L’Avenir Single Block Chenin Blanc 2014.
05/07/2015: Wine lovers – and wine makers – are becoming increasingly aware of the exciting challenges of producing terroir-specific wines. The challenge is to make the best wine you can from a specific piece of territory and a unique micro-climate.
If this succeeds the reward is a wine that is truly unique, rather that one that combines the characteristics of many different areas and is more “generic” in character.
As the label indicates, L’Avenir’s Chenin comes from a single block of vines, claimed to be the second oldest Chenin Blanc vines in South Africa and it’s certainly a delicious interpretation of the terroir.
The wine greets you with a clean waft of tropical fruit aromas – white peach, ripe apricots litchi and melons. All these come together as you sip the wine. It’s bold and juicy and held together by a very subtle acidity. The finish lingers on and on.
It’s a generous wine that will form a delightful partnership with full-flavoured seafood dishes or a crisply roast duck or crumbed pork steak.
It’s pretty good on its own, served as an aperitif too.
Neil Ellis Chardonnay 2014
01/07/2015: Neil Ellis is an icon of the Cape wine industry and has made wines at several top cellars including Groot Constantia, KWV and Zevenwacht. His goal has always been to produce the best that can be obtained from what it available and this philosophy has obviously been handed down to his son Warren, now in charge of the cellar. The 2014 Chardonnay greets you with clean, fresh lemon-lime aromas followed through on the palate, linked with suggestions of nuts and peaches to create a mouth-filling delight. Although fermented in barrels, the oak flavours remain well in check, allowing the fruit to dance delicately on the tongue. It leaves you lingeringly and with just a trace of spice.
The Ellis team has a reputation for creating wines of an exceptionally high quality and the slogan on every bottle of their products is, “A pursuit of quality, nothing less.”
It certainly shows in this wine.
Bonnievale Barrel Select Shiraz 2012.
28/06/2015: I’m a push-over when it comes to Shiraz. Damn! We make some good Shiraz in this country.
I was delighted to try the Bonnievale 2012 Barrel Select Shiraz, and certainly not disappointed.
It has all the warm smokiness I expect from a Shiraz, together with wafts of sweet dark berries on the nose and an intriguing suggestion of lanolin aroma lurking in the background.
The layered flavours are rich with the tastes of smoky bacon, dark red berries and ripe plums. It’s all held together by firm, but not aggressive, tannins leading to a clean dry finish with just a cheeky little flick of mulberry as it leaves your mouth.
This is a perfect winter wine and ideally it should be sipped beside a crackling log fire. Unfortunately not many of us have log fires these days, so I’ll settle for gas heater and a plate of rich Irish stew or an ox-tail casserole.
Actually, don’t worry about the stew or casserole. It’s a fine wine so enjoy on its own if you don’t feel like cooking.
Jason’s Hill Shiraz 2012
01/06/2015: Jason’s Hill Private Cellar, near Rawsonville, kept a rather low profile until winemaker — and owner — Ivy du Toit decided to produce wine under the farm’s own label in 2001. Even now it’s not widely known.
My guess is that the label will become one of the Cape’s sought-after brands before very long.
The 2012 Shiraz won a gold medal in the 2014 Michelangelo Awards competition and I think we’ll see many more accolades in the next few years.
This wine has a delightfully nutty and spice aroma, followed by big, juicy dark fruit flavours balanced by soft, subtle tannins. It made me think of rich Christmas plum pudding and that’s perfect for chilly winter evening enjoyment.
This Shiraz is silky smooth on the palate, eminently quaffable and accessible. It’s easy to forget the wine has a robust 15% alcohol content, so take it in sips if you plan to drive afterwards.
I’d like to team this with a roast leg of Karoo lamb in a rosemary sauce, but it’s very easy to drink on its own. By the time I’d written this tasting note the bottle was half empty.
Waterkloof Peacock Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2014.
09/05/2015: Waterkloof is a wine farm that really does allow Nature to do the work with a minimum of intervention by the winemakers.
By using the wild yeasts naturally present in the vineyards, rather than commercially produced yeasts, they allow more of the “terroir” to be expressed in the final product.
Using wild yeasts can be a gamble and in the case of the 2014 Peacock Chardonnay it took six months for the fermentation to be completed. After that the wine was allowed to rest on the lees in old barrels for a further two months.
The result is totally delicious – there’s a clean minerality backing up the delicate citrus notes, accompanied by some fleeting suggestions of spice. As the layers of flavour unfold you find soft fruit and berries emerging all ending in a juicy, lingering finish.
It’s a wine delicate enough to accompany sushi, while being bold enough to match with a crumbed pork cutlet.
I must confess I selfishly drank the whole bottle on its own (over two days) and enjoyed every drop. At R65 a bottle this is a real find.
Alto Shiraz 2012
01/05/2015: Alto is one of the Cape’s oldest wine estates and is probably best known for it iconic red blend called Alto Rouge, which has been on the market for more than 50 years. Alto does not make a Shiraz every year, depending on the harvest.
This 2012 vintage is a delightful expression of the Shiraz grape’s warm, fireside character. Not a big bully of a wine, this one greets you with gentle aromas of nuts, cassia and cinnamon, followed by savoury, dark fruit compote and ending long and meaty, with a hint of fine black pepper.
I’d like to pair this with a roast leg or shoulder of lamb, or simply enjoy it with a friend watching the sun set over the sea.
It’s drinking well now, but I think it still has a few years to go.
Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio 2014.
22?04/2015: Not many South African wineries produce a Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio), and this is a pity. Pinot Grigio has a delicacy and subtlety ideally suited to the warm South African climate. Maybe it’s a little too subtle for South African palates used to more outspoken and robust styles. The Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio, from the Anthonij Rupert cellar, is a perfect example of what this cultivar can achieve.
It’s all about subtle elegance. There’s nothing pushy or assertive about it. The gentle aromas of apple, ripe sweet grapes and spice (cinnamon and cloves) introduce the flavours that unfold gently, sip after sip. This is one of the few white wines that actually tastes like grapes, but without being over-sweet or “cool-drinky.”
It will probably team up well with subtly flavoured seafood or chicken dishes, but I’d briefer to drink it on its own, sharing an autumn sunset with a friend.
It could be a good companion to sushi too.
At around R65 a bottle it’s a worthwhile find.
Glenelly Grand Vin 2009
07/04/2015: Watch out for the Glennelly label. Some truly different and memorable wines are emerging from this French-owned cellar in Stellenbsoch.
The Glenelly Grand Vin 2009 is a typical example of the craftsmanship that goes into a fine wine. It’s a four-way blend of Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and just a touch (4%) of Petit Verdot. A great deal of thought has obviously gone into the creation of this blend. Each component serves an important role and the result is a deeply complex symphony of flavours that surprises with every sip.
There’s the old leather aroma from the Shiraz, together with a hint of cinnamon, a touch of black pepper. The Cabernet adds a splash of dark plum compote and some blueberry notes. The finish is long and ends with a tantalizing flick of savoury smoked meat.
The 2009 is drinking well now, but my guess is that it will reach greatness in a year or two.
I’d save this glorious wine for a very special dinner, maybe in 2020. Team it up with a venison roast.
Leeuwenkuil Shiraz 2013
27/03/2015: I’ve made no secret of the fact that Shiraz is my favourite South African grape variety. I love its warm spiciness and layers of smokiness, old leather books, tobacco pouch and dark plum fruit flavours. If I were not afraid of being accused of sexism I’d describe it as a “masculine” wine.
In recent years it’s become increasingly obvious that the Swartland is one of the country’s very best Shiraz producing areas.
This is where the astonishingly good Leeuwenskuli wine has its roots.
The critical palates of the Decanter magazine panel were obviously blown away by this wine and awarded it a very enthusiastic average score of 92 points out of 100.
The Leeuwenskuil website quotes a price of R45 a bottle for the wine and if this is correct, rush down to your wine store and stock up before the word gets around.
The wine has a subtle, spicy nose with a suggestion of violets, warm plum flavours with the tang of cranberries and a suggestion of black pepper lurking among the many layers of flavour.
Taste it and you’ll see why I love a good Shiraz. This one will be a perfect partner for a leg of Karoo lamb or even a springbok casserole. Or just on its own, shared with a friend who understands excellence.
What a discovery!
Glenelly Glass Collection Syrah 2011
16/03/2015: For those who have visited the elegant Glenelly Estate near Stellenbosch it will come ad no surprise that the wines reflect that same elegance.
The farm’s owner, Lady May de Lancqesang, known, among other things, as a collector of rare and old glassware. Her note on the back label of this wine says: “The magical processes of fine wine and glass making both need heat as the key to their creation.”
This 2011 Syrah may have a robust 14% alcohol content, but it’s all about delicacy — like fine glassware. There are no sharp corners here. The wine is silky smooth, a youthful ruby colour and full of gently warming flavours of nuts and plum compote, ending in a flick of black pepper.
This is a wine to accompany delicately flavoured foods — possibly a roast duck in a fruit-based sauce or a rolled shoulder of lamb.
I found it the perfect companion to an evening of leisure, watching the sun set with my two cats.
Fat Bastard Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 and Fat Bastard Merlot 2013
10/03/2015: The name, Fat Bastard, suggests a big, bold wine bulging with ripe fruit flavours, so the Fat Bastard Pinot Noir Rosé may come as a bit of a surprise.
Designed by Guy Anderson of the UK and Thierry Boudinaud of France and made by Robertson Winery, it’s actually quite delicate and elegant. There’s s hint of dusty strawberries on the nose and a suggestion of tea leaves. It has an attractive salmon pink colour from gentle pressing and a brief time on the skins.
A tangy acidity gives the wine a fresh character with flavours of summer fruit and some earthiness.
At a low alcohol content of just 11% it’s an idea wine for casual sipping at any time of day or at any occasion. I’d like to serve it chilled with a chicken salad, but it could also be an interesting companion to a sushi platter.
Open the Fat Bastard Merlot 2013, though, and the label begins to make sense. This is a wine packed with ripe fruit flavours and chocolate notes – and even a savoury hint of smoked chicken. It has a robust 14% alcohol content and the dark berry flavours are held together on a platform of very gentle tannins, giving the impression that this wine might last a good while yet. It has just enough acidity to deal with a big, succulent dish like an ox-tail casserole or a slow roasted lamb shank. It could also go well with a meaty Italian style meaty pasta dish.
I’m not usually a great fan of Merlot because we produce so many indifferent ones in the Cape, but this one deserves a place on your wine shelves.
Try it now with rich meaty dishes and leave a couple of bottle for enjoying down the line. It has the power to last a good three more years before reaching its peak.
Solms Delta Rosé , Chenin Blanc and Shiraz
04/03/2015: Solms Delta gets a new look.
The Solms Delta wine estate in the Franschhoek valley has established a unique personality, linking its brand firmly with the past – the history of slavery, country music and “lekker wyn,” which is unpretentious wine made for pure casual enjoyment.
Three of the farm’s wines have now been released under an eye-catching label design, complete with a drawing of a “blik khitaar” to denote the music of the farm, and a book and pen to represent education and hope.
The trio consists of a charming rosé made from Grenache and a splash of Cinsault, a Chenin Blanc and a Shiraz (packaged, rather surprisingly under a green label).
The 2014 Chenin Blanc (formerly known as Vastrap) greets you with fresh wafts of green apple and tropical fruit and is appealingly soft on the palate. There’s just enough acidity there to keep it fresh without being searing. The ripe fruit flavours linger on and on. A charming wine. At about R55 a bottle it’s the sort of wine to open and enjoy without pretension or fuss.
The pretty , salmon pink rosé from the 2014 vintage, is a far more serious wine than the label suggests. It was previously called “lekkerwyn,” and it is indeed just that. Lekker.
With an alcohol content of 12,5% it’s perfect for lunch-time drinking. The flavours are concentrated fruit – red plum, raspberry, a suggestion of strawberry, all with an underlying earthiness. I’d like to taste this with a roast duck or seared tuna. Maybe it would go well with sushi too. It’s worth a try.
On to the 2013 Shiraz, always a favourite of mine.
This one has some masculine aromas of licorice, oak vanilla, a hint of tobacco and some warming ripe plum layers. It slips down like velvet and would be an ideal accompaniment to an Italian meaty dish, or even a juicy barbecued boerewors.
I think it’s good value at around R60 a bottle.
Watch out for the new labels when you’re next in your wine store. They really are different –jolly and festive and somehow exactly right for the South African lifestyle.
Le Bonheur Chardonnay 2014
18/02/2015: There was a time, not so long ago when Chardonnay dipped in popularity, mostly due to the American habit of serious over-wooding. Our winemakers followed suit and lost a lot of customers. The “ABC” band (Anything but Chardonnay) had a large following.
That’s history now and Cape winemakers are producing some really excellent Chardonnays worthy of our attention.
Le Bonheur’s 2014 vintage is one of these.
The wine greets you with the clean aroma of lemon zest and white peaches, followed by a whole fruit salad of summer flavours – lime, peach, spices, subtle vanilla – all served up in a smooth, silky mouth-feel. It has been given a light touch of oak for added complexity, but that’s kept well in rein and firmly in the background.
It may seem light and frivolous at first sip, but there’s a charming depth here that’s worth exploring.
This is a wine to serve with a delicately flavoured seafood or poultry dish. I’d like to match it with a crispy roast duck.
Baleia Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2014
10/02/2015: This super Sauvignon Blanc comes from the Joubert family’s winery near Vermaaklikheid, close to the sea, and the marine influence is evident in it.
Maybe it was just auto-suggestion, but I was reminded of fresh salt –laden breezes and the smell of the ocean.
Then came the typical Sauvignon Blanc aromas of fresh cut grass, green apples, gooseberries and a lively lemon zest – a fruit salad of flavours, indeed.
The finish is dry and still a wee bit tannic and I believe it needs another two years to reach its peak.
If you can wait that long, serve it with turkey or duck (maybe at Christmas 2016) or a roast leg of pork.
Le Bonheur Sauvignon Blanc 2014.
05/02/2015: Le Bonheur means happiness and what a happy surprise it is to discover a Sauvignon Blanc that isn’t searingly acid! Obviously made from grapes picked at full ripeness, this delightful wine has some subtle tropical fruit flavours, a suggestion of lemon/lime piquancy and a long, juicy finish that invites a second sip. The acidity is there to hold it all together, but it is so understated you actually have to look for it.
Sauvignon Blanc is usually suggested as an accompaniment to sea food dishes and this one will do that with aplomb. I’d prefer to drink it on its own, relaxing on the patio on a warm summer evening. That would give me the opportunity of experiencing all the subtle layers of flavour without competition from elsewhere.
The Dry Land Collection 2012 St Joseph’s Legacy, from Perdeberg
02/02/2015: It seems grapes must struggle and suffer to produce the best wine.
Dry land vineyards have to survive on natural irrigation; ie rain, for their moisture. Irrigate the vines and you get fat, plump berries that contain a great deal of water and you’re likely to end up with a thinnish wine.
Unlike their irrigated neighbours, dry land grapes contain little water and all the flavour and colour is concentrated in, and just next to the skin.
The juice is usually packed with flavour and sugar and tannins.
All this can be tasted in this red blend from Perdeberg.
Made from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Mourvedre it has a complex, rich character packed with dark chocolate, pepper, biltong and spices. There are suggestions of dark cherries and vanilla too.
The bright, but manageable tannins suggest to me that this is a wine to lay down for a couple more years before it reaches its full potential.
I’d serve it with a juicy rare steak or a meaty Italian pasta dish.
Definitely a special occasion drink.
Klaasenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
21/01/2015: Cabernet Sauvignon is reputed to the be King of the Reds, with Chardonnay as queen of the white wine kingdom.
Sometimes this is true. Not always.
Klaasenbosch’s 2012 Cab certainly has aspirations of royalty.
Actually, I’m rather sorry I opened my bottle when I did. I think it will grow in stature during the next three or four years.
Nonetheless, it’s a great wine even now. This is a Christmas pudding sort of wine, absolutely bulging with dark berry flavours – rich, ripe mulberries, black cherries and berry jam. There’s a pleasing hint of pecan nuts on the palate, too.
It has a lovely velvety texture, soft tannins and a slightly savoury aftertaste.
I’d recommend this as an accompaniment to a meaty Italian dish, or with a juicy rare fillet steak.
Of course, there’s no problem with drinking it on its own (as I did). As I sipped and savoured, the level of the bottle dropped quite dramatically. Sometimes a wine tastes even better the next day and I managed to leave half the bottle for the following lunch-time.
Great stuff! I think that little extra air made it even better.
Grand Provence Pinot Noir 2013
06/01/2015: Pinot Noir is an interesting grape variety and some winemakers claim it’s a “bugger to work with.” It may lack the gravitas of the Bordeaux varieties, but Pinot repays a little concentrated attention.
The 2013 Grande Provence Pinot Noir arrives quietly on the palate. At first it may seem a little thin and acidic, but after a few seconds other characteristics emerge shyly. There’s some delicate berry fruit there, a nice earthiness and some understated spice. You find yourself taking a another sip, and another, simply to make sure you really did taste that fleeting hint of cinnamon — are was it cloves? Let’s take another sip.
I think this is a wine that will compliment almost any subtly flavoured food, from poultry to seafood.
But more than that, it’s a wine to pour, sit back and savour while listening to some good music — Beethoven rather than Bach, I’d say.