Talking of football (we were, surely?), I wonder why it needed a Portuguese producer to bring out a wine with a brilliant fick-Fufa label celebrating the beautiful … beverage. It shows footballs aplenty, three very recognisable World Cup stadiums, three cheering mierkats, and two vuvuzelas – being blasted by, respectively, a zebra and a tickbird sitting on its back.
Cleverly, Stellenbosch artist Leonora van Staden took the football cliché and married it to the animal cliché (they call these “critter wines” in the USA), to produce a label that is altogether original and delightful. The footballers are warthogs, rhinos, giraffes and the like, and a pair of wide-jawed hippos bellow out “Laduma!”.
The wine invokes yet another nice cliché for its name: Ubuntu!! – with the superfluous exclamation mark a part of the happy spirit of the whole. It’s a special edition of the “Fabulous” (not even one exclamation mark) series of wines made by Niepoort, a famous Portuguese producer. Niepoort are best known for their Tawny and Vintage Ports, although they are also building a big reputation for the table wines they make from traditional Portuguese varieties in the hot and magnificent Douro valley. This wine has five of those varieties going into its blend.
Perhaps it’s because the vintage date on the wrap-around label of Ubuntu is 2008 rather than the Fifa-patented 2010 that Blatter’s bully-boys have been kept at bay. That’s a good thing, quite apart from the label, as the wine is pretty delicious: easy-drinking without being at all dumbed-down, it’s rather elegant as well as vibrantly juicy, with spice and cherry fruit, and its freshness makes for a great food accompaniment.
Not that it seems likely to get into as many local Portuguese restaurants as you might have expected – the distributor tells me that most of them claim either that it is too expensive or too foreign for the clientèle.
If, however, you stretch your patriotism to buying foreign wine with local imagery and name, and are willing to fork out about R80, you won’t go wrong. It won’t be easy to find Ubuntu, but the importers, Wine Cellar in Observatory in Cape Town, will no doubt get it to you or you to it.
Ubuntu is reasonably good value for R80. You could do better or worse in those terms by staying vinously at home – although you’re not going to get a South African version that’s just 13% alcohol, or quite as sophisticated as this. But there are now more than a few local dry red table wines made from the main varieties used in making the fortified wine we still can’t think of a better name for than Port.
Touriga nacional and Tinta barocca are perhaps the best known of the Portuguese varieties grown here. De Krans and Boplaas (producers of fine Port-style fortified wines in the little Karoo town of Calitzdorp) make very acceptable single-varietal wines of both. All fine value; the Boplaas versions are both R43 ex-farm, and De Krans is a little more – but the De Krans ones are a touch superior, the Touriga Nacional a great buy at R56. Allesverloren in the Swartland also makes them – pleasant and unassuming, except for the price, which is much the same as for the more polished, harmonious Ubuntu. And without that great label.
First published in Mail & Guardian July 2-8