Friday, 4 October 2013

Boom! Chakalaka - A Racy Red to Knock Your Socks Off

An almost required condiment at a South African braii (barbeque to us Brits), Chakalaka is a spicy relish of onions, tomatoes and often beans. A simple side dish, it's enhanced with a  selection of spices to bring out the flavour of a dish.

The South Africans aren't pernickety about the blend - 'chakalaka' actually translates to 'all in one', and traditionally the blend is a mixture of everything you have in the kitchen.

Chakalaka is also one of the most popular wines from South African winery, Spice Route, which has the same ethos - an ever-changing blend of varieties, each bringing characteristics which complement each other.

Since the late 1990's, Spice Route have been producing wines in the expressive Swartland region, with the focus on quality wines from the best land. When vinter Charles Back purchased the farm where Spice Route now lies, his philosphy was 'go where there terroir is' - a previously unestablished wine region, it was a bold move, but it's paid off.

The Spice Route Winery’s name reflects what the wines and the people are all about - the history of mariners bringing their exotic Eastern spices to the West along the 'spice route', realising the potential of the Swartland region and it's land, and the wines themselves - rich and complex, much like the spices which made their way to South Africa.

With a minimalistic and traditional approach to tending their vines and making their glorious wines, their focus is the terroir and allowing the grapes to bring character to their range.

One of the most amazing things about Chakalaka is the sheer number of parcels of vines and grapes used to make up the blend, and how this blend completely and utterly changes from vintage to vintage. It's the kind of wine you should buy every year.

Available at Tesco Wine by the Case for £71.94 per case, equivalent to £11.99 per bottle, Chakalaka will warm the darkest and coldest of days as we head into the A/W13 season and makes for the perfect roast dinner accompaniment (if you'd rather just buy a single bottle or two, you can pay £12.95 from The Wine Society).

Having acquired a bottle a few weekends ago, I set to the kitchen and smothered a leg of lamb in harrissa and Middle-Eastern spices and slow-cooked for a few hours. With sweet potato to accompany, it was my twist on a classic Sunday roast, made even better by a few glasses of Chakalaka!

At 14.5% alcohol it'll knock your socks of, but the complexity of flavour - plums, black cherries, cloves, sweet spice and forest fruits - the solid structure and smooth tannins will have you wanting more.

A blend of Carignan, Durif, Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvedre and Tannat grapes, there's a lot going on in the bottle without being complicated.

So indeed, Boom! Chakalaka - a big tick from me.

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