Fairview Sweet Red 2006
05/12/2011: Sometimes it’s fun to leave the main highway of the wine scene and explore the narrow and sometime funky by-ways.
There’s more to life than Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Bordeaux blends.
I’ve had a bottle of Fairview’s Sweet Red 2006 lurking at the back of my wine shelf for a while and decided to try it the other evening.
The sun was setting, the sea was smooth and sparkling, the air was warm and my two cats were curled up at my feat under the bougainvillea pergola. Peace reigned.
To all intents and purposes the Fairview Sweet Red could pass as a port. I don’t know what grapes went into the 2006, but they were probably not the traditional port varietals.
Be that as it may, this was a warm and friendly treat. It’s a full-bodied, raisiny wine, redolent with spicy flavours, deep, inky black in colour.
nterestingly, it doesn’t taste as sweet as the label suggests. It has that nice dusty feel of a good port, and the finish is spicy and dry.
I like the fact that this wine doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a “sweet red wine”.
It’s not trying to compete with the classical ports of the Duoro Valley. It doesn’t claim to be a muscadel or a jerepigo or a ”classical dessert wine”.
It’s just a sweet red wine.
I like it.
Bellevue Estate Morkel Pinotage 2009
03/12/2011: Wine lovers are discovering over and over that the 2009 vintage was one of the best ever in the Cape.
The 2009 Morkel Pinotage from Bellevue certainly confirms this.
It’s an exciting wine that changes in the glass as it breathes. It starts off savoury and heavy with aromas of new leather, spices and tobacco, then the gentle dark berry flavours come to the fore, unfolding ripe and warm
It’s a big, bold wine that will last and mature for many years, while being wonderfully accessible and delicious right now.
The ’08 vintage of this wine was accorded four stars in the latest Platter Guide. I believe the ’09 is even better.
If you want a food accompaniment suggestion I go for a simple grilled steak (medium rare for me, thanks) but it’s the sort of wine I’d really like to enjoy on its own. Any food would tend to distract me from the unfolding layers of flavour.
I’d like to share a bottle with a discerning friend – without too much discussion about “nose” and “palate” and “mouth-feel”, just an occasional nod and sigh of appreciation would say it all.
Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2010
28/11/2011: Everybody in the Cape Winelands seems determined to have a Sauvignon Blanc on their list, whether their soil and climate is right for it or not.
The result is a whole slew of truly bad, tooth-peeling acidic wines on our wine store shelves.
Increasingly I hear people saying things like: “I’ve gone right off Sauvignon Blanc. It’s too sour for me.”
But a good Sauvignon Blanc can be a real treat. This Tokara Elgin Sauvignon Blanc is one of those rewarding ones. The acid in the wine is beautifully balanced by big, bouncy fruit flavours and some elegantly crisp minerality. I was reminded of freshly-picked green apples, kiwi fruit, fresh garden peas and green fig preserve.
I enjoyed mine with a plate of salmon trout with boiled baby potatoes and fennel bulbs and the combination was sublime.
I think it would go well with any delicately flavoured fish dish.
The wine’s clean finish lingers on and on. They certainly got this one right.
Altydgedacht Barbera 2010
26/11/2011: The Parkers of Altydgedacht were among the first South African winemakers to produce wine from this Northern Italian grape variety.
Altydgedacht Barbera is a big-hearted, gutsy wine, packed with spicy dark berry and black cherry flavours and a touch of smokiness.
I think it would be a pity to drink the 2010 too soon. It still has a long life ahead of it.
I’d like to keep it for at least another three years before trying it again. I think it will mature beautifully.
Not surprisingly, Barbera is a natural accompaniment to hearty, meaty Italian dishes like pasta with meat sauces, osso bucco and lasagna.
Altydgedacht Gewurztraminer 2011
24/11/2011: Gewurztraminer is one of those delightfully fragrant wines that goes well with light curries and some Chinese dishes.
It should also be good with sushi.
Unfortunately there are not many of them available in this country, so it’s not always easy to find a Gewurztraminer to enjoy with your Lamb korma or rogan josh. (Less than a dozen Gerwurzes are listed in the latest edition of the Platter Guide, out of a list of more than 7000 wines.)
This one has that distinctive rose-petal scent, along with a suggestion of litchi and peach blossoms. It’s light in character and finishes dry, so there’s no sticky aftertaste.
It certainly is an elegant accompaniment to any lightly spiced dish and I’d recommend you buy a couple of bottles to set aside for the right occasion.
I see the 2011 Altydgedacht Gewurztraminer was awarded a gold medal at the2011 Michelangelo Awards Competition.
Well deserved, I think.
Versus 2011 Crisp and Fruity
23/11/20122: The Versus label has gained a happy reputation as a cheerful, easy-drinking, everyday sipper. The range has been given a new-look diamond-shaped label to reflect the fresh character of the wine, but the original sassiness is still there.
It’s a low-alcohol lunch-time wine (12% alcohol by volume) with a fresh, zingy fruit flavour, perfect for serving chilled on a warm summer’s day on the stoep. It goes well with cold chicken, salads or braaied snoek.
There’s nothing pretentious about it. Just pour and drink. If you really want to get pompous you can mutter knowingly about a hint of lime acidity and some easy tropical fruit flavours, but why bother with that stuff? Just sit back and enjoy it.
At around R25 a bottle, it’s the sort of wine you should have in your fridge for the inevitable parade of holiday guests Cape people expect every December.
I’m told the Versus wines will be available in two-litre bag-in-a-box packages soon for economic entertaining.
Seems like a good way to beat rising costs.
La Motte Millennium 2008
21/11/2011: Most of us are happy to drink quite ordinary wines from day to day. Goodness knows there are plenty of good budget wines out there for us to enjoy on a casual basis.
But once in a while life calls for something special, and one such special wine is La Motte’s Millennium blend.
I tasted the 2008 vintage, and what a treat it is. It’s a blend of the usual Bordeaux varieties, with Cabernet Franc and Merlot up front.
The various components of the blend (five of them) were matured separately in oak for more than a year before they were brought together to create this wine.
The 2008 is big and generous, full of ripe red berry flavours and some rich fruit-cake notes held together by unobtrusive tannins and a suggestion of oak vanilla lurking shyly in the background.
Its finish is long, clean and fresh.
This is obviously a wine that’s made for long life and I’ll wait for another couple of years before opening the next bottle.
But right now it’s a rare pleasure.
Bilton Matt Black Red Blend 2008
04/11/2011: I wrote the other day about the importance of having a story to go with the wine.
And when there isn’t a story, good wine marketers make one up. Like the fearful tale of Matt Black, the dreadful pirate who roamed the Cape seas back in the early 1700s.
According to the folk at Bilton winery, Matt Black was an ancestor of the present owner, Mark Bilton. He and his crew of naughty pirates often relieved his fellow sailors of their cargoes of wine, which they had bought from wine producers at the Cape.
Maybe that was the start of the family’s appreciation of good Cape wine.
Any pirate who goes for barrels of Cape wine rather than chests of pieces-of-eight gets my vote. Bilton’s Matt Black 2008 red blend, now on the bottle store shelves, is a delightful tribute to a probably fictitious ancestor.
Packed with warm flavours of dark chocolate, spices and black berries, it’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mouverdre, Pinotage and Shiraz.
I’m pleased to see it comes in a screw-capped bottle too, for easy access.
Shannon Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2009
01/11/2011: Winemakers tell me Pinot Noir is one of the trickiest grapes to manage if its full potential is to be realized.
It’s a grape that’s particularly sensitive to changes of climate, soil and location.
I enjoyed the Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2009 from Shannon Vineyards in the Elgin Valley.
It’s obviously been made with care and thought. Grapes from several different areas of the farm have been picked and vinified separately, each having its own particular characteristic – red berry, liquorice, spice and so on.
The wines are then blended to achieve exactly what the winemaker wants and all of it is matured in barrels for at least 16 months.
The result is a deeply complex wine, with many layers of flavour, ranging from fruity to earthy, all nicely balanced and resting on a subtle stage of oak vanilla.
I believe this s a wine that will mature beautifully over the next five to 10 years.
It’s pretty good right now.
Zonnebloem Laureat 2009
Zonnebloem Chardonnay 2011
29/10/2011: What a treat it was to sample the latest releases from the Zonnebloem range at a food and wine pairing at the Test Kitchen at the Old Biscuit Mill recently.
I was impressed by the 2009 Zonnebloem Laureat. This flagship blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a splash of Petit Verdot, all of which has been in oak barrels for 14 months. Layers of rich, dark flavours unfold on the tongue, spices, blackberries, dark chocolate and warm vanilla, all stitched onto a backdrop of subtle tannic grip.
This is a wine to lay down for a couple of years to get the full ripe potential.
Of the white wines I particularly liked the 2011 Chardonnay, which is surprising as I am not normally a Chardonnay enthusiast.
This one is still very shy on aroma (it hasn’t had time to open up fully yet) but it’s packed with clean, tangy lemon and lime flavours and some suggestions of dried apricot.
Some of it has been in barrels, but there’s just the merest suggestion of oak – hardly noticeable, but enough to add a subtle dimension to the wine.
This one could convert the “ABC” crowd (Anything But Chardonnay).
And I think it’s worth keeping for a year or two. It has great ageing potential.
Goede Hoop Shiraz 2003
04/10/2011: I love a good Shiraz and we make so many excellent ones here in the Cape that we’re spoiled for choice.
The label on the 2003 Goede Hoop Shiraz says: “Aged to Perfection” and I agree it has been
The 2003 Shiraz has had time to mature and soften. The tannins have become smooth and supple and what’s left is a deliciously ripe mélange of red berry flavours with just a suggestion of vanilla from 18 months in barrels.
Typical of Shiraz, this wine has a spicy, smoky character that reminds me of old leather-bound books enjoyed by a winter log fire.
If I were to choose a dish to enjoy with this wine I’d pick a rich beef stew, or a venison pie.
Actually, it has enough flavour to make it ideal for drinking on its own, in the company of a good friend or two.
Goede Hoop is one of those estates that’s been in the same family for generations. Winemaker Pieter Bestbier is the third generation of his family to run the cellar.
It’s also a rather special winery in that the wines are released only when they’re considered ready for drinking. This ’03 has been kept in perfect cellar conditions until now.
Definitely worth a visit.
Notre Reve Shiraz 2010
28/09/2011: When exploring the world of wine it’s often fun to leave the mainstream wineries and slip off to one of the smaller boutique cellars for a taste of something really different.
Like so many people who love wine, Rudi le Roux and Ampie Kruger dreamed of making their own one day.
In 2007 they decided to do just that and have been producing small quantities of wine each year from grapes they bought here and there.
Appropriately, they’ve called their wine Notre Reve (Our Dream).
I tasted their 2010 Notre Reve Shiraz at the recent Shiraz Showcase in Newlands and was most impressed.
It’s obviously been made with love and care. It’s spicy, juicy and mouth-filling and they’ve managed to keep the tannins soft and supple.
It’s been matured in oak for a year, although the oak is not aggressively present.
I enjoyed his individual wine and reckon it’s worth the R100 a bottle they’re asking for it.
I think it might mature well for at least another five years.
You can find out more by calling Notre Reve on 021 913 4764.
Eikendal Shiraz 2010
25/09/2011: I think we tend to underestimate the wines from Eikendal.They’re not big, showy creations designed to win awards. Rather they’re made for easy drinking and offered at quite modest prices.
I was delighted by the Eikendal Shiraz 2010, presented at the recent Shiraz Showcase in Newlands recently.
This is a complex wine, but soft and approachable at the same time.
Tantalizing hints of Turkish delight, plums, prunes and spices come dancing on the tongue, supported by the merest suggestion of oak.
At around R70 a bottle it’s bargain. Already pleasant drinking, it still has a good two or three years of development. I’d be happy to know there was a case of this lurking in my wine store.
I though this was a very special wine to enjoy without ceremony.
Pierre Jourdan Brut in 375ml bottles
19/09/2011: At last South African wine lovers are realizing that sparkling wine is not only for birthdays and weddings.
Like an increasing number of my friends, I often open a bottle of bubbly for no other reason than to share it at lunch or a Sunday brunch.
Why wait until somebody gets married to enjoy a good glass of Methode Cap Classique?
I’m delighted to see that several of our Cap Classique producers are now bottling their bubbles in handy 375ml bottles – just enough to be shared by two people.
The latest of these handy bottles to reach the wine store shelves is the Pierre Jourdan Brut from Cabriere in Franschhoek.
The smaller bottle is just right for those who enjoy a glass of bubbles at the start of a meal, before going on to red or white wines with the main courses.
Of course it still offers that delightful yeasty character, followed by crisp green apple flavours dancing on the tiny bubbles.
Like the other bubblies in the Pierre Jourdan range, it is made from the classical Champagne varietals of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Far too good to keep hidden away until there’s a “special occasion”;
Open a bottle and even breakfast becomes special.
Pongracz Cap Classique in 375ml bottle
Sometime big is not necessarily beautiful. There are occasions when a whole bottle of bubbly is just too much for two people to share.
For those special intimate moments, Pongracz is now available in chic little 375ml bottles.
This is just the right size for a birthday toast or a romantic dinner. The new smaller bottle is available for their non-vintage Pinot Noir/ Chardonnay blend or their rosé version, both, of course, produced by the traditional Cap Classique method.
The non-vintage bubbly has its distinctive fresh green-apple character with the yeasty undertone of fresh-baked bread.
The rosé is a pretty salmon-pink drink with more dark berry flavour than the white one. The warm yeasty notes are still in evidence.
These petite packages are available at around R60 each from good wine shops.
Napier Red Medallion 2006
Saint Catherine Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2008
31/08/2011: Napier Winery, near Wellington, is a relative newcomer to the Cape wine scene, having been established as recently as 1993.
In their short existence they’ve certainly made an impact on the market with some exceptionally good wines.
Their Lion Creek range, named after the Leeuwens River, is designed for uncomplicated, easy drinking at an affordable price. It includes a Cabernet Sauvignon (dry and slightly rough edged, but will probably soften in time), a more accessible, fruity red blend, called, simply, Lion Creek Red, and a rather pleasantly juicy Lion Creek White.
Pride of place, however, goes to their Napier Red Medallion, a serious blend for those who look deeper than juicy fruit. I tasted the 2006 vintage and found it intriguingly complex, definitely rich and savoury and ready to last a long time.
It’s a blend of five Bordeaux varietals – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. They’re nicely balanced, with no one variety dominating the blend.
This is one to lay down for two or three years to get the full potential.
If you prefer a big, rich white wine, try their Saint Catherine Single Vineyard Chardonnay. The 2008 vintage, which I tasted, combine the two faces of Chardonnay perfectly – the soft buttery character from new French oak on one side and clean, fresh lemon-lime crispness on the other. Very more-ish indeed.
Watch this winery. Napier Winery was voted Wellington’s best for 2011. I’m not surprised.
Groote Post Shiraz 2001
23/08/2011: It’s always exciting to open a bottle of wine that’s been around for 10 years or more. Will it be wonderful? Will it be vinegar?
I found a bottle of Groote Post Shiraz 2001 lurking at the back of my wine cupboard and opened it to see how it had fared.
It was totally delicious, softened by the years, but retaining all its rich spiciness and warmth.
It was packed with dark, ripe fruit flavours, a suggestion of cinnamon and cloves and some wonderful smoky, savoury undertones. The finish went on and on, slightly salty and savoury.
I see the ’09 vintage of this wine was awarded four and a half stars in the last Platter Guide and as the 2001 was made by the same winemaker, Lukas Wentzel, there’s no reason to believe it won’t last every bit as well.
I’ll certainly be laying down a few bottles for opening in 10 years’ time. If I have the patience.
Chateau Libertas 2010
14/08/2011: Probably South Africa’s longest surviving wine label, Chateau Libertas has been around since 1932.
The label has been neatened up a bit for the 2010 vintage, but its heritage is still quite plain to see – the ornate, illuminated “C”, the Cape Dutch gable and the bunches of grapes are reassuringly recognizable.
It was always one of the stalwarts of the old Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery and I’m interested to see it still carries the “Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery” address on the label, rather than the Distell name.
And I’m pleased to find the wine keeps up its standard as a reliably drinkable, plummy braai companion that will taste good with any robust red meat dishes or pastas. It’s been given a dash of wood from oak staves, but it isn’t pushy at all.
The original Chateau Lib blend was made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Cinsaut. Cinsaut, however, which was once the basis of almost all budget wines in the Cape, is now almost unobtainable, so the latest blend replaces it with Merlot.
It’s also interesting to note that the cork closure stays. A screw-cap would be inappropriate. Chateau Libertas is all about tradition, and it would be a pity to take away the generations-old tradition of settling down and pulling the cork out of a bottle of Chateau Lib.
It’s always nice to see some things don’t need to be changed.
Obikwa Moscato 2011
12/08/2011: The Obikwa range of wines is made by Distell, mainly for export. Its cheerful ostrich label can be seen on wine shop shelves all over the world.
They’ve gained a reputation for being good value down at the budget end of the market.
Their 2011 Moscato is a new addition to the range and certainly well worth trying.
It’s an unusual low-alcohol sweet wine perfect for casual outdoor summer lunch-time enjoyment
Moscato is a blend of Colombar, Chenin Blanc and Muscat grapes and has an alcohol content of just 7,56%, which is about half that of a normal table wine.
This is a nicely balanced wine, with enough acidity to prevent it being sticky, fresh grapey flavours abound and it finishes pleasantly clean and crisp.
A very cleverly made little wine, this, and at around R27 a bottle it’s well worth a try. Serve it well chilled, or even over ice.
Two Oceans Shiraz Rosé 2010
o8/08/2011: Rosé wines are growing rapidly in popularity, and no wonder. They fit into the South African lifestyle perfectly – cool and pretty with enough seriousness to avoid being “cool-drinky”.
A chilled dry rosé is the perfect accompaniment to a patio or poolside lunch of cold meats, salads or snacks.
The Two Oceans Shiraz Rosé certainly hits the spot.
It’s a vibrant, rose-pink wine with a quietly floral waft on the nose. This is followed by all the wonderful rich flavours we expect from a good Shiraz, but in a slightly subdued style. It has a spicy, plum fruit character, juicy, but with just enough acid grip to leave you with a crisp, clean lingering aftertaste.
I’ll certainly be opening several bottles next summer.
KWV Roodeberg 2006
29/07/2011: When I opened a bottle of KWV Roodeberg 2006 recently, I was reminded of the great changes that have taken place in the South African wine industry in the past couple of decades.
In the days when the KWV ruled the industry with an iron fist, Roodeberg was made for export only. Locally only those with a KWV quota were able to buy it. (Remember the KWV issued quotas that determined how much wine each producer was allowed to make. It was virtually impossible for anybody new to enter the industry unless they could buy a quota from an existing wine producer.)
So anybody who offered you a glass of Roodeberg was doing you a big favour – also a bit of bragging (“I have a friend who has a quota”).
Roodeberg was regarded with a reverence far in excess of its quality. It was the Rolex of wines (They don’t tell the time any more accurately, but they confer special status on those who have them).
Today Roodeberg competes on the local market with all the others on the shelves.
And I think it competes very well. The cabernet-based blend offers lovely wafts of blackberry and cherries, followed by a suggestion of vanilla, some coffee flavours and a nice smoky spiciness.
Roodeberg follows faithfully in a tradition more than 50 years old.
You will probably pay about R70 a bottle.
Landskroon Cinsaut 2009
19/07/2011: There was a time not so very long ago when Cinsaut was South Africa’s most widely planted red wine-grape variety. It was responsible for the huge popularity of Tassenberg, the wine which set millions of students on the road to becoming wine lovers.
Now, alas, Cinsaut is a rare variety, with only three labels listed in the 2010 edition of the Platter Wine Guide. In the 2001 edition there were 13 Cinsauts.
This is a huge tragedy for us South African drinkers.
Landskroon’s Cinsaut is a fine example of the kind of wine it produces – juicy and light, with pleasing mulberry and cranberry flavours adding up to an easy-drinking, everyday wine exactly suited to outdoor quaffing, picnics and braais.
Kandskroon’s Cinsaut retails for about R27, making it affordable as an uncomplicated house-wine.
It may not rock the world, or cause connoisseurs to faint with delight, but not everybody wants Meerlust Rubicon or Vergelegen V every day.
I think we should start a campaign to bring back Cinsaut.
Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2006
15/07/11: As the label implies, this is a real classic – full-bodied, yet elegant and fresh. After five years it’s youthful and sprightly and ready to go another five without any trouble.
Lovely wafts of cedar wood add to the flavours of mulberries and cranberries. Subtle vanilla flavours come from two years in oak, half of it new French barrels, but the wood is never dominant. It acts as an elegant platform on which the fruit can dance.
This is a wine to serve with rare roast beef, rolled shoulder of lamb or even a leg of springbok venison if you’re lucky enough to get one.
The 2006 was awarded four and a half stars in the latest Platter guide. The ’07 didn’t quite reach those heights of classic seriousness.
Het Vlok Kasteel Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
13/07/2011: I didn’t know much about this relatively young cellar in the Swartland. It was established as recently as 2005 and completed its first bottling is ’06. I was pleased to taste the ’08, which is the winery’s latest release.
This well rounded wine has a nice full palate, with plenty of blackcurrant fruit and carefully managed tannin — quite classical in style.
It’s been given a nice suggestion of oaky vanilla from a year in barrels, adding an extra layer of complexity.
A pleasant wine to serve with almost any red meat dishes or a hearty pasta. I think we should watch this cellar for future developments.
Simonsig Tiara 2007
05/07/2011: What a delight it was to open a bottle of this precious nectar!
Simonsig’s Tiara is a classical Bordeaux blend, with Cabernet Sauvignon as its backbone, enhanced by the addition of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. A year and a half in oak barrels has given the wine an added dimension and softened the tannins to a satisfying silkiness.
It all comes together in a big, complex wine that just keeps unfolding on the tongue – ripe dark fruit flavours, some meaty savoury notes and a finish that lingers on and on.
It’s generally accepted that 2007 was a pretty good year for reds in the Stellenbosch area and this wine seems to prove that.
I was sorry to have opened my bottle, however. I think the wine has a long life ahead and I would like to taste it again in five years’ time.
I’ll try to find a couple more bottles to lay down.
MAY & JUNE
Robertson Winery Wolfkloof Shiraz 2002
21/06/2011: It’s always exciting to open a bottle of wine that’s been resting at the back of your cupboard for years.
Will it still be drinkable?
Will it be good or indifferent?
Rather apprehensively I took out a bottle of Robertson Winery’s Wolfkloof Shiraz from the 2002 vintage to share with some friends.
Shiraz is often made for early drinking these days, so I wondered how this would have fared in nine years.
It was superb!
Time had smoothed and softened the wine to a wonderful silkiness, although all the fresh mulberry fruit flavour was still there. It was rich and spicy – suggestions of cinnamon and cloves wafting through subtly. Everything was integrated and no single flavour stood out above the rest.
The wine could probably have lasted another few years, but why wait? It was perfect.
Robertson Winery is known for offering wines at modest prices. I’d love to know what this one cost when it was released.
Those of us who enjoyed it could have kicked ourselves for not laying in stocks when they were available.
Avondale Samsara Syrah 2006
16/06/2011: I am always confused about terms like “organic” and “bio-dynamic” when it comes to wines. Avondale Estate uses the term “bio-logic.”
I think they all mean the wines are made in ways designed to do as little damage to the environment as possible. I approve of this.
Avondale, near Paarl, is a wine farm that obviously cares about nature and the environment. Their motto is “terra est vita” – earth is life.
Their Samsara Syrah 2006 carries the phrase, “Approved by Mother Nature” on the label.
All life, whether we refer to an elephant or a grape, eventually goes back to the earth to be renewed. This is the philosophy behind Avondale’s farming.
I like Syrah (Shiraz) as a wine grape variety. You’re usually safe selecting a Shiraz or Syrah from the bottle store shelf.
Avondale’s Samsara Syrah certainly lived up to expectations.
It has a lovely savoury, smoky palate, with layers of ripe dark berry flavours and an almost salty finish that lingers for a long time.
It’s smooth and velvety and you could drink it happily on its own as a warming evening drink while watching TV.
It is also the kind of wine that will prove a perfect companion to foods like meaty pasta dishes, stews or rich mushroom risottos.
I think I’ll be back for more.
Viljoensdrift River Grandeur 2009 Cape Blend
- Viljoensdrift winemaker Fred Viljoen – harvesting the accolades.
10/06/2011: The wines of Viljoensdrift are rapidly earning a reputation for excellence. Their Viljoensdrift River Grandeur Cape Blend, named after the Breede River, which supplies the farm with water, scored four and a half stars in Wine Magazine’s rating, and earned a double gold at Veritas and a gold medal in the Michelangelo Competition.
Made from Merlot, Pinotage and Petit Verdot, the wine has an earthy, almost dusty nose with a suggestion of chocolate and red berries. With a soft, silky mouth-feel, it unfolds with layers of ripe mulberry flavours, a hint of mocha, very subtle tannin and understated wood leading to a lingering, dry finish.
All the flavours in this complex wine are cleverly integrated into a memorable whole. At only about R40 a bottle from the cellar, I think it’s excellent value.
Simonsvlei Toffee Chunk Syrah 2010
01/06/2011: There’s a lot to be said to honest labeling. This chunky Syrah (Shiraz to some) is a big, bold wine with distinct toffee flavours.
One corner of the label appears to have been peeled back to reveal a clump of shiny brown toffees.
We’ve become quite accustomed to tasting coffee in our Pinotages, so why not enjoy a toffee-flavoured Syrah?
The toffee character, of course, comes from carefully managed oak maturation, just as the coffee taste in those Pinotages does.
I’m not sure whether I like it or not, but the coffee-toffee trend is apparently seducing first-time wine buyers into the fold, and if that’s the case, it’s a good thing. We do need to expand our local market.
I hope that those who enjoy the coffee-toffee wines will be tempted to try others and explore the amazingly wide range of wine flavours out there.
Toffee Chunk is not all toffee, of course. There’s also some of that delightful smokiness for which Shiraz is known, as well as some nice dark berry flavours.
I think it’s the kind of wine to drink with marinated steaks on a barbecue, or well-spiced boerewors.
Hermanuspietersfontein Bloos 2010
28/05/2011: I tasted this interesting “blush” wine at a presentation in Cape Town’s Taj Hotel recently, where several cellars were introducing their new vintages to the wine trade.
Winemaker Bartho Eksteen says the Bloos is unique in that it is made from all five of the grape varieties used in Bordeaux — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
An unusual feature of this wine is that the juices are blended before being fermented.
The grapes are selected and picked specifically for this wine, with a slightly higher acidity than that used in the cellar’s reds.
Bloos is given a touch of oak flavour by using oak chips in what winemakers refer to as “tea bags.”
It’s a complex wine, with layers of nutty flavours and berry notes unfolding as you sip. Like all the Hermanuspietersfontein range, the Bloos has a noticeable waft of wild fynbos herbs on the nose.
It finishes elegantly dry.
Definitely not your usual frivolous pink lunch-time wine, but an exciting accompaniment to a whole range of foods and pretty good value at around R65 a bottle.
Constantia Glen 2007 Three
26/05/2011: As the label on this delicious wine indicates, it is a blend of three red grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Previous vintages were labeled Constantia Glen Saddle.
The cellar also produces a red blend called Five, which is, of course a five-way blend. This was previously called, simply, Constantia Glen and is the cellar’s “flagship” wine.
The Three is elegantly dark and smoky, with a silky soft mouth-feel and plenty of rich, blackberry flavours interwoven with some savoury notes. Soft ripe tannins provide a firm, but unobtrusive platform on which the fruit notes can dance.
It’s a fine example of a South African Bordeaux blend — the kind of wine you sip and say: “Ah! Now I see why these varieties are so often used in blends!”
At around R150 a bottle, this is definitely a wine for a special occasion. It should prove a perfect partner for a roast leg of mutton, (if anybody can still afford mutton at today’s prices) or a hearty winter stew.
Boland Cellar Flutterby Merlot 2010
22/05/2011: Traditionalists may not approve of the new PET bottles for wine, but I think we will see more and more of them on the market in coming months.
On the plus side, they are lighter and smaller than conventional glass bottles, and they don’t break as easily, which makes them ideal for picnic and boating use.
The most recent of these to reach me has been Boland Cellar‘s new Flutterby Range, which consists of a Merlot and a Sauvignon Blanc, both from the 2010 vintage.
The name derives from the “butterfly effect,” which says that even small acts, like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings, can rtesult in large changes overall.
By producing the Flutterby range, Boland Cellar hopes to have a beneficial effect on the environment. The manufacture of PET bottles, they say, produces less of a carbon footprint than glass bottles do.
I’m not much of a Merlot fan, but I enjoyed the Flutterby Merlot as a casual, everyday red.
The wine has been given a hint of wood from maturation in older oak barrels, and it has rather a nice silky mouthfeel, with loads of berry juiciness on the palate. The wine finishes on quite a savoury note.
At R32,50 a bottle I think it represents good value.
More image-conscious hosts might choose to serve it in a decanter, at least until PET bottles become more socially acceptable.
Tukulu 2008 Pinotage
20/05/2011: The Tukulu label is the result of a successful BEE venture started in 1998. Based in Darling, the Papkuilsfontein Vineyards, where the grapes originate, are co-owned by Distell, a group of Gauteng entrepreneurs and a local community trust.
The brand has proved itself able to compete on the open market, with export orders coming in and double gold awards in the Veritas Competition.
The 2008 Tukulu Pinotage is a full-bodied wine packed with flavours of wild red berries, plums and dark chocolate. There’s enough subtle tannin to add a nice firm touch. The finish is lingering and savoury.
It’s no surprise this wine was recognized by the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage judges’ panel.
I think it’s a good wine to serve with a venison pie or a roast shoulder of Karoo mutton.
Mischa 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon
06/05/2011: If you’re looking for an exclusive winery not visited by many people. Consider the Mischa Estate near Wellington.
This farm, run by the Barns family, is probably better known among winemakers as a vine nursery.
It’s not open to the public, apart from two days in March, when they hold their annual wine festival.
There are several luxury cottages for rent on the property.
Visits are by appointment only and tastings can be arranged for a fee of R250, refundable if you buy wine worth more than that. It all sounds slightly daunting, so I was interested to taste their Mischa 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon recently.
It’s a real charmer. Nothing forbidding about it at all.
The nose is inviting, with wafts of violets and mint combined with very subtle oak scents.
The flavours are generous with ripe blackberry and mulberry notes held together by some firm, but very gentle tannins.
It’s all very more-ish and I’d love to try it in partnership with a springbok venison roast.
You can learn more about Mischa by visiting their blog
Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2009
29/04/2011: The Shannon wine label is not one that is seen in every bottle store.
Shannon Vineyards is a relatively new producer, established by James Downes in the Elgin Valley area in 2000 and producing its first vintage in 2003.
I was particularly keen to taste their Rockview Ridge Pinot Noir 2009.
In South Africa Pinot Noir is a variety that can be delicious – or very ordinary. Winemakers call it a heart-breaker, but those who have mastered the grape can make great wine from it.
The Rockview Ridge, I am happy to report, is a winner. It greets one with a delightfully earthy aroma and is full of complex, fruity flavours, punctuated by wafts of black pepper and spices. Although it has been given 16 months of wood maturation, the wood flavours and aromas are understated and perfectly integrated.
The wine is silky smooth right now, but I am sure it will last a good few years yet, becoming even more elegant as it ages.
Only 10 barrels of this superb wine was made, so demand will probably outstrip supply, even though it’s not cheap at R230 a bottle.
I think it’s good value, and the kind of wine to serve at a special dinner or celebration. It will harmonise well with almost any food.
All the wines from Shannon Vineyards scored four stars or higher in the 2011 Platter Wine Guide. My guess is that this one is destined for a full five.
Hartenberg Shiraz 2007
16/04/2011: I do like a good Shiraz. Of all the red wines we make in South Africa, I find Shiraz to be the most consistently reliable one. It takes a specially untalented winemaker to produce a really “kak” Shiraz.
Some, of course, are better than merely good.
Hartenberg Estate has been producing fine Shirazes for almost 40 years. By now they really do seem to know how to get the best from this charming varietal.
I recently tasted the 2007 Hartenberg Shiraz and, man, what a treat this is!
It has all the spicy, slightly smoky character one expects from a good Shiraz, but there’s so much more. Big, juicy dark berry flavours come surging across the palate. Subtle vanilla notes from almost two years in oak barrels don’t dominate the wine, but they’re there in the background, as is the tannin.
It’s all in perfect balance – not too fruity, not too austere, not over-wooded. Layers of flavour unfold with every sip.
I was not surprised to see this wine had earned four-an-a-half stars in the latest Platter Guide.
The 2006 vintage of this wine was judged the Best New World Wine at the 2010 International Wine Competition in Switzerland.
I think the 2007 is more elegant and subtle.
At R130 a bottle it’s admittedly not cheap, but a great deal of thought and care has obviously gone into its making.
It’s actually excellent value.
Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay
07/04/2011: Bouchard Finlayson’s Missionvale Chardonnay is named after the Moravian mission station that once existed in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley.
Peter Finlayson has used the name for his big, assertive flagship wine.
The 2009 Missionvale Chardonnay, of which 30% was matured in new French oak, greets you with distinct yeasty lees scents, followed by oak notes and finally by fresh layers of tropical fruit – lemons, limes and a suggestion of grapefruit.
After two years the wine still seems young enough to benefit from further ageing.
I’d put it away for another three years at least to allow it to reach its full potential.
I believe this wine will grow into a very elegant lady.
Bouchard Finlayson 2010 Limited Edition Kaaimansgat
05/04/2011: The Bouchard Finlayson winery in the Hemel en Aarde Valley has earned a reputation for producing wines that are full of individuality and charm.
So when Peter Finlayson releases a “Limited Edition” you can be pretty certain it’s going to be something very special.
The 2010 Limited Edition Kaaimansgat (Crocodile’s Lair) was recently released and follows in the elegant footsteps of the 2009 vintage.
This is a clever blend of barrel-fermented Chardonnay with a good portion of crisp, unwooded Chardonnay, so you get layers of subtle oak interspersed with fresh citrus and melon flavours. None of the component flavours dominates. The whole is harmonious and perfectly integrated. Each sip invites the next, just to make sure you really did get that waft of peach, or maybe green melon.
This is a wine that will age very well and could easily keen developing for another five years or so in the right conditions.
Only a few thousand bottles were produced, so snoozers will most certainly be losers in this case.
Swartland 2011 Blanc de Noir
01/04/2011: One of the first of the 2011 wines to reach me was the Swartland Winery’s Blanc de Noir, a pretty charmer made from Pinotage.
This coral pink wine greets you with wafts of fresh strawberry scents and follows these with crisp strawberry and cranberry flavours, held together by a nice little bite of acidity for added freshness. It finishes dry and fruity, with a suggestion of black pepper.
This is not a wine for serious sniffing, eye-rolling and discussion. It’s obviously been made for fun. Open it soon and serve it lightly chilled at the poolside or patio.
It’s the perfect accompaniment to salmon paté on crispy French bread, or a chicken salad.
You could also serve it on its own as a pre-lunch aperitif.
At a mere R25 a bottle this is a real bargain!
JC le Roux Brut (non vintage)
28/03/2011: I was delighted to see that the House of JC le Roux have released a non-vintage Methode Cap Classique bubbly. Its absence was a noticeable gap in their line-up. All the good Champagne houses have a good, reliable non-vintage brut as their “entry level” sparkler. The new bubbly is a blend of the classic Champagne varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s crisp and fresh in style, with a nice lick of citrus notes and a fine mousse. There’s not much of that warm, yeasty character one finds in MCC bubblies that have been left on the lees for a long time, but this is a wine obviously intended for everyday casual enjoyment. Priced at under R70 a bottle, the JC le Roux Brut is ideal for Champagne breakfasts, or simply for sipping by the poolside on a summer’s day. I can see it becoming a firm favourite among those of us who regard sparkling wine as something to be enjoyed not only at special occasions. Well, come to think of it, a glass of bubbles makes any event a special occasion – even a breakfast.
Clos Malverne Le Café Pinotage 2010 26/03/2011:
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That seems to be the philosophy behind the launch of this latest Pinotage from Clos Malverne, an estate already known for its loyalty to the Pinotage grape. Several cellars have recently released Pinotages with a distinctly coffee-flavoured character (obtained by using heavily toasted oak staves). You either love them or hate them, but the fact is they sell well. It seems young drinkers and newcomers to red wine enjoy the distinctive flavour, and if they buy it, why should the vintners complain? Maybe these wines will convert non-wine-drinkers to the delights of the grape. Not to be left out, Clos Malverne has produced a coffee Pinotage too. The 2010 Le Café is a pleasantly savoury wine with just enough of the coffee flavour and aroma to make it distinctive. But there are other rather nice facets too – a suggestion of smoky bacon and a hint of saltiness. I’m not entirely sold on the coffee cult, but I did enjoy this one. Breakfast in a glass.
Raka Quinary 2007
Raka's owner, Piet Dreyer, in his vineyards
12/03/2011: This is without doubt one of the finest red blends I’ve tasted so far this year. Raka Quinary is a Cabernet Sauvignon based blend of five Bordeaux grape varieties and the 2007 vintage is settling down to smooth perfection right now. It has loads of wonderful ripe dark fruit flavours – plums, blackberries and dark cherries – without being one of those tutti-frutti juice-bombs that seem all to popular right now. Quinary is deceptively light on the palate, but there’s a darker side to it, rich and spicy with a dry, lingering finish and a hint of spice in the final flick of flavour. I think you could serve this with almost any serious meat dish, but I’d like to enjoy it on its own, just sharing the delight with a friend or two. If your palate is anything like mine you’ll find yourself hopefully up-ending the bottle in case there’s just one more drop left. Raka, incidentally, was named after owner Piet Dreyer’s famous black fishing vessel. Piet Dreyer spent 36 years at sea as a professional fisherman before buying the farm and settling down to winemaking.
Newton Johnson 2007 Syrah Mourvedre
11/03/2011: One of the problems with buying wines one bottle at a time (as many of us do) is that you never know whether you should have kept it a little longer before opening it. I enjoyed this 2007 red blend from Newton Johnson Wines, but couldn’t help feeling it would grow to even greater elegance if I’d waited a couple of years. Right now it’s silky and smooth, with the delightful spicy notes one expects from a Syrah, and a hint of savoury meatiness, nicely offset by some cool minerality. It’s undoubtedly a food wine, and would enhance a meal of rare steak or roast venison. The clean acid balance would make it a good companion to a juicy ox-tail stew as well. I’m tempted to buy two more bottles (which is about all I can afford right now) and wait for another year between opening each bottle. PS: Winemakers Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson presented their daughter Anabelle to the world last year. She was born on the 14th of June and with her wine background she will probably follow in her family’s footsteps.
Nitida 2010 Sauvignon Blanc
Bernhard Veller, owner of Nitida
26/02/2011: Looking for a cooling drink to enjoy on a hot and humid summer’s day, I selected a Nitida 2010 Sauvignon Blanc that had been chilling in the fridge for a few hours. It turned out to be the perfect choice. Durbanville has earned a reputation for making fine, elegant Sauvignon Blancs that actually improve with a couple of years of maturation. This one was superb. Not by any means pushy or aggressive, like some rather acidic versions of this variety, the Nitida has subtle, understated layers of all the flavours you hope to find in a good Sauvignon Blanc – Cape gooseberries, lime juice and zest and even a suggestion of granadilla. And they’re all in happy balance. The finish is clean and slightly salty. This is a wine to sip on a warm summer evening, sharing a beautiful sunset with friends. It’s pleasant as a drink on its own, but it would be the perfect compliment to smoked salmon or even sushi. I’d like to taste a bottle of this 2010 vintage in another year or two. I think it will last.
Linton Park Capell’s Court Shiraz 2008
07/02/2011: It’s always pleasing to find a really good wine at a modest price. It proves, yet again, that you don’t have to be hugely wealthy to enjoy he good things in life. Capell’s Court Shiraz, which is produced at Linton Park in Wellington, retails for just under R50 a bottle and I believe it ranks among the best Shirazes we have. It has all the warm, “masculine” flavours and aromas I expect from a Shiraz – smoky, biltong and coriander scents, juicy ripe red berry flavours, finely balance by silky soft tannins and a finish that is long and slightly savoury. The label describes it as an “off-dry” red wine, but I find it elegantly dry. Any residual sugar there may be merely adds to the fruit flavours. I’d serve this with a Cape babotie, or maybe a grilled lamb chop.
De Grendel Shiraz 2007
02/02/2011: The 2007 vintage seems to have been an excellent one for red wines here in the Cape. At a recent blind tasting of reds I noticed most of my top scoring wines were from ’07. One that really impressed me was the De Grendel Shiraz ’07. It’s a deep ruby-coloured wine with typical spicy shiraz aromas of dark chocolate, violets and some savoury scents, rather like a good, smoky salami. This is a smooth wine full of juicy ripe fruit flavours, with those chocolate and savoury notes unfolding as you sip. Definitely more-ish. The finish is long and silky smooth. This is a wine that could last well for another four or five years, although it’s drinking deliciously right now. Why wait? I think it would go well with a slow-roasted lamb shank and creamy mashed potatoes. Actually, I’d like to drink it on its own, shared with a good friend while watching the sun set.
24/01/2011: Dr Julius Laszlo was an innovative winemaker who was in charge of the Bergkelder for many years and introduced many of the winemaking techniques that are now regarded as standard practice in the Cape’s wine industry. He was particularly interested in the effects of different kinds of oak barrels on Cape wines. To honour his memory the Bergkelder created a special red blend called simply, Laszlo, back in 2004. It’s a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. I was lucky enough to attend the launch of the new wine, and also lucky enough to have some spare cash in my bank account at the time, so I ordered a case of the 2004 Laszlo to be stored in the Bergkelder’s Vinoteque for me. And forgot about it. It came as a pleasant surprise recently when I was reminded of my buried treasure, and went to collect it. What a treat it has turned out to be! It’s a big, spicy, masculine wine loaded with the spicy aromas and flavours of tobacco, toasty oak, ripe prunes, cedar wood and dark red berries. After seven years it’s reached delicious smoothness, but will last a good few years still. It’s the kind of wine that will match the favours of a medium rare rump steak or a steak and kidney pudding, but I think it’s best enjoyed just on its own, shared with an appreciative wine friend. It deserves your undivided attention. I wish I’d ordered more of it. I am sure Dr Laszlo would have been proud of the wine that bears his name.
Topiary Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 18/01/2011: Topiary is a relatively new label on our shelves, having been established in Franschhoek as recently as 2005. Their deliciously light Rosé has already gained many friends as a cheerfully accessible lunch-time wine to enjoy without ceremony. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is a far more serious offering, quite savoury in character, with dusty notes and some oak vanilla on the nose. Rich plumcake flavours are balanced by quite a firm tannic backbone and a well-balanced acidity that suggests the wine has a good few years of life ahead, even if it’s already five years old. Definitely a wine to lay down for future drinking pleasure. Rietvallei Esteanna 2007
17/01/2011: I’ve always admired Johnny Burger of Rietvallei for being one of the first of our winemakers to take Muscadel seriously. While all the rest were content to sell their muscadels in bottles that shouted “cheap and nasty” the Rietvallei Muscadel was treated with elegance and style. Rievallei Muscadel looked as good as it tasted. And I’ve often said that our sweet fortified wines should be South Africa’s trademark wines. We do them so damn well! Open one in any other country and they’re blown away by the rich honey flavours. So I expected good things when I opened a bottle of Rietvallei’s 2007 Esteanna, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. I was not disappointed. It’s a bold, spicy wine with wonderful layers of blackberry and plum flavours backed by a hint of tobacco scent and a suggestion of oak vanilla. This is a wine to serve with a hearty meal of beef or venison. Buy a bottle or two now and put them away for a chilly winter’s evening. I think the 2007 has a good few years to go yet, although it’s drinking well now
Obikwa Shiraz 2009
11/01/2011: It’s always exciting to share a magnum with friends, but usually it’s a bit too expensive for any but the most auspicious occasion. I was happy to open a magnum of 2009 Obikwa Shiraz with pals at a braai over the festive season, though. It retails for less than R50, so it won’t bust the budget. In fact it’s pretty cheap at that price. Only R25 a bottle! And it’s a very friendly, acceptable wine. Easy spices, red berry and plum notes are backed by some firm tannins and nice little suggestion of oak. It’s the kind of wine you pour and enjoy without ceremony — no need to sniff and roll the eyes and pretend to be a connoisseur with this happy quaffer. Like most of the wines in the Obikwa range there’s a little dash of sweetness in this one. Not enough to make it sticky, but it does add to the fruit favours. I’m not surprised the Obikwa wines sell so well overseas. This is really excellent value for money.
Vrede en Lust Mocholate Malbec 2009
05/01/2011: I’ve become a trifle wary of red wines that claim to taste like coffee. As far as I’m concerned there’s a place for coffee and a place for wine and they’re not the same place. So I was a bit cautious in my approach to Vrede en Lust’s Mocholate Malbec 2009. Would this be just another coffee bomb? I needn’t have worried. The dominant flavours here are ripe red berries — mostly mulberries, I think, with a suggestion of cranberry tartness. There is a subtle hint of dark chocolate, but it’s tucked away in the background, making this a pleasingly complex wine. I’d like to drink it with a venison dish. I think the berry notes would go well with the wild flavours of a springbok pie. Maybe it would also team up well with a roast leg of pork. On its own, it’s definitely more-ish. In the present hot weather I’d give it about half an hour in the fridge before serving.
Robertson Winery Light Chenin Blanc 2010
03/01/2011: There have been so many news stories about road blocks and drunk drivers arrested over the festive season that, quite frankly, I’m running scared. I don’t want to end up spending a night sharing a police sell with a bunch of drug-crazed rapists. On the other hand, I really can’t see myself enjoying a party with friends while sipping a mineral water. This is why I ended up buying a bottle of Robertson Winery’s low-alcohol Light Chenin Blanc off-dry 2010. I reckoned that at a mere 9,5% alcohol it would allow me two glasses during the evening (with food) and still get me through any road block with less than the maximum allowed alcohol content. I confess I bought the wine simply as a desperation measure, but to my surprise I ended up really enjoying it. The touch of sweetness prevents the wine being thin and boring, and there’s a nice fruity Chenin Blanc character to it – green apples, pears, maybe even a hint of apricot. And the finish is perfectly dry, so it doesn’t leave a sticky feeling. I’m going back for a couple more bottles. It’s not expensive and I’ll be taking it along to parties in future. Remember, though, that after several glasses of this pleasant and delicate wine, you could easy be over the limit. Take it easy. Arrange for a non-drinking driver to take you home if that’s at all possible. Even with a “light” wine.
Last year’s wine discoveries are listed below … most of which are still available for you to enjoy too Karoo people tend to be generous by nature. Whenever there’s a neighbourhood gathering the catering is nothing short of overwhelming. It seems to be a point of pride to provide enough food and drink to feed an army – even if it’s just for tea after a tennis game. Guests seldom leave, after even a short visit to any of he neighbours, without clutching baskets of farm produce – meat, eggs, butter, home-made bread, you name it. Of course we city visitors feel we should be able to return at least some of this generosity when we visit, but how? And the obvious answer is by bringing good wines to share. Karoo bottle stores and supermarkets are sadly underwhelming and the range they offer is usually small and unimaginative. It’s pleasing to be able to offer your Karoo hosts interesting and exciting new wine experiences to share. Sometimes these lead to exciting discoveries, even for us regular wine drinkers from the Cape. Among the assorted wines I carried in from my car were a couple of bottles of an unpretentious range of wines from Villiersdorp, with jokey labels like Dam Good Red and Dam Good White. I had included them simply to fill up a case of assorted wines. We cracked a bottle of the Dam Good Red one evening after supper and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a wine with warm, smoky notes of blackberries and spices and a lovely soft structure that makes it very more-ish. I’m embarrassed to say two of us downed the bottle with nary a backward glance as we watched Who Wants to be a Millionaire on TV. We both seemed a little surprised to find the bottle empty so soon. My hostess carefully wrote down the label details in case she can find more of this fine discovery when they next travel to Bloemfontein for a major shopping excursion. I shall be looking for more of it when I return to the Cape. I think it’s a real find. Of course there are other delights among the bottles I brought, and I am sure they will provide great pleasure, but this cheeky little red blend from Villiersdorp came as a delightful discovery. I suppose that’s one of the great joys of wine – a surprise around every corner. Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1995 15/12/2010: Every now and then one is lucky enough to taste a great wine that has been allowed to age gracefully until it has reached perfection. I was privileged to share one such bottle recently. It was a bottle of Grangehurst’s 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend. What a treat! It was bought back in ’95, when a friend tasted it at Grangehurst and recognised its potential. She bought a case and stored it in the cool basement of yet another friend’s house in Kommetjie, where it lay until last year, half forgotten. We opened it with some trepidation. Had it been left too long? Would it still be drinkable? We need not have worried. It was totally delicious. Time has softened it and turned it to liquid velvet, but it still has the fresh, bright berry flavours that went into it all those years ago. The finish goes on an on forever, leaving you longing for the next sip. We rationed ourselves carefully, trying to spread the pleasure as far as possible. Sadly, the case is now empty and all we have is the fond memory of a great wine. A perfectly aged red wine has a dimension no early-drinking supermarket wine can ever hope to match. Jordan Chameleon Dry Rosé 2010 13/12/2010: I’m always delighted to discover a crisp, dry rosé wine. It’s a style that I feel is perfectly suited to the South African way of life – light and cool without being boring, full-flavoured without being heavy. Jordan’s Chameleon Dry Rosé 2010 fills the bill exactly. Made from Shiraz and Merlot, it offers lovely fresh berry flavours with a suggestion of ripe plums, all ending crisply dry. It’s a wine that lends itself to leisurely lunches by the pool, or simply as a friendly drink in the cool of a summer’s evening. I think it will match a selection of cold meats, chicken or any seafood dish. It also goes well with mild Indian dishes like korma or lamb rogon josh. Chameleon Dry Rosé sells for R50 a bottle on the farm. Creation Pinot Noir 2009 03/12/2010: The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley has gained a reputation for producing superb Pinot Noir wines. Winemakers all seem to agree this grape presents a challenge, and the team at Creation have obviously met the challenge admirably. Creation’s Pinot Noir ’09 is rather less “earthy” than most. I found subtle flavours of cherry and cranberry on a bed of nicely curbed tannins and a suggestion of clean oak vanilla. There were fewer of the mushroom notes that can occur in a Pinot. Its light ruby colour could give the impression of a frivolous drink, but this wine shows tremendous promise. I look forward to tasting it again in four or five years, when I think it will have reached splendid elegance. It’s no surprise to find it scored a creditable four stars in the latest edition of the Platter guide.
Muratie Ansela van de Caab ’07
is one of those wineries that manages to escape the glare of publicity, but continues to produce fine wines, vintage after vintage. Their Ansela van de Caab ’07 is a delicious blend of traditional Bordeaux varies, Cabernet, Merlot and Cab Franc. Some was matured in new wood, some in second fill barrels, before blending. The result is a well-structured drink, understated and delicately balanced. All the elements – ripe berry fruit, spicy vanilla notes and soft tannins — unfold elegantly on the palate.
This is a charming link between the rather pushy tutti-frutti wines of the New World and the very sedate, austere wines of the Old. I think it would go well with a traditional roast beef, done quite rare and served with traditional Yorkshire pudding (does anybody do that these days?).
Landskroon Pinotage 2008 21/11/2010:As a wine writer I have the privilege of tasting some of the country’s most celebrated wines. And there are some really great wines out there, particularly when you dip into those costing R500 a bottle — and more. But life isn’t all Champagne and caviar. Sometimes we just want a good wine to share with a friend. Wine is all about balance, and we need to balance the wine with the occasion. Just as we don’t enjoy wines where the wood in dominant, or the acidity is searingly overpowering, so we don’t always want a wine that will dominate the conversation. When good friends chat over a glass of wine, the wine should form a background – rather that stealing the spotlight. There are other things to discuss, apart from wine. I opened a bottle of Landskroon’s delightful 2008 Pinotage recently, to share with a good friend, and we sipped and chatted happily. Conversation ranged from politics to music, good books, sailing, travel and food. And occasionally – just occasionally, one of us would take a sip and say: “Damn! This is good stuff.” Landskroon’s Pinotage is a fresh, lively drink with a sweet-and-sour tang of cranberries and ripe plums. Not too sweet, not too sour, not too tannic, but certainly not by any means dull. And it’s not one of our new world style tutti-frutti fruit bombs by any means. Very, very more-ish. I bought it in a local wine shop for R45 (Obviously not very local as I live in “dry” Fish Hoek) and I’ll certainly be back before long for another couple of bottles. Balanced? I’d say so. It provides that perfect balance between price and quality. For most of us, that’s always important. Zonnebloem Limited Releases 16/11/2010:I am sometimes asked about wineries that produce “limited release” or “reserve” versions of wines they have in their normal ranges. Are they really better, or merely more expensive than the “standard” versions? I tasted Zonnebloem’s two Limited Edition releases this week and, yes, I believe they are rather special. There’s a 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and a 2008 Shiraz. Big companies like Distell receive grapes from all areas of the Cape and produce wines in very large volumes. But occasionally a very special batch comes into the cellar and is treated separately – nursed and monitored apart from the bulk of the wine, and if it comes up to expectations it is considered for release as a limited release wine. They’re not produced every year. The Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is what good Sauvignon Blanc is all about – it has all the grassy, green pepper and gooseberry flavours that make this varietal so charming if it’s done well. It’s big and fresh and juicy with ripe pineapple wafts and a long, clean finish. And at around R60 a bottle it represents pretty good value. I’d like to drink it with pork chops or seared tuna. Or maybe just on its own as a chilled sundowner. The 2008 Shiraz is also unmistakably Shiraz in character – spicy and smoky, with welcoming ripe plum flavours. It’s been in oak barrels for 14 months, but the wood flavours are very subtle and kept firmly in the background. It’s drinking well now, but I think it will mature elegantly over the next two or three years (if you have the patience and storage). It’s been priced at around R100 a bottle, and, considering only about 9000 litres were made, that’s not a bad price. It would go well with a big roast leg of Karoo lamb for your Christmas Eve dinner. (And if you think R100 is a lot to pay for a bottle of good wine, wait until you see the price of a leg of lamb!) La Motte Shiraz 2008 14/11/2010:All the good things you expect from a shiraz are here in abundance – spicy wafts of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg on the nose, followed by fresh cranberry fruit, a hint of fresh-ground pepper and a long, clean finish. Flavours unfold on the tongue, layer by layer. At this stage it’s quite youthful and tangy. I’d keep it at least another two years if I had the patience. The spice and fruit make it an ideal companion to a venison pie – or even paired with your Christmas turkey. Expect to pay about R100 a bottle, but shop around. Solms-Delta Gemoedsrus 2009 09/11/2010:Whether you like them or not, the wines of Solms-Delta are always intriguingly different. I recently tasted their Gemoedsrus fortified Shiraz 2009, made from grapes that were desiccated on the vine. In other words, the stalks were crushed some time before the harvest, cutting off the supply of sap to the berries, which then shrivelled and dried in the sun. The starved berries developed a very concentrated flavour by the time they were picked. The resulting wine is a sweet-sour drink, reminiscent of cranberries, ending on a dry, almost dusty note. I found myself going back for a second and third sip, just to make sure I really had tasted what I thought I had. It’s rather charming and I think it would go well with a blue cheese on a cracker at the end of a meal. Maybe you could serve it with your Christmas turkey. Don’t get too carried away if you plan to drive home afterwards. The Solms-Delta Desiccated Shiraz is fortified to a hefty 18,5% alcohol. You’ll sleep like a baby. Incidentally, “Gemoedsrus” translates as “Peace of Mind.” Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc 05/11/2010: Wine merchants tell me it’s difficult to sell older vintages of white wine. Apparently South African customers always want the very latest vintage of any white wine. This is a pity, because there are many excellent white wines made to last – and develop – for many years. I recently tasted a line-up of all the vintages of Oak Valley Sauvignon Blanc, from the 2003 (maiden vintage) up to the 2010 (not yet released). Those older vintages are drinking well now – they’ve developed an intriguing complexity and elegance they couldn’t possibly have had when they were new. The ’03 is still lively and packed with tropical fruit flavours. I enjoyed it as much as the ’08, which is very subtle and understated, but still with a fresh pineapple and melon character. It’s interesting to note that Oak Valley began using screw-cap closures from 2005, and they’ve bottled vintages equally under cork and screw-cap since then. The results are worth noting. Throughout the range screw-caps give a greater consistency, with hardly any variation from one bottle to the next. Wines bottled under cork vary noticeably from bottle to bottle, but – here’s the rub! – a good cork-sealed wine does seem to be better than a good screw-capped one. Now the choice is yours. Do you go for a screw-capped wi
ne you know will be consistently good, or take a chance on getting one which may be superb, but could also be underwhelming? The good news is that all the Oak Valley wines we tasted were delicious, no matter how they were sealed. Knorhoek Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 02/11/2010: The name Knorhoek has always fascinated me – “growling corner”. For many years my only contact with it was the sign that said “Knorhoek Pad” pointing along the road that led to Delheim and Miuratie. The farm wasn’t open to the public. Apparently the name dates back to the 1700s, when the Dutch East India Company employee, Martin Melck, named it: “de plaats waar de leeuwen knorren” – the place where the lions roar. Melck gave the property to his daughter as a wedding gift and it has been in Van Niekerk family ever since. But it’s only in the last 10 years that wines have been produced under the Knorhoek label, and they’ve been pretty spectacular from the start, gathering a rich harvest of gold and double gold medals. I believe the Van Niekerks did produce some wines back in the 1930s, but only for family and friends, unlabelled. Winemaker Arno Albertyn describes 2007 as a magical year for red wines. The ’07 Knorhoek Cabernet Sauvignon is a big, powerful wine, rich and complex, with typical cassis flavour and some savoury notes underpinned by nice firm, but not aggressive tannins. I believe it will last a long time (not in my wine cupboard!) and be the perfect companion to serious, meaty dishes like roast venison or Karoo mutton. It costs just under R100 a bottle at the cellar. I’d recommend setting aside a bottle for your Christmas dinner. Groote Post Old Man’s Blend White 28/10/2010: If it weren’t for the god-awful piece of road from the N7 to Groote Post cellar I’d probably go there far more often than I do. In any case, it’s worth a few bone-jarring bumps to taste their great wines. The bad bit isn’t very long, anyway. This cellar is a real treasure chest, offering reliable, honest wines at sensible prices. I recently re-tasted their latest vintage of Old Man’s Blend White, made of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. It’s such a treat! You get flavours of pineapple, lime, green apple and peach, with a nice crisp, but not searing, acidity. I think it’s a perfect seafood accompaniment, but pleasant as a casual summer sundowner on its own. Reasonably priced at R46,50 a bottle, it comes in a handy screw-cap bottle, so it’s ideal to keep in the fridge for an occasion sip while you’re doing the household chores. Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009 26/10/2010: It seems every winemaker feels obliged to produce a Sauvignon Blanc – and many of them make really dreadful wines. In far too many cases Sauvignon Blancs are made green and acidic enough to remove the enamel from your teeth. I think the grapes must be picked too soon, or grown in areas where the soil – or climate – is simply not right for the variety. But when they do get it right, Sauvignon Blanc can be charming and refreshing. Such a wine is the Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Cellarmaster Martin Moore produces three different Sauvignon Blancs in the cellar – all very drinkable and generous in character. The one labelled simply Durbanville Hills is the “standard” one, made in large quantities. But there’s nothing mass-produced about the character of the wine, which is elegant and delicate and packed with soft, tropical fruit flavours – guava, melon and a suggestion of peach. There’s also a nice underlying hint of green pepper. It’s the perfect wine to enjoy with a chicken salad or smoked salmon with a trickle of lemon juice. I’d also serve it on its own at the beginning of a meal, as a pleasant aperitif, particularly at a summer lunch. Incidentally, the other two sauvignon blancs from Durbanville are in the Biesjes Craal and Rhinofields ranges. Both scored four stars in the 2010 Platter Guide. This standard version scored three. Sensibly, it comes sealed with a screw cap – always a plus in my book. Secateurs Red Blend 2007 25/10/2010: There’s something very charming about the wines from Adi Badenhorst’s cellar in the Swartland. Some might call him a bit of a maverick because he dares to explore different styles and unusual blends. His Secateurs Red Blend 2007, for example, contains Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Merlot, Carignan, Cinsault and Grenache. All the grapes were fermented together in concrete tanks, then transferred to older barrels to mature for 14 months. As can be expected, the result is a wonderfully complex experience. Layers of berry flavours, ripe plums, spices and herbs unfold on the tongue. The 2007 is reaching an exciting stage now, crisp and tangy with a nice tannic bite. I’d like to taste it again in a couple of years to see how it’s developed. My guess is it will grow to elegant greatness in another four or five years. Adi’s rather cheeky approach to winemaking is reflected in his wine’s label. A tiny black-backed jackal can be seen sneaking off to the right. I’m told the jackal’s purpose is to mark the exact half-way mark of the bottle. I certainly didn’t stop there. My jackal was left far above the high-water mark. Vergenoegd Terrace Bay 2003 23/10/2010: Most wines made today are meant to be enjoyed fairly young. This is because few modern homes have the facilities for proper wine storage. Research has shown that about 90% of all wines are consumed within 24 hours of being bought. There are, however, still some vintners who produce serious wines meant for long ageing. One of these is John Faure of Vergenoegd Estate. Vergenoegd has been in the Faure family for six generations, so they’ve had plenty of time to work out what wine styles suit the farm’s terroir best. I tasted John’s Terrace Bay 2003 red blend recently and found it delicious. Seven years old and still fresh and lively. In fact, I think it had some years to go before reaching its peak. I was sad that it was my last bottle. Terrace Bay is made from a blend of five different red grape varieties and unfolds on the tongue to reveal layers of spice, black cherries and ripe fruit with a suggestion of mint, rich and supple. The finish lingers on and on. The final glass from the bottle showed some tartrate crystal sediment, which I always think is a good sign. It shows the wine has not been over-filtered. You’re getting the whole lot. Woolworths Organic Feeding Duck Chardonnay 21/10/2010: I’m afraid my initial reaction to any wine that’s labelled “organic” is one of irritation. For me, wine is there for pure enjoyment. I don’t need to save the planet while I’m enjoying it. It’s rather like drinking decaffeinated coffee or diet cooldrinks. What’s the point? So I admit I approached the Woolworths Organic Feeding Duck Chardonnay with some reluctance. Of course I was merely being churlish. One should approach every wine with an open mouth – er – mind. This is a delightful Chardonnay with a nice
warm-biscuit character from spending some time of the lees (spent yeast cells). It offers pleasing layers of flavour – peaches, dried fruit and herbs – in a gently accessible drink that will go very well with almost any summer food like salads, cheeses, cold meats or chicken. Like most Woolworths wines, it’s reasonably priced. It was produced for the chain by Stellar Organic Winery up in Vredendal, and the label says no pesticides were used in the vineyards from which it was made. That’s actually a good thing to know. Residues from pesticides all find their way to the sea eventually, and then we eat poisoned fish. The rather unusual names comes from the fact that a team of ducks roams the vineyard to destroy snails and other pests. Maybe I’m ready to save the planet after all. Painted Wolf The Den Cabernet Sauvignon 12/10/2010: There’s a whole pack of wines in the Painted Wolf range. The label refers to the highly endangered African Wild Dog and each of the wines bears a picture of these colourful animals. Winemaker Jeremy Borg produces three ranges in the series — The Pack, Cape Hunting range and The Den. The Den Cabernet Sauvignon is a smooth, easy-drinking wine with lovely berry flavours — blackberries and cranberries up front. There’s some nice grippy tannin holding it together, but no roughness or harshness. The wine’s drinking well now, but I suspect it will mature rather nicely for another couple of years. I think it would go perfectly with Italian food or a juicy hamburger. At about R50 a bottle it’s pretty good value as an everyday food accompaniment. Knorhoek Two Cubs Rosé & Two Cubs Red Blend 06/10/2010: Not every wine occasion calls for great and serious award-winning drinks. Most of the time we just want a pleasing wine to enjoy without ceremony, in good company. This is exactly what Knorhoek’s Two Cubs range of wines offers. They’re playful and zesty. The Two Cubs Rosé is a pretty pink blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that offers lovely fresh berry flavours and a clean dry finish – perfect for outdoor lunches or light seafood dishes.The Two Cubs Red Blend 2008 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinotage with a tiny splash of Viognier for added zest) is delightfully smooth and silky, with flavours of red berries and a hint of coffee in the background. I’d serve it with a mutton bredie or at a braai. It’s friendly and accessible without any grand pretensions. Allée Bleue Dry Rosé 29/09/2010: I have often said I felt a dry rosé was the perfect kind of wine for a South African summer drink. I’m also on record as saying Shiraz seems to be the grape that fares best in almost every wine region of this country. So I was delighted to taste winemaker Van Zyl du Toit’s Allée Bleue Dry Rosé, which is make from Shiraz grapes. It’s a pretty pink wine with the scent of ripe strawberries and roses, and the subtle flavour of spicy cherries with a crisp dry acid balance. It sells for R32 a bottle on the farm, making it excellent value for your money. I think it’s the sort of wine hat would go well with a grilled lamb chop, but I’d suggest it was perfect to sip on its own a warm summer evening on the patio. Neethlingshof Owl Post Pinotage 23/09/2010: I was delighted to taste the recently released 2008 Neethlingshof Owl Post Pinotage. This curiously named wine was labelled in honour of the owls that keep Neethlingshof’s vineyards free of rodents that were damaging the root systems of the vines. Posts have been erected at various points of the farm, and owls use them as perches from which they guard the vineyards at night. To make this truly delicious wine the vineyard was divided into three blocks, each of which was given completely different leaf canopy management to achieve three different grape flavour profles.The three resulting pickings were vinified separately, aged in separate Hungarian, French and American barrels and then blended together and bottled. The result is full-flavoured and complex, with rich savoury notes, dark fruit and silky soft tannins. It’s delicious right now, but could age elegantly for at least another five years. It’s a wine for collectors and should sell for about R130 a bottle. La Brie Shiraz-Viognier 17/09/2010: What a delight to taste La Bri’s 2007 Shiraz-Viognier! It’s a soft and elegant red wine with wonderfully smooth tannins and a suggestion of violets on the nose. The flavours are softly spicy and the finish lingers on and on. I expected quite a fiery kick from the 15% alcohol, but time seems to have integrated it it so smoothly with the spice and berry flavours that it’s hardly noticeable. If you have any in your cellar, it’s worth opening now, although it should last a good couple of years yet if you’re not in a hurry