Wed 5 May 2010
The blend of grapes in the Spice Route Chakalaka 2008, from South Africa’s Swartland region, is sort of awesomely weird. We begin with 51% syrah, 16% carignan, 11% mourvedre and 8% grenache. O.K., that’s fine, aiming along the lines of a Côtes-du-Rhône or Côtes-du-Rhône Villages. Then, however, come 11% sousão, 2% tannat and 1% petite sirah. They grow petite sirah in South Africa? Sousão is found in Portugal’s Douro Valley, where it is used in many ports, though officially not recommended for that purpose, and in South Africa, where it is highly regarded as the major port grape. Tannat is the tannic, rough and ready grape that forms the foundation of the wines of Madiran, Iroulegay and other red wines of Southwest France and is increasingly cultivated in South American, especially Uruguay.
So, this is a blend that would be risible were the wine itself not so damned interesting and pretty compulsively drinkable.
Chakalaka 2008 — named after a spicy South African relish — is deep and dark, rich and robust. Black currant, black cherry and plum scents and flavors are packed with spice, seething with smoke, freighted with dusty graphite. Something wild and exotic heightens the effect, notes of mulberry, sandalwood, hot tar. Come thereafter touches of briers and brambles, a mineral quality even unto damp shale and iron, yet glossed by smooth, palatable tannins and nervy acidity. Despite its panoply of potentially overwhelming grapes, Chakalaka 2008 channels its power into pleasing intensity and concentration that deliver heaps of personality and taste. I sipped a couple of glasses of this wine with simple cheese toast one afternoon — strips of sun-dried tomatoes with three or four grated cheeses — and the next night we drank what remained with the Weekly Pizza; it would be terrific with barbecue ribs, steaks and grilled leg of lamb. Now through 2012 or ’13. Very Good+. I paid $20 for the wine, but it’s available around the country for as low as $15.
Imported by Vineyard Brands, Birmingham, Ala.
Urbandictionary.com defines “boom shakalaka” as the sound of a slam-dunk in basketball or an expression of joy at an accomplishment or triumph.