Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wine of the Week - Raats Red Jasper, 2010

I traveled to South Africa a few years ago and one of the wineries that I had the pleasure to visit was Raats Family Wines in Stellenbosch.  Out guide for the day was co-owner Bruwer Raats, who along with his brother and cousin run the winery and make the wines.

The impression that I had on this trip was of a family winery where care was being taken to support the great varietals of the region they came from (Loire), but to make them definitely South African / New World.  What does that mean?  Chenin and Cabernet Franc are the focus her, but some other varietals are thrown into the mix.  Chenins are often very dry and racy from South Africa and the wines from Raats are in that vein, but have great weight and balance to them.

The reds are based on Cabernet France and this is really where I was taken.  The wines are super smooth and balanced, not weedy or bell peppery,  with the blending of Old and New World style - kind of like South Africa in general, and is probably why I keep coming back to these wines so much.  I like to drink wines that are not over the top with tannin or sweetness, I do like wines that are balanced and showy, but maintain acidity and freshness.  This is a hybrid style that comes from great winemakers in both camps.  In South Africa it tends to be the norm more than the exception as there is a great connection o the European styles of wine making, but also with the more open styles and attitude of the New world regions.
I think at some point we can almost drop the differences as there is such a  cross over of styles in both areas and simple geographical separation just does not work...but that would be a project for another essay.

as stated, though, South Africa bridges the gap nicely for me of these two wine making worlds and is why I find so many great opportunities in the wines of the regions.  Winemakers such as Raats really show this off and I could easily find myself drinking Raats on a very regular basis.

Last night I cracked a bottle of the Japser 2010 red from Raats - this is a blend primarily based on Cabernet Franc (80%), plus smaller amounts of Petite Verdot (7.5%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7.5%), and Malbec (5%).

The nose starts with an interesting mix of plummy red fruits, touch of herbal, plus some red clay and mineral notes.  On the palate the wine is supple, with some firmness from tannins but not astringent, just showing backbone and structure, but very much drinkable.  Finish is medium-plus in length with loads of firm fruit and soft tannins adding support.

My impression for food is that this has some balancing acids that work against the fruit well and will help to pair with pasta or meat dishes.  I would go with roasted or grilled meats as the darker fruit and earth elements will reflect well against the darker flavors in these dishes.

Overall I give this a 2 Check rating (out of a possible three) with extra support on the value side as it retails for under $20.  I am going to be featuring as a seasonal pick at one of my restaurant locations and fell it will do well there as we feature a mix of things from Burgers to Stone Pies, with some Asian and steak dishes thrown in along the way.  Good wine for this, very much like what you might expect from South Africa.

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