THERE AREN’T many first releases that send wine writers into a lather, especially if they are made by relative unknowns. But the 2011 Alheit Cartology, described by Chris Alheit as “an exploration of the Cape’s heritage”, had critics purring with pleasure. A blend of mostly Chenin Blanc with 12% Semillon, it set a new benchmark for South African whites. Not bad for what Alheit describes, with characteristic modesty, as “village wine”.
With hindsight, Cartology may come to be seen as a milestone in the history of Cape wine, and this for two reasons. First, it focused people’s attention on the quality of some of the country’s old vines – a scarce and, until comparatively recently, dwindling resource thanks to the uprooting of venerable parcels of Chenin Blanc; and secondly, it underscored something that insiders have known for some time: South Africa’s best wines are its white blends.