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U.K. Master of Wine conducts next tasting

By By Stan Torgerson / wine columnist
Oct. 16, 2002
After a week researching the wines of South Africa, I am more excited than ever about the tasting of wines from that country on Oct. 24.
Normally, our tastings are held on the last Thursday of each month. The first problem was that the last Thursday of October is Halloween, and we thought there might be many parents trick-or-treating who would otherwise like to taste these unique wines.
But, there was an even bigger factor to consider. Distributor Norm Rush told me that Peter Koff, one of only 30 people designated as United Kingdom Masters of Wine will be in Mississippi then, and is willing to conduct our tasting on that date.
This is indeed an honor and a tribute to Meridian wine lovers who have made these tastings the largest in the state.
Koff is originally from South Africa and also holds the Cape Master of Wine award from his native country. He lives in California now and heads his own firm, Fairest Cape Beverage Company, representing wines from South Africa, California, Oregon, Italy, France and Germany.
He hand-selected the seven South African wines that will be presented on the 24th.
Paarl, Stellenbosch
The wines to be featured come from the Paarl and Stellenbosch Districts which produce South Africa's greatest concentrations of fine wines.
Stellenbosch is the country's hot spot for wines and the list to be tasted includes four from that area.
They include a chardonnay, a pinotage, a cabernet sauvignon and a shiraz. Stellenbosch has granite-based soil (considered best for red wines) as well as sandstone (best for white wines). Its summers are warm and dry, the winters cool and moist. With an annual average rainfall of 20 inches, irrigation is unnecessary.
Paarl has similar soil with somewhat wetter winters and hotter summers. Most of the wines produced in that area are white, but there are several outstanding reds. We will taste one of them, a blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, as well as a white blend of sauvignon blanc and chenin blanc.
A dessert wine with, Koff says, flavors of blue and black fruit is also on the list. I can hardly wait for that one.
South Africa's place
on the world market
Reviews of South African wines include opinions like this, about the country's chardonnay: "Oak-aged with just a kiss of creamy new oak, although some less refined if just as lip-smacking wines dominated by yummy, coconutty-oak are also to be found. The top un-oaked versions are very pure and exquisitely balanced and often belie their hot-climate origin."
As to the country's most famous red wine grape, the pinotage, the reviewer said, "This grape is to South Africa what zinfandel is to California and shiraz to Australia. The best wines … have a deep inky color, ultra-creamy-rich fruit without going bubble-gummy, gently supported by good grippy tannins."
Like a politician, I can neither confirm nor deny. I simply haven't tasted these wines.
I do know this, wines from South Africa are gaining more and more acceptance on the world market. The 2002 expo of the country's wines, the country's largest show to promote wine exports, was attended by 720 delegates from 32 countries including 70 journalists. Ninety of the delegates came from the United States.
Despite the world's economic slowdown, exports in 2001 increased 24 percent over 2000, three times the growth rate of the previous four years. Obviously, the country's wines have something to offer.
Make your reservation
The price for this tasting will be $30 because several of the wines are quite pricey, up to $70 a bottle retail. There is still space available, so please call 482-0930 and make your reservation or mail your check to: Wines Unlimited, P.O. Box 5223, Meridian, MS 39302.
Having Peter Koff here makes this tasting even more interesting and valuable for those who enjoy learning about wine.
Koff will be available to answer questions. There are only 30 holders of the United Kingdom Masters of Wine designation. Just 12 live in America, and Koff is one of them.
The tasting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Northwood Country Club. The public is invited, but make advance reservations so we know how much wine to order.