On Publix, South Africa, And High-Acid Versions Of Low-Acid Grapes (Tasting Silkbush Vigonier)

Vinted on August 29, 2013 binned in overachiever wines, wine review

Sometimes synchronicity of seemingly unrelated events feels like it’s biting you on the ass (like when you get an increase in property taxes, health care premiums, and the price of your favorite beer, all in the same week). But other times, synchronicity is amicable, gently applying a sort of lifestyle deep tissue massage to your spiritual buttocks.

I think a recent congruence of wine-related events in my life falls into the latter (butt-massaging) category. They involve 1) the Publix supermarket chain, 2) thinking about low-acid wine grape varieties, 3) South Africa, and 4) racial tolerance.

I know what you’re thinking… how’s he gonna get himself out of this one? Have some faith, people!

For a little while now, I’ve been quietly (not a normal operating mode for me, I know) penning the In Focus section for Publix Grape Magazine (those of you living in much of the Southern U.S. can sign up for Grape, for free, by the way). I love the gig, because they ask me to take complex wine topics like Oak or Yeasts and make them accessible (and hopefully edu-taining) to wine laypeople (also known as normal people who don’t find obsessing over detailed winemaking topics to be as geektastic as we do). The Fall edition of Grape is hitting publication now, and in it I write about the fascinating (to us geeks, I mean) world of… wait for iiiiit… wine acids!

Hello? Anyone still there?!??…

The wine acids topic is seriously complex, and acidity is such an integral aspect of a wine’s aging structure that I’m fond of saying that I’d put more money down a random Riesling aging better than a random Cabernet any day of the week. But even a Riesling-fiend like me needs variety, and after the crap-ton of Riesling I’d tasted at the 2013 Riesling Rendezvous event… well, I’d just about OD’d on Riesling lately.

So I was jonesin’ for silky, seductive, softer white wines in the short term, but in tasting them I found I just couldn’t kick the acid habit, so to speak. And this got me thinking about how much I dig high-acid versions of low-acid grapes. Case in point: Stone Cottage Cellars in West Elks, Colorado, has Gewurztraminer planted at elevations so high that the acid retained in those normally lower-acid grapes will just about rip your face off (in a good way). Lucky for me, a sample of relatively high-acid white wine made form the relatively low-acid Viognier arrived at the door from South Africa’s Silkbush just in time to satiate my jonesin’.

The SA tie-in was another nice and tidy but of synchronicity, given that I’m about to head down to Cape Town to deliver the keynote address at the 2013 Nederburg Auction. The fact that Silkbush seems to have achieved a bit of much-needed racial harmony in how they maintain operations also drew me in, given the recent sh*t-storm on that front caused by the comments of Friuli winemaker Fulvio Bressan.

So there you have it, the bizarre synaptic firings that constitute related events in the mind of 1WD, which have led us to a feature on a wine that retails for under $20 (to those who’ve been complaining that I only talk about ultra-premium wines here lately: suck it, beaaaaaatches!!!) .

Ok, you’re right, we should just talk about the wine…


2012 Silkbush Viognier (Western Cape, $17)

At this price, an Overachiever because, well, it is, but also because I don’t have a badge for “lip smacking good.” I loved the melon-like richness of this wine from Breedekloof. Silkbush’s vines aren’t seriously old (about ten years), but old enough that the wine seems to have a good sense of itself now. Their Viognier is planted on hilly spots with shale soils, at relatively high elevations, which might account for the (…and here we’re coming back full-circle to the beginning… work with me, folks…) pleasantly surprising acidity that the wine retains (they claim it’s natural), making it crisp and energetic. Talk about fitting the bill on the high-acidity from low-acid grapes order. You get way more aromatic and flavor complexity (dried peaches, hints of flowers, a touch of honey) than you rightfully ought to expect for under $20 USD, and if that acid is indeed natural, then this ought to give some Loire wines a run for their money in terms of aging potential over the next five years or so. I don’t know why, but I felt hopeful when I drank this wine; it’s got a sunny disposition that wears off on you. And now I’m going to go finish the bottle before I start to hug trees…






  • Fred Swan

    It sounds like you need to create a badge for "lip-smacking good."

    • 1WineDude

      Fred – Aw, man, don't make me do stuff! :)

  • Alana Gentry

    You describe this wine perfectly. I am really proud to be rep'ing it in the US. And yes, the Silkbush family is the real deal. Cheers~

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Alana!

  • SAHMmelier

    I'm saving a sample of that wine to share with other wine lovers and very much looking forward to it. I had the pleasure of meeting both Dave Jefferson and Alana Gentry this summer. Great people!

    • 1WineDude

      SAHMmelier – let me know what you think. Enjoy!

  • gabe

    In my humble opinion, the pH of a wine is the most important number to know about it. much more telling than the alcohol percentage or the score from the wine spectator.

    • gabe

      p.s. while i appreciate the recommendation on a well priced wine, you have also helped me open my mind to higher priced wines

      • 1WineDude

        Gabe – ever the winemaker! :-) But you make a point. PH would give you some measure of the the acid balance and potential preservative qualities, I suppose?

        • gabe

          Lol. I'm coming up on my sixth harvest, so I still feel a bit funny when somebody calls me a winemaker. One thing I do know is that the pH scale between 3 and 4 will tell you almost everything about a wine.

          A wine with a pH below 3.0 will probably have a bit of a "sucking on a lemon" quality. Those low pH's are what make riesling such a great candidate for residual sugar. Once you go above 3.2, your whites are going to start getting a little flabby, (putting a white through through ML throws off all those numbers). Depending on who you ask, microbial stability happens somewhere between 3.5 and 3.7. Above that, you probably filter your wine. And once you get above 3.9, you're officially a fruit bomb. Of course, all those red wine numbers are based on cool climate pinot noir, so the California scale might be 0.1 or 0.2 higher. And – like all numbers – pH can be manipulated, so buyer beware.

          OK, sorry to go off the deep end about my love for pH. I think it's really awesome you chose to write about acidity. It's a difficult topic to make interesting, you might be the only wine writer who could do it.

          • 1WineDude

            Gabe – geeks, unite! :-)

  • jason

    during MLF I usually see an increase in pH around 0.1-0.2 ( lactic is a weaker acid than malic).

    During cold stabilization, the pH and TA can also change. If it starts below 3.6 it will go down, if it's above 3.6 it will go up.(has to do with the available Hydrogen ions)…It gets a little tricky.

    • gabe

      do you feel like the changes caused by ML can vary from vintage to vintage?

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