by guest blogger and New York writer Seanan Forbes
If the World Cup is leaving you hooked on South Africa, then you might want to keep a little bit of the country around -- in your glass.
As South African vintners will tell you, their vines are planted in very old soil. They're rewinding continental drift, looking at the first supercontinent, 100 million years ago. That's land with heritage. It's getting recognition from the far side the world.
"It's been quite humbling," says Lowell Jooste of Klein Constantia, near Cape Town, "to be selected by the French government ... as one of the nine mythical vineyards of the world." Nobody would claim that the French don't know wine.
The most widely planted grape varietal in South Africa is Chenin Blanc. Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc's on the soft side of dry, with notes of pineapple, lychee, citrus and spice - perfect with fish or salad.
Look to South Africa for Sauvignon Blanc, as well - and Pinotage (at right), a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is on the rise. Simonsig Pinotage, from the Stellenbosch region, is rich and dark, with deep plum and raspberry flavors. It's a wine begging for a grillside table.
If wine's not your thing, then there's a South African cream liqueur that's hooked more than one traveler: Amarula. Marula is a South African fruit; when it's fermented by the sun, it turns into pickable booze for passing animals. The liqueur's made from ripe - but not sun-fermented - fruit. The fruit's made into wine - don't worry - distilled in column stills and copper pots.
At that point, it's a marula spirit. That's aged for two years in oak barrels, after which it's mixed with cream. It tastes fruity and nutty, with more than a bit of caramel. It's on the sweet side - but, then, it is a cream liqueur. Pour it over ice. If it can cool a South African summer night, then Chicago should present no challenge at all.