​Erika Obermeyer, Flabbergast Cinsault 2016 Stellenbosch

An established South African winemaker puts her name on the label with a versatile red from a once-disparaged variety. 

From €19, 220 rand (minimum purchase 6 bottles), £22 (£25 after 28 June), 199 Danish kroner 

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Erika Obermeyer made her name working for over a decade as head winemaker for still wines at Graham Beck Wines in Franschhoek, South Africa, having studied Wine Biotechnology at Stellenbosch and gained experience at Kleine Zalze (source of this recent wine of the week) as well as further afield in Sancerre, St-Émilion and Béziers.

In 2016 she put her name on the label of her own wines for the first time, and what a debut vintage it is, judging by Erika Obermeyer Flabbergast Cinsault 2016 Stellenbosch. Those who taste and write for Platter’s South African Wine Guide clearly agree, awarding her the Newcomer Winery of the Year in the 2019 edition.

This relative recency and the limited production explains why her wines are not yet distributed in the US but I hope this will soon change. See below for availability elsewhere (not all stockists are shown in the Wine-Searcher results).

I once wrote in a tasting note on another South African wine, ‘expensive for South Africa’, and have regretted it ever since, not just when I was quite reasonably castigated for saying so.

This glorious, fragrant, fresh Cinsault from non-irrigated 25-year-old bushvines on granitic soils in Firgrove, Stellenbosch, close to and cooled by the Atlantic (between Somerset West and Stellenbosch at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain), is great value if you think of value in terms of the relationship between quality and price. It has classic Cinsault aromas of red fruits – think sour cherry rather than strawberry – plus something akin to citrus and is utterly mouth-watering, especially when served lightly chilled. The discreet tannins, fresh acidity and vibrant fruit make it light enough to drink on its own but also to go with a wide range of flavours. 

Although 60% of the wine was aged in older 500-litre French oak barrels, they have not marked the flavour even if they have rounded the already fine tannins. For a variety that tends to make relatively light wines, Cinsault can age surprisingly well, and although I would probably choose to drink this now because of all the lovely fruit, there is no hurry and I reckon it will still be drinking well in five to seven years, if not longer. The alcohol is balanced at 13.5%.

When I asked Obermeyer (via email) how it felt to set up on her own, she replied: 'It has been the most courageous, exhilarating and humbling but certainly most rewarding thing I have ever done in my life', adding that 'Introducing a brand and wine without a history, an estate or heritage presents a unique challenge. It does however offer the opportunity to explore the wine’s soul, its magical origins and the philosophy that brings all the elements of great winemaking together.'

The name of this wine seems in keeping with someone who gives the impression of being whole-heartedly in love with wine and life. It was provoked, Obermeyer explained, by 'the astonishing versatility of this rewarding cultivar. Once the country’s most planted grape, this workhorse variety is experiencing a remarkable resurgence, providing a welcome counterpoint to wines of weight and power.' (And not just in South Africa: see this wine of the week from last July.)

For more background on Erika and the other wines in her range, see her website

In the UK, the Cinsault is available from new online South Africa specialist VinoSA, who are offering the Cinsault 2016 at a discounted price of £22 per bottle (plus delivery) until 28 June, after which it reverts to the full price of £25. (Disclosure: one of the partners in VinoSA is an old friend of mine; the other is Ben Prior, the talented chef/proprietor of Ben's Cornish Kitchen in Marazion, Cornwall, and long-time promoter of South African wines via his restaurant list.) 

It is also available in Austria (Cape Wine), in South Africa (from Obermeyer's own website and from Port2Port as well as in shops in Cape Town and Johannesburg), Denmark (Vinkunsten) and Germany (Cape Wine Best Wine). It's on its way to the Netherlands (Benier Global Wines).

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