cherry Coke, the kind they mixed up on the spot at the drugstore soda fountains of our youth.
This blend, dominated two-to-one by shiraz, opens in the glass with a blast of dark berry and plum aromas. On the tongue, it leads with the spicy edge of the shiraz and segues seamlessly into a blend of blackberry, black cherry and chocolate flavors given structure by the cabernet and a soft smoky edge by aging in oak. The finish is long and dry, but the bold memory of chocolate and cherry lingers pleasingly. The shiraz and cab wines were matured separately, including separate aging for 12 months in French and American second-fill oak barrels, before being blended and bottled. The result is a wine both sophisticated and eminently accessible.
The winemakers suggest pairing their impressive blend with grilled lamb or rich meat stews, but we enjoyed it mightily with a rosemary-scented pork roast and roasted veggies liberally basted with good olive oil.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.