5 South African Red Wines Your Tastebuds Will Love

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Over the last week I have started feeling the chill in the evening air. Winter is around the corner! This makes some of the challenges the bush throws at us a little easier – less bugs on the decks in the evenings, no torrential downpours and the snakes go into hibernation… Without the 35°C+ sweltering hot days, there really is nothing like a great glass of red wine around the fire in the boma to warm one up from within.

With this in mind I have listed five red wines on our wine list that I believe are real crackers!

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2012

This wine hails from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley just outside the town of Hermanus.  This area is very well known for growing Burgundian varietals.  The farm has been owned by the Hamilton Russell family since 1975.  Tim Hamilton Russell originally purchased the farm and sold it to his son, Anthony Hamilton Russell, in 1994.  The winemaker, Hannes Storm, has been with the farm for 13 years.

The wine is 100% Pinot Noir, grown on low-vigour, stony, clay-rich, shale-derived soil. It was matured in French oak barrels, 39% first fill (brand spanking new barrels), 33% second fill and 28% third fill. It is a dry, full bodied, not overtly fruity, soft and “sweet”. It is spicy, with primary red fruit (lots of cherry) and earthy tones.

I’d pair this with a Pasta Puttanesca.


Kanonkop Pinotage 2011

Pinotage is a uniquely South African varietal.  Dr Abraham Perold, the first professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University, created it in 1925 by cross-fertilizing Pinot Noir with Cinsault (also known as Hermitage).

This Pinotage comes from Stellenbosch.  Kanonkop is a fourth generation family estate, owned by Paul and Johann Krige, which has been handed down from father to son for over 40 years.

The name Kanonkop is derived from a kopje (hillock), from which a cannon was fired in the 17th century.  The cannon was used to alert farmers in outlying areas that ships sailing between Europe and the Far East had entered Table Bay for a stopover at Cape Town.  They would then load their wagons, span their oxen and set off to Cape Town to barter their produce, mainly fresh fruit and vegetables (and probably their young daughters), to the sailors and travelers who had spent many months at sea.

The wine is 100% Pinotage made from old bush vines (up to 59 years old!), grown on decomposed granite and Hutton soils.  It was matured in French oak barrels, 75% first fill and 25% second fill. The wine is full bodied with luscious layers of blackberry, raspberry, cassis and plum which combine hints of banana and mocha.

A quote from Kanonkop that I just love: “Pinotage is a juice extracted from women’s tongues and lions’ hearts.  After drinking a sufficient quantity, one can talk forever and fight the devil.”

I’d pair this with a Duck Casserole.


Hartenberg “The Stork” Shiraz 2008

The farm was established in Stellenbosch in 1962. In 1987 Ken Mackenzie purchased the farm and today his daughters continue a program of investment in the farm.

Ken Mackenzie was a tall lanky chap with long thin legs.  So when joining the RAF as a spitfire pilot in World War Two, he quickly earned the nickname “Stork”. Hartenberg named their flagship wine in honour of him.

This wine was awarded the title of “Best Shiraz in the World” at the Syrah du Monde competition in 2012. Hartenberg has the largest privately owned underground wine cellar in South Africa.

The wine is 100% Shiraz which was grown on Kroonstad and Pinedene soil.  It has been matured for 17 months in French oak barrels, 60% first fill and 40% second fill.  This is a full bodied wine with rich black fruit flavours, dominated by cherries, white pepper and violets on the nose.

I’d pair this with a cauliflower and cashew nut Soup.

Hartenberg Stork

Vilafonté “Series C” 2010

With their winery in Stellenbosch and vineyards in Paarl, Vilafonté is the coming together of great wine experiences from California and South Africa. Vilafonté is a collaboration between Mike Ratcliffe (managing partner), Zelma Long (winemaking partner – one of America’s best known winemakers) and Dr Phil Freese (wine-growing partner – he designed and planted the first Oupus One vineyards).

Vilafonté is named after vilafontes, one of the more unique soil types in the vineyard.  Vilafontes is one of the oldest soil types in the world and has been defined as being somewhere between 750 000 and 1.5 million years old.  The age of the soil is important as it is rather barren and stripped of most of its nutrients.  This encourages the vines to dig deep for any nutrients and so they can’t focus their energy on growing large leafy canopies but instead focus their energy on their berries (their precious children), which then produces lovely highly concentrated fruit.

Vilafonté only grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec and the “C” in “Series C” is taken from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc Component.

The “Series C” is a Bordeaux-style blend of 75% Cabnernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot and 5% Malbec.  It was matured for 22 months in French oak barrels of which 90% were first fill.  The wine offers aromas of preserved black berries and currants, hints of licorice, notes of chocolate and espresso coffee.

I’d pair this with a lamb rack with mint jus.


Spice Route “Malabar” 2007

The winery is based near Malmesbury in the Swartland region.  Purchased by Charles Back in 1997 (who established Fairview in Paarl  as one of South Africa’s most successful and popular wine estates), the farm was then better known for its wheat than wine.

The winery’s name reflects what the vineyard, the wines and the people are all about.  It recalls the ancient marines of the 15th century braving the tempestuous waters of the “Cape of Storms” as they plied their trade bringing exotic Eastern spices to Western Europe along the so-called “Spice Route”.

Malabar is Spice Route’s flagship wine which is a Rhone-style blend of 64% Syrah, 15% Mourvédre, 9% Petite Sirah, 9% Grenache and 3% Tannat.  The vines are grown on Oakleaf, Koffiefkip and decomposed granite soils.  The wine was then individually matured for 14 months in French oak vats.  The best barrels were selected, blended and returned to the barrel for a further 12 months.  The wine has layered and perfumed aromas of rich berry, plum, chocolate and violets.

I’d pair this with rib-rye with a green peppercorn sauce.


So while I huddle around the campfire with a good glass of red wine at Londolozi this coming winter, what will you be drinking?  Which of these five is your favourite red? Do you have another red wine that you enjoy drinking in the colder months?

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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One Response to 5 South African Red Wines Your Tastebuds Will Love

  1. Seth Nichols April 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    Great post! I recently tried the 2009 Spice Route Malabar. The blend was a little bit different but still a great red. Another good Rhone blend I recently tried was “The Wolftrap” by Boekenhoutskloof, 2012. Cheers!

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