A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bukettraube - South Africa

Today marks Fringe Wine's first visit to South Africa, and as I was getting ready for this post, I started thinking about why I have so few posts on many of the "new world" wine countries.  I have zero posts on Chile, zero on Australia and New Zealand, two on Argentina and a handful on the USA.  The reason is pretty simple, I guess.  Vitis Vinifera, the grape species used to make virtually all the fine wines on earth, is native to Europe so most of the genetic variety is shown over there.  The native grapes of the new world tend to make very bad wine so while these countries may have a wealth of indigenous grapes, they are not considered good grapes for wine production.  The wine grapes that are grown in the new world are virtually all imports and if you're going to bother to import something, you're probably going to bring over the grapes that have a record of success not only in the vineyard, but in the marketplace, which is why we tend to see the same grapes over and over again all over the world.  People want Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, not Zweigelt or Bianchello, so that's what tends to get planted in and exported from new world vineyard sites.

There are a few exceptions here or there, and I've covered some of them.  Bonarda and Torrontes in Argentina and Valdiguié and Blaufränkisch in the US are both examples of unusual European grapes that have found their own little niche in the new world.  There are also a number of hybrids available in the US such as Symphony and Landot Noir that have had a bit of success in the US.  I suspect that the prevalence of these types of grapes may be higher in the countries they are grown in, but they are not exported in very large quantities to the US market since, as mentioned above, we're pretty much only interested in the big international varieties or varieties that have found a special home in a new world site (Carménère in Chile, Chenin Blanc in South Africa, Malbec in Argentina, etc.).  I've had pretty good luck here in the US finding some unusual American wines, but I would guess there probably isn't much of a market in England or France for Rhode Island produced Landot Noir.

All of this brings us to today's grape, Bukettraube.  As you might expect from the name, this grape is rumored to have Germanic origins (a Sebastian Englerth is purported to have created it in the 19th Century) and its parents are thought to be Silvaner and Schiava Grossa, the lesser of the Schiava clones.  An Alsatian connection has also been put forth since there is supposedly a grape known as Bouqettraube grown in very limited quantities in Alsace, but I can't find any reference to this grape outside of The Oxford Companion to Wine's article on Bukettraube itself.  I'm not sure what the name means, but it looks like "bukett" is German for "bouquet," which this wine certainly has in abundance (the "traube" or "raube" of the rest may mean grape, but I do not speak German at all..."bouquet grape" or "aromatic grape" makes sense, though).  Wherever it came from, it's pretty much limited to South Africa these days, though even there it's estimated that there are only about 88 hectares (217 acres) remaining.  The wine is rarely exported because the flavors and aromas tend to fade away pretty quickly, so time is really of the essence when it comes to drinking Bukettraube.

The wine I was able to find was the 2010 Cederberg Bukettraube, which is made from a tiny allocation of 6.5 hectares near the Cederberg Mountains in South Africa.  The Cederberg Mountains are a small, inland mountain range located about 300 km north of Cape Town.  In the glass, the wine was a pale lemon-green color.  The nose on this is explosively aromatic with very ripe grapefruit, white flowers, honeysuckle, stone fruit and lemon.  On the palate, the wine is off-dry to medium sweet and is medium bodied with bright, zingy acidity.  There are flavors of ripe grapefruit and honey along with ripe peaches and a bit of bitter grapefruit pith on the finish.  The flavors are very pronounced, if not terrifically complex. This reminds me a lot of Muscat, though it has better acidity and more citrusy flavors than muscat tends to have.  The intensity of the nose and palate are a bit of a surprise if you've had any experience with the parents of this grape.  If I'd had to guess, I would have said this was a cross between Riesling and Muscat as it has the nice acidity and citrus of the former with the explosive aromatics and flowery stone fruit of the latter.  This is a big, assertive, friendly wine that would be great with spicy foods.  I actually enjoyed this most on its own while recovering from a hot, sunny day.  If you're in the Boston area, I picked my bottle up at Curtis Liquors in Weymouth for about $20.

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