Everyone knows that Pinotage comes from South Africa and Malbec from South America, right? Well, the South Africans have begun to plant Malbec so that could soon be changing. I received a bottle of Signatures of Doolhof Malbec 2008 the other day and was very curious to try it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as I’ve only recently become a convert to South African Pinotage. For years I could not drink Pinotage and was not a fan of many other South African wines but over the past year or so, I’ve been slowly introduced to the quality wines of South Africa and now have a firm opinion that there are some great wines being produced. South Africa is uniquely placed to grow grapes in the southern tip of the African continent, possessing excellent microclimates, soils and winemakers. Up until recently though, South African wines were either made with an eye to the domestic market or in bulk to be exported and sold as cheaply as possible.
Well, that is all changing now. South African winemakers are now modernizing their wineries, using the latest viticultural techniques and growing quality grapes as well as situating the vineyards in spots that are best suited to each particular variety. Doolhof is one such winery that is leading the way. Doolhof Estate is nestled in the remote valley of Bovlei and the area has been farmed for over 3 centuries. The current Estate dates from 1993 and vines were planted in 1995. Since then Doolhof has won many awards and the 2008 Malbec recently won a Decanter Gold Award.
The 2008 vintage has an interesting story. Right before harvest, there was a wild fire very close to the vineyards and the vines were covered in soot and ash. They thought the harvest was lost but as so often happens in South Africa, the high winds which caused the fire were soon followed by heavy rains and these rains washed the grapes clean. The decision was made to let the grapes hang for 2 more weeks in the hope that the natural acidity of the grapes would return. It was the right decision as 2 weeks later, the grapes were back on track and quickly harvested.
This was no Argentine Malbec that’s for sure. Full bodied and quite voluptuous, I found cherries, prunes and violets along with a smoky quality that was altogether pleasing on the nose and palate. I’ve often found smoke on S. African wines as being rather disagreeable but this wine was very well balanced and we all enjoyed kicking it back. The wine had a chocolate finish which seemed to run on for quite some time. Clocking in at 13.5% , it’s also not as alcoholic as many Argentine Malbecs tend to be. I’m not giving up on Argentine Malbecs but the Doolhof is a nice alternative, especially if you’re looking for something a bit out of the ordinary.