(Besides the fact they’re just darn tasty drops…)

The Paarl Valley is just one of many breathtaking spots in South Africa's scenic and varied winelands, Tim Pawsey photo

By the time June is over, you’ll know two things, for sure.

1. Soccer is the world’s game—played by more people on this planet than any other.

2. South Africa is a complex and fascinating nation, that’s overcome incredible odds, whose time has truly come.

The third fact you should also discover—if you didn’t know already—is that South Africa produces some of the world’s best wine values—by a mile.

Graham Beck enjoys a well earned reputation for its excellent sparklers, Tim Pawsey photo

You name it: they make it (usually very well), from crisp sparklers, mineral toned Sauvignon Blanc, elegantly balanced Chardonnays and umpteen excellent Chenins, of course, made in every style conceivable by passionate proponents such as Ken Forrester.

On the red side, it’s a veritable romp through an assortment of varieties and blends, not to forget The Cape’s own Pinotage—that now delights even the doubters—as well as extraordinary dessert wines.

L'Ormarins Estate dates from 1694, when French Huguenots settled in the Franschhoek Valley - Tim Pawsey photo

Much of South Africa’s appeal lies in the way that it straddles Old and New Worlds. It was the Dutch who first brought vines to The Cape, while today there’s still no shortage of very solid Bordeaux connections that date from the late 17th. century. And the trend towards more measured alcohol levels (read: more food friendly wines) suggests South Africa is still ‘vino-sophically’ closer to Europe than to Australia or Chile.

South Africa, which boasts more Fair Trade wines than any other nation, has also moved quicker than most on the ecological and environmental front. Its Wine of Origin program is linked to producers’ sustainable farming practices, with wineries certified by Sustainable Wine South Africa.  In time, this will allow consumers to track the originating vineyard and farming practices of every bottle of wine sold under the ‘Integrity & Sustainability’ certified seal.

Cruise the SA shelves and it’s hard not to be impressed by the value available for under $20, often well under …

In Canada, BC Liquor Stores celebrates South Africa throughout the month of June in a promotion that underscores the value to be had.  While you’re there, take time to enter a $225 Spa Utopia session as well as  lunch for two, and one night’s accommodation at the luxurious Pan Pacific Hotel Vancouver all valued at $1000.

Here’s a short list of what to pick up—including a whack o’ good reds for your next barbecue …

Graham Beck Brut NV. (W. Cape)  ‘Cap Classique’ means it’s bottle fermented in the Champagne style: 50/50 Pinot Noir/Chardonnay. A quick mousse in the glass, with some nice bready notes, and a touch of citrus and green apple on the palate. BCLS, EW $24.99

Spier Chenin Blanc 2009 (W. Cape). Fresh and fruit forward with tropical tones balanced by good acidity with a crisp, clean finish.  Great value in a sipper. Or, think cold chicken and Waldorf salad. BCLS $13.99

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2008. Arguably one of the best Syrah deals going. Vibrant red fruit in a mouth watering, juicy palate with easy tannins and black pepper spice through the end. Think grilled anything. Made by Boekenhoutskloof but just remember the Porcupine. BCLS  $ 17.99

Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2006 (Paarl). What better way to kick off the BBQ season than with this perennially well made Cab Sauv Merlot blend that absolutely demonstrates the Cape’s ability to deliver? Toast and cherry notes on top precede a layered palate of complex black fruit, mocha and spice. BCLS $19.99

Saxenburg Guineau Fowl 2006 (Stellenbosch). Merlot, Shiraz, Cab deliver a plush but structured red fruited blend with hints of mulberry and cassis, approachable, well integrated tannins and good complexity at this price point. $18.99

Graham Beck Gamekeepers Reserve 2008 (Robertson). One more Cab for the braai (BBQ). Blackcurrent notes up front with juicy acidity on a spicy, black fruit, broad mid-palate, well structured tannins with a lengthy close.  Grilled, rich red meats (like venison) and strong cheeses.  BCLS $19.99

You can taste all these wines (except the Brut) before you buy—paired with canapés by talented Hart House executive chef, Kris Kabush—at the free Wines of South Africa Consumer Tasting, on Friday, June 11, 2010.

3:00 – 7:00 pm

BCLDB 39th & Cambie Signature Liquor Store

5555 Cambie Street, Vancouver

Register to enter the draw here.

In the hospitality biz? Don’t miss the trade tasting at Earls Yaletown, June 15th. Register at 604-986-3262

And in case you’re wondering: WOSA really stands for Worldcup Of SoccA!

© Tim Pawsey 2010