Niche, obscure, extraordinary varieties… ‘Unusuals’ well worth exploring

THERE ARE good reasons why Cabernet and Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc have come to be the most widely planted grape varieties in many wine-producing countries around the world. But of course, there are exceptions to the rule, unusual delights ranging from national and regional specialities to niche cultivars that many wine lovers might not have heard about, let alone experienced.

The following ‘unusuals’ are the most highly rated of their kind from the South African winelands in 2016/2017 – including a lovely Touriga Naçional from the Sijnn winery of Malgas, above the Breede River, accessible via gravel road, 15km from the ocean, far away from almost everywhere else… Typically used as one of the building blocks for Port wines, Touriga can also make for a fine, unfortified red in its own right – as can a number of varieties usually associated with red blends, such as Cinsaut, Grenache (Noir), Malbec and Petit Verdot. Verdelho, a grape associated with fortified Madeira, has performed wonderfully for Stellenbosch Vineyards as an interesting white wine sans spirit, while the Rhône varieties Grenache Blanc and Roussanne can be just as alluring as regards some of the other niche plantings in the Cape.

Bosman Twyfeling Cinsaut 2015
Kaapzicht Skuinsberg Cinsaut 2015

KWV The Mentors Grenache Blanc 2014

Credo Grenache 2015 (Stellenbosch Vineyards)
Naudé Old Vines Grenache Noir 2014 (Adoro)
Spice Route Grenache 2014

Neethlingshof Malbec 2015

KWV The Mentors Petit Verdot 2014

Bellingham The Bernard Series Whole Bunch Roussanne 2015

Sijnn Touriga Naçional 2014

Credo Verdelho 2015 (Stellenbosch Vineyards)

Such is the curiosity about varietal wines with a difference that there are now tastings staged especially for those wishing to make new discoveries – tastings such as Unlock the Unusuals in Johannesburg. Whether or not your local wine retailer stocks any or all of these is a way to gauge just how specialist they are! All the top SA wine ratings here.


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