Choosing a wine based on the name of its main grape variety, or the region where the grapes grow, is easy. If you know that sauvignon blanc, or more specifically Sancerre, appeals to you, then seeing either name on a bottle instills confidence. But developing a comfort level with blends takes wine appreciation to the next level. In so many international regions I visit, among the most interesting wines are reds that balance the complementary characteristics of several different grapes. These three are remarkably delicious blends from South Africa, a country whose wines are one of the best-kept secrets in the world.
Kanonkop Kadette Cape Blend, Stellenbosch, 2015
Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape, a crossing of pinot noir and cinsault that often tasted excessively green and vegetal 20 years ago but is now mostly delicious. Kanonkop produced reliably good pinotage even when many others were undrinkable. This blend has a majority of the grape, with a high percentage of cabernet sauvignon for backbone and a bit of merlot to round it out. Medium-bodied with smoky, earthy black cherry fruit, it’s a delight with spicy chicken or fish dishes.
$13, Gordon’s DTX
Boekenhoutskloof the Chocolate Block, Franschhoek Valley, 2015
This opaque, full-bodied red is mostly syrah, with small percentages of grenache, cabernet and cinsault. Ultra-rich and cocoa-like in aroma, with plummy black fruit and a creamy velvet texture, this blend has some round tannins and would be best after aging for a year or two. This wine would make an ideal match for barbecued meat or roasted salmon.
$30, Boston Wine Exchange
Boekenhoutskloof the Wolftrap, Franschhoek Valley, 2015
This “Rhone style” blend is a combination of syrah, mourvedre and small proportions of an aromatic
white grape, viognier. It’s scented with herbal, red-fruit nuances and has a tart but mellow flavor. With low tannins and a hint of licorice accenting the red berry, it is a juicy springtime red that’s versatile
with salads, fish and other lighter seasonal fare.
$11, Boston Wine Exchange
Sandy Block is a master of wine and the vice president of beverage operations for Legal Sea Foods.