Wines of the World Cup Round 1

In a recent post I wrote about the World Cup of Wine – a wine tasting for bloggers hosted by Bibendum where we tasted and scored wines from countries participating in this Summer’s FIFA World Cup in South Africa. After the upcoming Semis and Finals, we will crown a winner.

So while the title of this article may sound similar, I am taking a slightly different approach to the topic.  Here’s my plan: The participating soccer teams are divided into 8 groups of 4 and in all but one case, there are at least 2 countries in each group that produce wine. So I am going to compare the wines from those countries.

Here’s how it breaks down:

Group A: France vs South Africa

Group B: Argentina vs Greece

Group C: England vs USA

Group D: Germany vs Australia

Group E: This group consists of The Netherlands, Denmark, Japan and Cameroon, none of which are making a splash on the wine world so instead I’ll take a look at Japanese Sake

Group F: Italy vs New Zealand

Group G: Brazil vs Portugal

Group H: Spain vs Chile

This is going to be fun!  So let’s kick off with…

Group A: France vs South Africa

This is a fantastic match-up!  Both countries are extremely serious players in the wine scene and produce a stunning array of styles.  Spoiled for choice, I decided to compare two Bordeaux blends.

Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, let alone France, so it’s not surprising that other countries make wines of a similar style and one such region in South Africa is Stellenbosch.

The wines I tasted were: Chateau La Riviere 2001, from Fronsac in Bordeaux and Eikendal Classique 2006, Stellenbosch.  The exact blend of the grapes used in each wine was different, but that’s exactly the point – different wines from completely different regions of the world, made in a similar style so you can easily spot the similarities and the differences, and most importantly, award the winning goal to your personal favourite! (My notes of these wines are at the end of this post).

I could go in to detail about the soils and average temperatures of both regions, the vinification techniques used by each winemaker, the particular weather during the specific vintages I tasted, (and I’m happy to do so for anyone interested!), but this is not information you need to decide which on you prefer – all you need for that is two glasses side by side! As you go back and forth swirling, sniffing and tasting, you will discover exactly why you prefer the one you do. Is it the dark, brambly fruit? The tannins that dry your gums? The finish that you can still taste minutes after swallowing?

So I encourage you to buy two wines similar in style and price (if possible) – one from France, one from South Africa and decide for yourself which one lights up your scoreboard.

In addition to pairing two Bordeaux blends, here are a few other interesting match-ups between these two countries that you could try:


Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley in France and from Walker Bay in SA

Chenin Blanc also from the Loire Valley in France (will be labelled Vouvray) and any region in SA


Pinot Noir from Burgundy in France and Hermanus in South Africa


Muscat  from Beaumes de Venise in the Rhone Valley, France and from Constantia in South Africa (if you can find something from the producer Klein Constantia, your tastebuds will thank you!)

I’d love to hear about your experiences experimenting with these pair-ups and of any others you come up with! Please leave a comment here or send an email to

Stay tuned for the next battle from the Wines of the World Cup series…I’ll be looking at Pinot Grigio from Italy vs one from New Zealand!

There’s always time for wine!

Tara – Wine Passionista

Chateau la Riviere 2001

Blend: 80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cab Franc

Austere dark fruit with notes of cassis and leather. Notes of bacon intermingle with blackcurrants on tannins that grip hold and don’t let go.

Eikendal Classique 2006

Blend: 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cab Franc, 15% Merlot

Rich, juicy plums, tobacco and eucalyptus notes combine with delicate spice. The layers of flavour and complexity keep washing over you with each sip. It starts beautifully and gets better.


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Leave A Reply (8 comments so far)

  1. Tim Pearson
    8 years ago

    Great result South Africa. Well done Tara with the Eikendal Classique 2006 result, you have described the wine perfectly. Eikendal wines have, in my opinion, been undervalued for a few years, and offer excellent quality / value. I tasted their range when last in South Africa a month ago and was very impressed with this wine and also their Chardonnays. Corina du Toit, Sales and Marketing Manager for Eikendal, is a very good friend of ours.
    Thanks also for your recommendations for Sauvignon Blancs from the Walker Bay area of South Africa, but I would ask that people also try Sauvignons from Elim, Elgin and other coastal areas. There are some exciting examples coming from these areas which are now up there with the worlds best.
    For Pinot Noir I am in total agreement, the area around Hermanus, with it’s oceanic influence and shale derived soils, is making South Africa’s best examples of this varietal. Again, in my opinion, the best is yet to come with Pinot Noirs from this area. Watch out for fruit driven examples from Newton Johnson and Creation Wines as well as ‘Burgundian styles’ from established favourites Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson.
    Again a great result for South Africa, one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

    • Wine Passionista
      8 years ago

      Hi Tim – good point! Elim and Elgin are excellent regions for Sauvignon Blanc! Together with Walker Bay, they certainly give other SB producing regions a run for their money!

  2. Chris Bryant
    8 years ago

    Hi Tara,
    Nice idea and a great addition to game night! I would definitely also suggest a comparison between the Rhone and some South African ‘Rhonish’ blends. There are some really great ones coming out of the Swartland – and you don’t need to spend Columella-like cash to pick up a fantastic bottle.

    • Wine Passionista
      8 years ago

      Hi Chris, thanks for the comment and the suggestion! I have yet to try any ‘Rhonish’ blends from SA, but will definitely have to search some out! The quality of South African wines is increasing exponentially and it’s so much fun to get to know as many as possible!

  3. milton
    8 years ago

    I’ve only tried the Eikendal Chardonnay, but I do remember it being very, very good. Majestic used to sell it, and foolishly have taken it off their list…go figure…would be curious to try their red also..

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