by Fred McMillin
for March 3, 1999
"The last time I can remember being this excited about wines from a new source was shortly after someone asked, 'Didja know Australia is making some good wines?' Now it is South Africa!"
...Randall Murray of Knight-Ridder News
"South African white wines...are exciting and delightful, with world class finesse."
...Robert Lawrence Balzer's Newsletter
Some of the best wines are coming from the high,
cool settlement of Franschhoek, originally farmed
by the French Huguenots, [who brought the first
true winemaking skills to South Africa in 1688.]
...Hugh Johnson's World Wine Atlas
The Franschhoek '96 Blanc Fume by the L'Ormarins Estate has a lush, rounded mouthfeel and a relatively luxurious texture through the finish.
...Charles Laverick, Wine Enthusiast
The Rest of the Story
And that's our Wine of the Day. Here are the details.
Name—'96 Blanc Fume (Sauvignon Blanc)
Producer—L'Ormarins Estate (loh-mah-ran)
Founding—French Huguenot Jean Roi arrived at the Franschhoek Valley and founded L'Ormarins in 1694, planting 4,000 vines.
Winemaker—Nico Vermeulen has three decades of So. African experience, and twice has been voted Champion Winemaker. He is well-known for his fresh, spicy Sauvignon Blanc. The Wine Enthusiast rates it L'Ormarins' best wine...has just a tad of oak.
Rating—Anyone interested in Sauvignon Blanc MUST include this one in their evaluation of what the grape can do in different locations. My panel gave it a RECOMMENDED in its price range.
Contact—Michelle Armour, (510) 286-2000
Price—$11 to $12 range
Only For Wine History Buffs
My library includes a 150-year-old book by Londoner James Richmond Sheen. This is how South African wine looked in those days. "The Cape of Good Hope was discovered by the Portuguese in 1493. The name indicated there was now a fair prospect of reaching India [since he had reached the southern tip of Africa]." He went on to say that while the Dutch introduced the vine about 1650, "vines have increased more than tenfold since the Cape was taken over by the English in 1792." I'm not accusing Mr. Sheen of any bias against the French, but I can find no mention of the Huguenots jump-starting successful winemaking.
Note: This Fume is imported by Maisons Marques & Domaines, Oakland, CA. For much more about another of their South African imports, see the
Dec. 18, 1998 WineDay titled "
Fleur Du Cap Is On the Map."
About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history
for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine
courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College.
In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred
with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded
to American wine writers.
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