Simonsig Marketing and Sales Manager Jacques Jordaan was in New York recently to present the wines available in the U.S. at a media dinner at the Korean restaurant Gaonnuri. We enjoyed a range of highly seasoned appetizers - including salty, spicy, and sweet flavors - followed by short ribs and other red meat main courses - and the wines stood up well throughout.
The dinner kicked off on a celebratory note with the winery's exellent Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2017. The name is Afrikaans for "Cape Sparkle." This medium weight sparkling wine made in the traditional method had toasty notes of brioche from 24 months lees aging as well as herbal notes of chamomile as well as white stone fruit. The sparkling wine was excellent with a baby greens salad with sashimi. It retails for $19.99, a great value sparkler.
We progressed to scallion pancakes, and with these the Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2018 was a good match. This wine was a well-executed rendition South Africa's signature white grape, with crisp notes of lemon and riper notes of melon, followed by a hint of minerality, all balanced with a good amount of acidity. At $13.99 this is a fantastic white wine for everyday with lots of food pairing options.
As we continued our feast, we tried the Simonsig Avec Chene Chenin Blanc 2017. This rendition of Chenin had more complexity, as the oak aging brought a different layer of structure to this wine that is sourced from the Estate's oldest Chenin vines, some dating to 1986. It is a wine that warrants more consideration, with layers of ripe pear followed by a bit of minerality and a touch of marzipan. It retails for $35.99.
Our third white was the Simonsig "Sunbird" Sauvignon Blanc 2018. I found this wine crisp with bright flavors of lemon and melon - a delicious wine with enough acidity to pair well with the fried scallion pancakes. Another value pour at $17.99
With the appearance of main courses - mostly beef and short-ribs - we welcomed the Simonsig red wines to the table.
The Simonsig Pinotage 2016 exhibited bright cherry flavors and aromas and had a bit of spice on the back end with a medium long finish. This entry-level Pinotage shows the aromatic fruit nicely and is well priced at $17.99.
Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2016 really won me over with ripe sour cherry flavors mingling with blackberries and a hint of white pepper all supported by firm tannins and a long finish. Simonsig has an award-winning winemaker, Debbie Thompson, who brings out the best in this sometimes difficult grape. This high quality wine retails for $37.99
Although I have tasted the wines of Simonsig on a number of occasions, I didn't recall having their Bordeaux blend, and I ended up being a huge fan. The Simonsig Tiara 2015 is a blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, and the balance Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. I found the wine to be very elegant, with plush black fruits including plums, black cherries and blackberries, along with a hint of spice and a very long finish. I found this wine to be very drinkable at the moment but also worthy of aging - it retails for $38.99.
Next came the Simonsig Merindol Syrah 2015, a 100% Syrah wine from Stellenbosch. This is a big red, with cherries and chocolate on the nose and palate. While it was a robust, big bodied red, I also found that it was balanced and had a nice amount of acidity to keep the wine from feeling heavy in the mouth. This was another wine I would drink immediately or age for 5-8 years. It sells for $43.99 in the U.S.
As tiny chocolate-filled madeleines made their way across the table along with other rich desserts, we ended dinner with another refreshing sparkling wine, the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Rose 2017. I enjoyed its persistent effervescence as well as the flavors of strawberries and cloves. As much as Americans love their rose wines, I have a feeling this wine - comprised of 72% Pinot Noir, 27% Pinotage, and a dash of Pinot Meunier - will be popular, especially at the $24.99 price.
The night had been a wonderful showcase for the strong quality and precise winemaking of Simonsig. These wines stood up to the many strong flavors of Korean food we enjoyed, and were also delicious on their own. The fact that even the most high-end bottles are less than $45 seems to ensure that Simonsig will continue to be a successful South African wine producer for at least another 50 years.