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Many of us love wine, but lack the purse that allows for expensive, "fine" wines. For that matter, I have found that if I want to enjoy wine regularly (which I do), I can't even afford $15 a bottle as that mounts up quickly in the old monthly budget. But fear not, budget oenophiles, good wines, even fine wines are available on a shoestring. Many people have already discovered the charms of Yellowtail and Two-buck Chuck (Charles Taylor) wines, to the point of these good wines being virtually ubiquitous on dinner tables everywhere. But did you know, or realize, that there are many, many quality varietals available through a host of other vineyards. Indeed, there are dozens of wines at half the price of Yellowtail that produce a more sophisticated flavor, and are a more congenial match with most meals.
Silver Sands is a South African vineyard of singular note. I haven't tried all of their varietals, but with a meal of broiled chuck roast in a garlic sauce, and sides of asparagus and gingered sweet potatoes, I found that the Silver Sands Shiraz was an able, even excellent companion to the meal, easily competing with wines valued at two or three times its $5 per bottle cost. Its smoke and oak wood tones contrasting delightfully with the natural blackberry fruitiness of the Syrah grape, from which Shiraz is made. There is an initial bite to this Shiraz, not unpleasant, but attention-getting, which matures on the palate into waves of dark smoke, not unlike a fine single-malt, then into deeper, more subtle, woody and earthy tones, all overlaid with the fruitiness of Shiraz. This is a surprisingly nuanced wine, with a pleasant and promising nose and a rich, full body.
Most importantly, this wine was a delightful complement to the meal, dancing the tongue away from the powerful, salty garlic marinade of the beef and preparing it for the ginger and autumn spices of the sweet potatoes. Or as a perfect counterpoint to the buttery smoothness of the steamed asparagus and a reminder of the richness of red meat to come. This might be a little strong as a companion for some pasta, but I can see it sitting proudly alongside a well-prepared steak, or a deliciously rare burger with blue-cheese crumbles over the top and slices of smoked bacon. You do need some starch with this one for balance: perhaps unsalted pub fries with malt vinegar, or maybe a monstrous baked potato smothered in butter, sour cream, bacon bits, broccoli florets and Vermont cheddar, or like I had, gingered sweet potatoes. But I think you'll find that this wine is zippy enough to stand on its own quite nicely beside a host of entrees.
This wine was actually quite a surprise. I am very familiar with South African reds, and have found them to be somewhat stratified, i.e. the cheap ones are cheap for a reason. But not so with Silver Sands. This is an absolutely delightful Shiraz, mature and flavorful, but not bombastic or heavy. I will definitely keep my eye out for this South African delight in the future, and at $5 a bottle, I know that it won't break the bank if I bring it home.