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My Favourite Red Wines

I received quite a few questions after my last blog on the Pinotage about red wines. Three varietals in particular were asked about so I’ve taken the liberty of telling you a little more about them here.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Called Cab-Sav by those in the know, the particular thick skin of this grape results in wines that can be high in tannin which gives it structure and ageability. World-class examples can improve for decades and remain drinkable for a century.

While generally aromatic and full-flavoured and with a smooth, lingering finish, a Cab-Sav tends to lack mid-palate richness and is therefore often blended with lower tannin but “fleshy” tasting grapes to add aromatics.

Aromas often associated with this grape include chocolate, ripe berries, oak, pepper and earth. Variations in flavour depend on the region, winemaking technique, seasonal weather and bottle age.

Leopard’s Leap’s Cabernet Sauvignon is elegantly structured and flavourful with a fine aftertaste. With a nose of rich blueberry and plum flavours, a dash of cassis and undertones of coffee and toffee, its best served with hearty meat dishes as well as a variety of nuts and flavourful cheeses.


Merlot-based wines usually have a medium body with hints of berry, plum and currant. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with its earlier ripening, makes Merlot an ideal grape to blend with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon.

With fresh aromas of blueberries, plums, cassis and a hint of coffee, Leopard’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot is elegant and round with a full body and firm tannin structure. It is the perfect accompaniment for red meats and flavoured cheeses and nuts.


This powerfully flavoured and full-bodied grape is used to make a dry red table wine and depending on its origin, is also known as Syrah. It is often used on its own but also frequently blended with other grape varieties.

It produces a wide range of flavour notes, depending on the climate and soils where it is grown. Aroma characters range from violets to berries, chocolate, espresso and black pepper. With time in the bottle these “primary” notes are moderated and then supplemented with earthy or savoury “tertiary” notes such as leather and truffle.

Although its best incarnations will age for decades, less-extracted styles may be enjoyed young for their lively red and blue berry characters and smooth tannin structure. Shiraz has been widely used as a blending grape in the red wines of many countries due to its fleshy fruit mid-palate, balancing the weaknesses of other varieties and resulting in a “complete” wine.

The Leopard’s Leap variety offers Velvety Rhône style elegance with a spicy, floral nose of violet and black pepper. Reserve this wine for imaginative dishes such as oxtail, venison, ostrich and goulash.

I was invited to a charming dinner party recently. A bit like fashion these days, the host decided to go retro with the dessert and served up a chocolate fondue with a bottle of Pinotage. The rich, full flavours were perfectly complimentary and a hit with dinner guests. Any ideas on where I can get a good recipe for chocolate fondue?


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