When I first connected with Lubanzi, this is the wine that most intrigued me. With a vast array of Rhône wines available to me here in California (and, it seems, that number is increasing based on this year’s Rhône Ranger event), I was quite eager to taste what a South African expression of this French tradition would taste like. Unlike where California’s Rhône grape varieties are planted, there’s not much similar between the soil and the climate between South Africa’s Western Cape and the French Rhône Valley. Though most texts will tell you that this western pocket of Africa does “enjoy a Mediterranean climate,” I would go ahead and edit that to “a Mediterranean-like” climate, as the combination of ocean, dessert, and mountainscape, creates quite a unique terroir situation and, thus, interesting Rhône interpretations.

Read more about South Africa’s wine regions and the Lubanzi story.

About the Wine: The Lubanzi 2015 Rhône Red Blend is made from 46% Shiraz, 20% Mourvedre, 31% Cinsault, and 3% Grenache harvested from various vineyards in the W.O. Coastal Region.

The components ferment separately, completing maloactic fermentation. The final blend is created right before bottling.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Out of the bottle the Lubanzi 2015 Rhône Red Blend has an intense aroma of gamey meat meets a brambly berry bush. The wine pours voluptuously, like a waterfall of freshly drawn blood, settling into a royal purple-red hue in the glass. Tilt the glass: the wine is nearly see-through except for one, mysterious pocket of darkness in the very center.

Deep breath in and there’s an umami-berry scent, as if overripe strawberries, still attached to the branches, have fallen to the dirty ground. Swirl and a sea-salt air freshness comes alive, brightening the aromas: cranberries along with thick leafy herbs like lime leaves, lemongrass, and something grassy, with just a hint of mint in the background.

The initial palate of the Lubanzi 2015 Rhône Red Blend is quite shy, boxy, a bit closed off, the texture tacky. Let this wine open up — just 10 minutes will do — and find that cran-grape juice in the background. But this wine is all about the earth — the dusty earth reminiscent of a bushwalk on a summers night: there’s coolness found in those berries on the bush, but you have to search for them in the setting sunlight of the wilderness.

The tannins here are serious business coming in about a quarter to halfway through the tasting, while the acid doesn’t come until the very end. When it does, it clears up the tannic texture, leading to a clean, warm finish.

Food Pairing: I paired the Lubanzi 2015 Rhône Red Blend with an herb-crusted lamb, roasted beetroot salad, and greek-yogurt sauce. This wine calls for a gamey meet for certain — something with an innate juiciness that will cut through those hearty tannins. Meanwhile the beetroot, with its bit of sweetness, pulled out the fresh fruits in the wine. And of course the herbs as well as the salad greens perfectly complemented the grassy earthiness that I just loved with every sip.

I asked Walker what he likes to eat with this. Here’s what he had to say:

My answer to this is always to give both these wines a go with Cape Malay cuisine, because it’s exciting and its food we don’t come across often in America. Cape Malay, as the name implies, is a fusion of the traditional South African essence (specifically from the Western Cape/Cape Town) with Eastern Malaysian influences. It’s 300-some years old and unique to the Western Cape, and it is so creative and diverse in flavor, and because of its heritage, lots of recipes are passed down from generation to generation. My personal favorite is a traditional dish called Bobotie.”

More Info: I received the Lubanzi 2015 Rhône Red Blend as a sample for review. (Cheers Brian and Walker!) For more information about prices and how to acquire this South-African Rhône-style blend, please visit the Lubanzi website.

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