Kare Johannesburg 2021

Sommelier’s choice

Our Summer wine selection by Penny Noire wine bar sommelier (previously Chefs Warehouse) and wine judge for Platter’s, Penelope Setti.

Whether you plan on quaffing ‘rosé all day’ or simply popping the odd bottle of celebratory champers on the respectable occasions, the festive season in the Southern Hemisphere is less about a White Christmas and more about fun in the sun. Or, as Australian comedic songwriter Tim Minchin sentimentally put it, “White Wine in the Sun.” Although, as some of us will know, the wrong wine selection in the heat of the day may have less than desirable consequences… and will have learnt that being selective really is key.

To make your holiday season shopping that much simpler, Lifestyling wine ed Sarah Jayne Fell chatted to local sommelier and taster for Platter’s Wine Guide Penny Setti, who wants just three things from a summer wine: it should be crisp, cold and refreshing. Keep on reading for our wine notes.

What’s on Penny’s Summer Wine List

  • Olifantsberg Chenin
  • Wine Thief Roussanne
  • Graham Beck MCC Brut
  • Naudé White Blend 2020
  • Cape Collective Epic white
  • Natte Valleij Cinsault
  • Spioenkop 1900 Sauvignon blanc
  • Radford Dale Thirst Gamay Noir
Summer Wine selection

So, we both have something in common. We both worked at Sevruga, and I’ve always maintained that my restaurant experience was a major catalyst in developing an understanding of wine. 

Ohhh wow that’s good to hear  –  it was the first job I had in Cape Town, I was there in 2011. 

How have some of the restaurants you’ve worked with fueled your career in wine?

When I lived in Grahamstown I worked at an Italian restaurant where I had my first proper glass of wine from a bottle. I was hooked. And Chefs Warehouse is where I have come to really geek out with my passion. 

As a sommelier, is your relationship with wine foremost from a food perspective? 

Not necessarily, there is an occasion for different styles of wine. What I aim to do is guide you to the best version of your preference, even if you’re just coming in for a glass.

What’s the best way to get into the industry as a sommelier in South Africa?

Start by joining SASA (South African Sommeliers Association) and through that you will be guided. This industry requires passion, so that’s a must. 

Have you ever tried your hand at winemaking? Any plans to?

I have tried my hand at wine drinking lol. To date no. But let’s see what the future holds.

What makes a great summer wine for you?

Crisp, cold, refreshing.

Where do you shop for wine?

Wine Concepts, Open Wine and Bar Keeper.

Let’s talk more about your Summer Wine list…

Olifantsberg chenin

Olifantsberg Chenin

“What’s not to love about a Chenin,” says Penny. “It ticks all the boxes for me.”

This one comes from a 40-year-old bush vine in the warm Breedekloof valley and some younger vines, hand harvested at night to keep the grapes cool, then naturally fermented in a combination of French Oak and stainless steel and aged for 9 months on the lees.

The result is “so nice and refreshing,” says Penny. “It’s light but complex at the same time.”

Available from olifantsberg.com.

Wine Thief Roussanne

“You’re thinking apricots, you’re thinking yellow stone fruits. It’s very textural,” says Penny.

Coming from fellow sommelier Ewan Mackenzie (La Colombe) who’s also known as the Wine Thief, his label under which he curates, collaborates and consults as a sommelier operation. With this wine Ewan turns to winemaking in a collaboration with Attie Louw of Opstal Estate in the Slanghoek Valley, where these grapes are grown. Natural fermentation in French Oak adds texture to this linear Rhône grape with natural high acidity, so named for its skin colour when ripe, which has a reddish-gold, or ‘russet’ pigment.

With only 296 bottles produced, the 2017 vintage is sold out, although while we’re awaiting the 2019 release, you can head to Chefs Warehouse in Cape Town for a taster.

Keep an eye out on winethief.co.za.

Graham Beck NV Brut

South Africans in the know love touting the fact that Barack Obama selected this MCC to be served at his presidential inauguration – over, of course, any of the French champagnes one would expect – as did Nelson Mandela. And so it really deserves a place at the celebration table of any patriotic South African or lover of bubbles. It’s quite simply a classic.

Available from grahambeck.com.

Naudé White Blend 2010

The 2010 Naudé White is “very nice and fresh still”, says Penny.

It’s a blend of Chenin (39%), Semillon (31%) and Sauvignon Blanc (30%), each grape bringing a fresh acidity which is balanced by complexity from French Oak barrels.

While each vintage is the same three varietals the composition balance varies each year. Winemaker Ian Naudé is a great believer in minimal intervention, letting nature and the terroir speak for themselves, so weather and other natural conditions mean that each year his wines represent something different. The 2010 is in fact still ageing, and these wines have an impressive 8 to 12 years of bottling age. As the winemaker comments: “Time has taken the edge off and completed the wines, but they show no sign of decline. In fact, quite the opposite.”

Available from naudewines.co.za.

Cape Collective Epic White

A cool-climate white blend of two types of chenin blanc – an almost even blend of Elgin and Breedekloof fruit – naturally fermented in old oak barrels, brings lots of natural acidity with a well-integrated, richer finish. Think ripe pear and apple with tangerine that lingers on the palate. Made for the Cape Collective by winemaker Lucinda Heyns (Illimis Wines) who believes “beauty lies in clarity”.

Available from the Cape Collective online shop.

Natte Valleij Coastal Cinsault

Juicy, fruity and light like you’d expect from a Cinsault of latter years, the Rhône grape that’s been dubbed the ‘Pinot Noir of the Swartland’ due to its tolerance for heat and which has regained popularity in recent years after the historical stalwart red grape in South Africa fell out of favour. This one has “oodles of depth and bright-eyed energy” say Natte Valleij, whose 1715 winery has become renowned for Cinsault. Winemaker Alexander Milner, the third generation in his family to run the farm, has a particular penchant towards old, dry-land bush vines and their “dogged persistence to exist”.

Available from nattevalleijwines.co.za.

Spioenkop 1900 Sauvignon Blanc

From Spioenkop’s ‘alternative’ label, the 1900 range is created with 100% grapes grown on the Spioenkop farm in the Elgin valley, a cool-climate region known for producing great white wines with minerality and texture. “Crazy Belgian” winemaker Koen Roose became obsessed with this region over 15 years ago, saying that “the Elgin area is the future gold of the Western Cape”. This Sauvignon Blanc has been given 93 points by Tim Atkin and is classy, well-balanced and a cut above the rest.

Available from exanimo.com.

Thirst Gamay 16x9

Radford Dale Thirst Gamay Noir

This wine already had our attention when we chatted to Radford Dale winemaker Jacques de Klerk earlier this year as part of our Wine O’Clock series, and it’s made Penny’s Summer wine list too. Ranging in alcohol content from 10.5 to 12 percent depending on vintage, Radford Dale winery owner Alex Dale calls this wine “highly smashable” (and also recommends pairing it with pizza). For a Stellenbosch red, it’s incredibly light and refreshing, and while it is fruity the tartness of the Gamay grape makes it more aperol than juice box.

Available from radforddale.com.

@whatablackgirldranklastnight | @penny.noire

Penelope Setti, Sommelier

Penny is a sommelier and runs a new wine bar in Cape Town, Penny Noire, inside Local at Heritage Square, the new indoor market-style establishment by Liam Tomlin. Prior to opening Penny Noire in December 2020, Penny was general manager and sommelier of Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse Canteen & Wine Bar also in Cape Town’s Heritage Square (serendipitously, home to the oldest wine-producing vine in South Africa, planted circa 1770).

Boundlessly passionate about wine, Penny is currently furthering her education with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

A South African Sommelier Association (SASA) member, Penny is also a prominent ambassador for the Women in Wine movement, and active in a recent charitable project headed by Liam Tomlin, Mind Your Back, promoting the mental and physical wellbeing of people working in the hospitality industry.

WORDS: Sarah Jayne Fell & Penelope Setti
PRODUCTION: Sarah Jayne Fell
IMAGES: Supplied & sourced from wineries