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While being handed the wine list at a restaurant may be daunting, you don’t have to be a sommelier to know your Pinot Noir from your Pinotage. We chatted to sommelier and vice-chairman of the South African Sommelier Association, David Clarke, to tell us more about red wine.

What kind of red wine is a safe bet as a crowd pleaser? Is there a specific South African red wine you can recommend?

Syrah and Syrah-based blends. The South African climate suits the cultivar, thus most regions can produce good Syrah. The natural spiciness of Syrah off-sets the lovely plum and blackberry fruit making even a low-cost wine quite complex. You tend to get better value Syrahs than other red cultivars in South Africa because of all this. Joostenberg Family Blend Red 2015 and Trizanne Signature Wines Syrah Grenache 2014 are both great value Syrah-based wines.

red wine in pretoria

Which South African wineries should we keep an eye on?

The rise of “new Stellenbosch” is almost here. Producers such as Boschkloof, Craven and Keermont are all doing super-interesting things and focusing on expressing unique vineyards. Really exciting stuff.

How does the way you store your wine influence it?

Wine likes to be cool, in the dark and consistently so. Fluctuations in either temperature or light are bad. Poorly stored wine can taste cooked or baked – not undrinkable, but certainly not what you paid for.

What is the most valuable tip you can give the layman to enhance their tasting experience?

Good glassware. Take your time when drinking. Smell the wine. Think about it. Talk about it. Best way to improve is to taste with people better than you. Find a mentor and learn off them.

red wine in pretoria

Can you suggest three restaurants in Pretoria with great red wine collections?

Black Bamboo Restaurant, Ritrovo Ristorante and Life Grand Café, and Restaurant Mosaic is out of town, but it is well worth the drive.

All about David Clarke

David Clarke has been in the wine industry since the late 1990s and has worked in Australia, the UK and South Africa in both high-end wine retail and fine dining establishments. He was certified as a sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers in Australia in the mid 2000s. David moved to Cape Town in January 2013 on a permanent basis with his wife Jeannette and together they currently run the Ex Animo Wine Company, which focuses on high-quality, low-production fine wine in South Africa.


Ex Animo

David Clarke, 081 011 8505

Black Bamboo Restaurant

084 508 9752

Ritrovo Ristorante

012 460 5173

Life Grand Cafe The Club

012 346 1031

Restaurant Mosaic

012 371 2902


Words: Rita-Mari Ludike | Images: Supplied

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