GAMAY NOIR 2014. Kleine Zalze. (£8.80 at


PINOT NOIR 2014. Private Bin. Villa Maria. (£12.99 at Tesco).

I’m just back from hosting a series of wine dinners in Australia; Brisbane, Newcastle, Gosford and Sydney to be exact. At the Sydney dinner the chef challenged me to wine-match his classic barbequed crayfish. As the wine experts on Saturday Kitchen say every week, “I could have chosen that but I’m going for this”, I could have chosen white but I went for a couple of light reds under the Aussie sun. Both have bright ripe, sunny New World fruit, one’s from South Africa, the other from New Zealand, (don’t think ‘chef’ was too happy with a non-Oz wine list but hey, what the heck).

South Africa has turned heads over recent years as new wines, new vineyard areas, new ideas, exciting winemakers and ever improving quality have emerged from the fairest Cape. Together with Spain, South Africa was my star wine country of 2014.

Kleine Zalze’s Gamay grapes come from the Wellington region about an hour or so drive inland from Cape Town where the vineyards nestle amongst stunning, steep blue-purple tinged mountains. Interestingly, it wasn’t so long ago that Wellington was seen as a big volume, stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap region…. how times have changed.

The Gamay vines, (also the grape of Beaujolais in southern France by the way), are 25 years old planted in gravel soil vineyards that slope down to the picturesque Berg River. It’s not only beautiful, the close proximity of the river also keeps the vines cool during the hot Cape summers. The wine’s crisp, friendly, ripe raspberry and strawberry flavours give definition to the succulent crayfish without making a takeover bid. Who said red wine doesn’t go with seafood?

In looking for a light red with the crayfish my thoughts also flew towards Pinot Noir, the grape that produces some of the world’s greatest reds in Burgundy in central France, just up the road from Beaujolais. The Villa Maria Private Bin is made from Pinot Noir grapes grown in the mountain-cooled Marlborough region at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. As you’d expect, the Aussies drink quite a lot of NZ wine so this one brought a slight smile to chef’s face.

Getting slightly technical, winemaker Alastair Maling M.W. sourced the grapes from several vineyard areas of Marlborough, primarily the Awatere and Wairau Valleys, each chipping in with varying meso-climates and Pinot Noir clones to add more complexity to the wine and a little more definition to the crayfish. With red cherry on the nose and crisp, red fruits on the palate, this lighter style New Zealander is a top partner; you may also pick up spice tones, the result of the wine spending a few months in oak barrels in Villa Maria’s cool cellars.

So, whether you go take a South African or a New Zealander off the shelf you’re in for a treat …… especially as we’re bathed in spring sunshine at the moment and I can already smell the BBQ’d crayfish wafting across your sundrenched gardens. Enjoy!