Recently, I was fortunate enough to spend some quality time in South Africa where we got plenty of time to get to know each other better. There was chemistry, attraction, serendipity even controversy…all the makings of a successful relationship. Overall, there was much to explore and I, as usual, felt extremely short on time. As a result, I would urge you to treat none of my views as final; more in-the-making if anything; as I always like things to be. A read through this may not make you a Cape Wine Master (such may be out of the grasp of many as it is) but it should definitely give you enough grounding and juice to be able to hold your own if accosted by the Pinotage Association of Disgruntled Winemakers (if they aren’t disgruntled yet, they are yet to read on further below).
Sliding on, this is what I have come to learn about this lovely winemaking country.
The bad bits first. SA Rosé is best left un-discussed. Nothing deep nor fruity and vibrant, it’s a confused and confusing endeavour. I wouldn’t blame the heat because if the Mediterranean countries can do it, so should it be possible here. But then, rosé isn’t exactly a tragic loss to anybody. Moving on…
The sparkling wines of SA are also quite a disappointment – the Méthode Cap Classique or MCC is a good attempt although balance for a clear majority remains elusive. Fruit or yeast may dominate but the bubble can often be coarse and aggressive. Many local winemakers too agreed, although they did look cautiously in both directions before commenting. The thing is that the general heat does take the spring out of them and as a result most of them weigh heavy on the palate. The ‘lift’ in a good champagne or a Franciacorta is missing here and that makes most of the ones I had seem flabby. Peter Ferreira does manage to well redeem himself and I would love to see him be in charge of a vintage at a good Champagne house – let’s face it, most big champagne houses get it grotesquely wrong and would benefit from the experience and knowledge pool of someone who manages to battle the odds and the weather and make a very commendable bubbly. Morensol too deserves mention.
SA Semillon is more oak driven, a sort of a last-ditch effort to revive a dying dry style. Nothing exceptional but few Semillon in the world are and South Africa seems to not quite be clear as to why they are working with this grape and how do they really want to define and play it.
SA Shiraz tends to be a nice fruit-forward style with decent oak…nothing too overpowering which, I learnt, is not a preferred style here either. Alcohol can be high but balance comes through in the form of fruit and flavour. Tannins aren’t too charged. Won’t say much for ageing potential but there is a decent drinking window.
SA Cabernet Sauvignon (CS) is a rare gem which is to say that they are hard to come by; most tend to go capsicum-y or Brett-fested…(sterile solution/band-aid/elastoplasts smells). Else, a new style with mint is also to be found but can very easily smell cooked. Peppery styles are definitely not the norm. Aromas are aplenty but ripeness seems a problem in many. Not great by general international standards. I wouldn’t say that they can’t produce any, oh yes they can and they do. But few do them straight; the thing is that the best CS often end up in the prestige house (Bordeaux) blends or in a Cape Blend: which is basically a Bordeaux blend with an obligatory Pinotage component. I tried some great straight Cabernet Franc (CF) and Merlot as well. But you have to remember that blending with less than 15% of another grape needn’t be mentioned on the label and the same goes for wines from another vintage. As a result, 30% of the wine we drink could actually be from other sources. But let’s just give them the benefit of doubt on that one as the end product did taste elegant and well-executed.
Stellenbosch is the definite centre of all winemaking activity in South Africa. I haven’t explored the Eastern reaches of their vine lands yet (neighbouring Durban) but I am told that the warmer Indian Ocean is proving to be quite a boon. Van der Stell was the first governor of the area and when he came here the place was little more than a little dwelling in the woods. Mr. Stell was out in the bush and hence the name Stell-en-Bosch. In fact, stories abound as to how he stayed on a small island on one of the rivers passing through the city so as to avoid being bitten by snakes and as happens ironically in most such cases, a snake bite was to be his (fatal) nemesis.
Paarl, which is the Dutch word for Pearl also has an interesting story behind it. The black granite cliffs and rocks that encase the region shine and glisten wherever water runs down them, or a rainshower wets an already exposed chunk. This glistening quality is truly picturesque and it is what gave the area its name.
Speaking of Dutch names for places, the wine region is a treasure trove of such historical finds. The Franschoek region, or the French Corner was where the Huguenots settled, brought in to work in the mines. The Jonkerhoek or the student’s corner is a small area in Stellenbosch which today houses the university student housing.
Paardeberg is a bit more inland, in the Swartland region and the winemaking here is very different, somewhat reminiscent of Rhone and Southern France. The heat is excruciatingly high especially during harvest and the vines were and are classically trained in the goblet style. The winemakers I had the opportunity to meet were only too keen to let the vines and the soil and air express themselves and hence felt trellising to be an unnecessary restrain.
Then, you can head extreme south to Cape Point. And right now would be a god time to share with you that the Cape of Good Hope is not the Southern-most tip of the African continent. That title would go to Cape Agulhas, or the Cape of Pins. The Cape of Good Hope is where ships often mistakenly came into thinking that they had gone around the tip. Imagine their disappointment when they found they had to do another loop to be truly out and around. Hence the name of that misleading bay, the False Bay.
Apart from that, Hermanus is truly the Burgundy-inspired region. From spectacular views of the False Bay, the scenic (excuse my spellings please) Hemel en Aarde (Heaven and Earth) valley and the Cape Dutch architecture dotted wine-houses – this is the land of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Sure people are planting the other regulars (SB, CS, Shiraz, etc.) as well and they are all doing rather well but for me it just seems to distract from the integrity of the region. They stand to lose clarity and definition in the world market should they continue to blur their image and recognising characteristics. But hey, I am sure they know what they are doing. The original Pinot Noir (PN) was a Swiss clone, the BK5, and it wasn’t the same, wasn’t even Pinot Noir really. It was, so to say, too feeble. Burgundy clones are now the norm. And, as Peter Finlayson said, PN is not a grape that’s low in tannins and the wines are most definitely not to be drunk young. They can often have a dull phase anything between 3-10 years but then the wines revive. In the words of Peter, it’s a white wine variety that a producer may also make red with.
SA Sauvignon Blanc (SB) is a nice find – it goes away from the aggressive styles which involve unpleasing to sound adjectives like cat’s pee! They do use oak here but work towards wines with myriad aromas – incense stick, patchouli, bon-bon, limes – oak is common but not overt…acid is almost always high, without being disturbing … Most interesting would be the fact that varietal typicity is well reflected. Great benchmark quality! Between Austria and South Africa, the world has a whole new profile of SB to try and it ain’t coming from New Zealand.
So, on the whole, a lot that’s has been established and is up for us to explore and a whole lot that lies completely unexplored…
In the next few pages, I have drawn out a list of the wineries I visited or tasted. The notes are reproduced with little grammatical intervention so as to encourage free-flow thought and also to save me lots of editing time, thereby giving me some time to actually get out there and taste more. I hope they are coherent for most. If they don’t make sense to you, do let me know and I will clarify. If they make perfect sense to you then that is a worrying thought even for me.
1. Anura: Viognier and Chenin: Wines seem friendly if a bit oak-rich and with balancing sugar… not super really.
2. Crios Bride: SB was sharp, steely, pungent and green, almost unripe…
3. La Motte: Shiraz-Viogner and Shiraz-Grenache both show good fruit and fruity tannins, juicy strong yet not too strong…alcohol seems to heat in the end but it could well be due to the (warm) service temperature.
4. Morgenster: Tosca 2006 fruit-forward, bit prickly but fruit is nice…on the whole, nothing distinguished.
5. Le Riche: Superb Cabs. I mean, stunning. Especially the Reserve: Old-school and elegant.
6. Sequillo: Swartland wine i.e. hot region wine yet they manage a great white – Chenin 60%, Grenache Blanc 20%, Viognier 10% and Roussane 10% mix…fresh & complex..old oak 3,4,5th use, un-fined, unfiltered…beautiful. The red ’06 is fluid yet with ample grip. Fruit rich (red as opposed to black) and oak-free, the concept becomes clearer: too much oak kills…
7. Johan Reyneke: Biodynamic to the core. Chenin is a low yield wine with an unparalleled taste-super mineral, exemplary crispness…not flabby at all. SB ’08 is a perfumed stunner, aromatic, not harsh….awesome!
8. Veenwouden: A lovely 11.5% white with Viognier-Chenin that holds well with crisp acidity yet not aggressive. Thornhill Vivat Bachhus is a Merlot-CS-Shiraz blend – spicy without being harsh or hot.
9. Bouchard-Finlayson: Only Peter Finlayson could be so selective and succinct with his words: wines shouldn’t be like a Faberge egg where the beauty is only on the outside. Make wine with matter not hollow shells. Hermanus is PN area. Stunning Kaaimansgat (crocodile lair) chardonnay, PNs need at least 10 years else too young and very rich…age well. Hannibal (the Conqeuror) is Sangiovese, PN, Mourvedre, Nebbiolo, Barbera – mad-rich wine with elegance to the max! Stunning… Peter Finlayson is a French grape-grower at heart, man of few words. Bouchard tie-up. Under-priced by my standards.
10. Rupert & Rothschild: Great winemaking philosophy which shines through in the product: only 3 wines. Chardonnay is very subtle and restrained without being over-oaky…mix of oaks n fresh style…but young for 2007, need to wait 6-7 years. Roasted almond/nougat. Colour doesn’t show oak at all. 165R make this an exclusive wine. Pinotage is like garlic in food; if it’s there it shows and you have to be careful. Classique is at 95R and very elegant-soft, straight and yet subtle. Baron Edmond ’04 is oh so Bordeaux! Has some new world appeal but on the whole it is ripe, held back and raring to go. “No fixed formulae to make wine, I merely try and assess what I will gain or lose at each stage and accordingly, adapt. Mistakes happens every day! Some of the best wines I have made probably started off as mistakes.” shares Schalk-Willem Joubert, winemaker: Focused and one to watch out for.
11. Warwick: Prof. Black SB comes from the place which had Prof. Black pear trees (hardier). Land was bought by Norma and Stan Ratcliffe in ’64. ’79 first vines in what was a fruit orchard earlier. First vintage: ’84. Back then, Norma wasn’t just making wine, she was bringing about unprecedented change: a lone woman battling it out in a primarily and staunchly male-dominated regime. She was easily among the 1st female winemakers and if I remember correctly, the 1st female member of CWG (Cape Winemakers’ Guild) which is an exclusive invitation only SA consortium. Winemaking was passed on to Loius Nel and then to Joshua Joubert but she still supervises the process to ensure the philosophy remains the same. SB ’08: Nice fruity style, very crisp, tropical, clean, alcohol-charged a tad but doesn’t really hinder. It is, as James shared with me, the ‘2-bottle’ wine – have one, and then have another. Chard ’07: all French oak, 30% new and 60% 2nd fill, rest fresh from tank. Fruit is the lead singer but then the oaky choir builds up behind. New world hints show at places but still with old world class. Old bush vines (20 yrs) Pinotage ’06: (the variety was created back in 1929 by a certain Dr. Perold who was trying to make a grape suited for SA soils and climate). Plenty of class here – quality and distinction of character. Like a PN but stronger; like a PN on steroids but all very natural. Still has some banana but in an acceptable way. Soft tannins, pleasing aftertaste, grip and glide. 1st Lady: CS-Merlot. Back in 1984 Norma put a wine out in the market with a blue label and the market didn’t know how to react. The wine sold well and so the new wine uses a similar commemorative label. Cost is 60R for the blend. Hint green but plenty of spice and fruit character, juicy tannins. Nice and doable.
3 cape ladies ’05: CS-Merlot-Pinotage (Hint Syrah-8%) first cape blend. A Cape Blend always must have Pinotage. Spice, fire, roses, and here comes the story of the wedding cup: a silversmith who fell in love with the king’s daughter only to find himself dungeoned for it. love is never healthy I tell ya’. However, the king, upon seeing the failing health of his daughter due to his insensitivity put forth a condition to the suitor: prove your love for my daughter; make a cup that 2 people can drink out of at the same time, and marry my daughter. You have to see the cup! Amusing. Norma has the second largest collection of wedding cups in the world. And don’t wonder why; someone actually wants to buy it off her. Who? –He who has the biggest collection of wedding cups! Some people need to get out more.
Trilogy ’06: 50%CS,30%CF,20%Merlot Full-on elegance, fruits in Eau de Vie, so much nice under-wood character, young and rich, corpulent and charming, length….nothing unripe, just complexity. Great!
CF ’06: 400cases. Wood spice and rich oily nose, waxy, super rich and long, ultra-fine, très right bank with that hint of new world.
Simonsberg, where the vines are, is true Cabernet county.
12. Haskell vineyard: Dombeya-older brand. Latin for wild pear tree. SB ’08 Fairly clean and fresh fruity, non-reductive, some pear-drop, likeable. green on second nose, after 5 mins. Chardonnay ’07: oak-kissed, 15% is added back without ageing to make for freshness and fruitiness. Oak comes through fast and hard on the palate, new world kick, bit showy. Boulder Road Shiraz is a good delicate fruit and pepper mix. Lavender for sure. Rose water too. Samara ’05: CS 55%, Merlot 40% and Malbec 5% – Appears green and bit unripe at first although extraction seems sufficient. Clears up gradually to present a fruit-spice styled fairly drinkable red. peppery finish. Appreciable.
13. JC Le Roux: PN and PN rose sparklers: MCC. Prefer the rose which shows more fruit. Nice finish, very strawberry. Short though. 7 yr aged PN is for 70R!!!! Wow! Higher end Pongracz is just ok, nothing exemplary. Scintilla is plastic-like, (Nasik style) waxy and varnish-ey. La fleurette is like a less coloured Lambrusco, doable. The la chanson which is a sweet red sparkler is aptly nicknamed ‘hooligan juice’ as students come by, drink this in amounts best unmeasured and turn into, yep you guessed it. on the whole, wines for fun or frolic but nothing serious.
14. Asara: Goddamn wow, pardon my lack of euphemism, it escapes me at the moment! Simply to die for…’98 CS-Merlot is beyond stunning. Underwood, deep earthiness, fruit, opulence, elegance-in that order.A noble late harvest is also made and is all fruit, honey and floral. Botrytised berries give a fresh honey character. For me, pure crisp honey juice. Formerly Verdun estate. Jan, the winemaker is the most unassuming winemaker you will ever meet. He nicknamed me Mugg-andBean…Not surprisingly, it stuck!
15. Rust en Vrede: (Roughly pronounced ‘roost in free-dae’) Good opulent wines, fabulous and stylish. The translation is Rest and Peace, be careful. This is NOT wine intended for a wake. The delivery is seamless, the fruit rich, the tannins tight and the packaging slick. They have so got it right, even if they may not seem South African always.
16. Dewaal: The finest Pinotage. The only Pinotage I genuinely liked. Elegance and power without being aggressive. A young wine from 65yo old vines which spends 2 years in new French oak. That was ‘Top of the Hill’. The standard Pinotage ’06 is a bit oaky but mouth is very supple and soft. CT De Waal ’06 40-45yo vines is still young, but going well. Medium-full bodied, great length.
17. Neethlingshof Estate: Good Pinotage again. Considered an Old style, traditional produce. Heady but fruity.
18. Diemersfontein: The chocolate and coffee Pinotage. Très modern. Not as bad as people make it out to be. Needs serious caraffing though.
19. Zorgvliet: sorrows flee or as Neil Moorehouse the winemaker aptly translated it, ‘Chill’. Chenin blanc – fruity and easy. Viognier is an off-dry style, very earl grey bergamot…tangy character. Great with food. 50% oak fermented; 5months later all blended. 3%Semillon adds longevity, gives some richness, palate-weight. It also lowers pH which gives more life. Finish is dry, beautifully dry and mineral. 12g sugar doesn’t show, just adds some weight. 2007 is even better, taking the complexity higher. Merlot-CF ’05 is a good style – rich without the the heat and aggression. From carpaccio to steak, says Neil. Not exactly old world, but very subtle nonetheless. Cinnamon comes through well. Very drinkable. Malbec ’06: I haven’t tried any yet from SA. Roses all through! Lovely opulence with a super spice profile on the mid-palate. Cracker of a wine!
20. Paul Kluver: Slowine?? Yet another Critter brand, hell no! An allegory to slowing down the fast lives we live. Happy occasions! Rose is light n’ easy. Chenin-SB is good, decent balance, fruity too.
The SB ’08 is fruity but it fades to give on to green herbaceous aromas. But then it revives with guava, soft mango and others. Seems to grow on you. Spice too somewhere around the finish. Balanced and fairly clean a style. At the same dinner I also tried the Villiersdorp Kelder Chenin Blanc ’08 but found it a bit feeble. Balanced and unflabby but a tad weak. Well dry though, almost leaves like a SB. On the whole, nice food-friendly wines even if soft on the nose mostly. Paul Kluver PN ’07 is promising…holding its potential well. New world but with much elegance; mostly fruit with some nice earthy character. Very doable.
21. Thandi: BEE project. 100Ha given to them. The wines are simple, if anything, for the moment.
22. Beaumont Pinotage ’06: Another good version. Does fruit and rest very well. The Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc ’08 is a soft-on-the-nose but full-on-the-palate white. Tres Old World. Needs time to open up. Super long on the finish. No trace of oak, surprisingly. Single-vineyard.
Natural fermented (3months).
23. Annexkloof: 3 valleys combined. Chenin-chard-SB of which first 2 are barrel fermented. Elegant nose, bit oak dominated; terse palate, tight. Manages to hold well but has some alcohol-heaviness. Later I see the 14.5% label. Did I forget I was in Swartland. Malbec shows an extremely young purple robe, although the aromas are better formed. Oak on the palate is strong but the tannins are well powdery and integrating. The wine will need time to come into fruit. Alcohol here is more balanced and holds well. Shiraz-CS-Malbec-Pinotage Blend is a bit reduced but spice manages to come through. Palate is a spice explosion, lots of vigour, perhaps taking away some needed softness which may hopefully come with age. Pinotage here is from un-watered bush vines.
24. Lammershoek: Lamb’s corner. Where the lambs used to hide. Roulette Blanc ’07 which is 62% Chenin, 26% Chard, and 12% Viognier. At 14.5% alc. Oak fermented but oak is well masked. not hammy but aromas are just not distinct. Can find some Viognier at best. Fresh on the palate, lean as opposed to flabby. Has some Loire character but a bit flat on the whole though. Needs time to come through. The pure Chenin ’07 however is another story. It has all the flamboyance of a charmer, all the meatiness and minerality in a sort of yin-yang juxtaposition, and all the aromas and acidity to give it kick and length. Great! 40y.o. vines with 3.5tons/Ha. Selective picking done over 4 stages. Alcohol peaks but doesn’t peek too much. The Roulette ’05 is Syrah 72%, Carrignan 9%, Grenache 9%, Mouvedre5%, Viognier 5%. Some mix! 20% new oak with 16 months of ageing, no fining, filtering and only 2-3 rackings. The nose and taste spell it all – elegant seamless, fruit and more fruit a la fois. This wine, I could drink till the cows come home. And when they do, then the finish will throw some hints of oak and subsequent nuts with a cool mintiness too. Syrah ’06 Albert the winemaker spoke about making wines less macho n more drinkable. The syrah reflects that, well in part. It is still syrah so spice (star spice, cloves) come through. Tannins are easy, alcohol again gives away a hot climate wine, but all is well put together. Natural fermentation, open tank fermentation, 500l oak barrel ageing, 18 months ageing, definitely more old world an approach. Paul, Clara, Paula Kretzer are the family behind the brand and not too far from their farm is where their winemaker Albert
25. Sadie Family: Eben Sadie-Maverick all through and through. Youngest vineyard is about 7-8 yeard old, stable. Wine is like a good gymnast, says the winemaker/owner. Big barrels for ageing post 14 months in foudre is planned to preserve terroir character. White wine is chaos here- all sorts of permutations and combinations – with or without stems, whole bunches or berries… Palladius and others in the kitty. Chenin we tried was unprecedented, and it will be a hard act to follow, that’s the best I can say. Concrete sets over 30 years so a concrete egg tank changes every year – going from oxidative to reductive. Palladius ’07 does show some oak, inspite of the insistence of the winemaker that oak spoils wine. Chenin, grenache blanc, marsanne, roussane, verdelho. This is truly a big wine. So young still.
Columella 80% syrah and 20% morvedre red is big, like king kong big. Yet gentle. The elegance can almost be missed, hidden behind a rich and taut palate and nose, but it’s there, waiting to be found. 8-10 years needed.
26. Babylon’s Peak, Basson Family Wines: 4 generations in the family. Previous generation didnt make wine so now the tank room is a pretty cellar. Stephan Basson has reprised the estate and making wine himself since 2003. Reds only first, whites came later. Elegance before extraction. High Shiraz and Chenin component. Chenin ’08 Both colour and nose could suggest SB, petillance on the tongue, intended to preserve fruit component which is very tropical. Mouth is different from SB but still confusing for me. 38 y.o. vines fruit. 5 tons/Ha. The Chenin ’07 is coming into form: fruit intact but now the wine flexes the flab, spreading its girth and giving a nice cushion on the palate. Gentle and forward. Petillance is still present, all aided by the screw cap. So a wine aimed for the young drinking market is taking on the years gracefully. Viognier ’08 is floral and fruity a la fois, nice palate which builds up and then explodes. Good fruit bomb. Pears in a major concentrated way. Full malo-ed out yet manages to be perky. Oak passes unsuspected. Alcohol doesn’t. Good still. Babylon’s Peak nineteen19, year when gramps bought the farm. Shiraz 60% & Carrignan 40%. 25 y.o. bush vines with 5-6 tons/Ha. Green pepper on the nose prominently present. Unripe green characters n finish, else, is rich and toasty, more smokey. Ripe but somewhere has an over-strained extraction. Syrah ’07 is stunning. Use of Viognier skins makes the wine truly magnificent, adding a soft and floral almost feminine edge to this otherwise spicy (cloves, cinnamon) wine. Hints of Darjeeling tea on the finish. Absolutely awesome! At 70R this is proof that good things are affordable. Perold-trellising. No alcohol show. Babylon is Pinotage 40%, CS 30%, Shiraz 30% and is again beautiful. Mix oak usage ensures a good balance. In fact it’s pretty soft and not oaky as are many cape blends. Pinotage was ’88 planted, no irrigation, 3-4 tons/Ha.
27. Ataraxia: Kevin Grant. A very pleasing SB ’08. Clean and easy. Chard ’07 is oaked and strong for my liking. Might please some as it does show fruit somewhere but oak dominates for the moment. Serenity ’06 is a red blend, somewhat secretive. Idea is to express style rather than grapes. a fruit forward, very drinkable wine. Soft and easy, medium-bodied. I would be damned if I can guess the grapes. Tannins are light, almost hidden. Shiraz speaks through. On the whole a very drinkable wine. Good philosophy. Between 49R, 103R and 75R. Very commendable.
28. Hamilton-Russell: Chard ’05 is young and tight at the moment, fruit is ripe but cacheed. Matchbox lime character. Waiting for time to come. The chard ’08 is a barrel sample and showing exemplary fruit. The HR yeast 5 used here for a big stock. A bit medicinal on finish but nothing worrying for a barrel under malo. The Southern Right SB ’08 is nice and lean, tight age-worthy style. The Pinotage is 150R for ’07 from vines of 1995, stressed sites. Not ripe yet. Vines need time to achieve the mythic complexity of Dewaal. The PN ’06 is what HR does ever so well. Young fruit and yet good complexity. Lovely. Must do. 275R and 220R for PN and Chard.
29. Newton-Johnson: winemaker is a lovely young lady called Nadia. The ’08 SB is 9% Semillon blended and shows great fruit up front, even some weight on the palate. The white blend is softer, with a higher Semillon component. Chard ’06 is natural fermented, inspite of 30% new oak and barrel fermentation; it still does a great job of lemon balance. Oak is well soft.
PN ’07 is vile and horrible, not their fruit, explains a lot. PN ’08 spicy and I wonder if it stems from reduction, wood comes through seeming fairly powdery, not polished but more farm wood. Nice though. ’06 syrah-Mourvedre is also a good soft wine. Nothing massive, but nice.
30. Sumaridge: SB ’07 shows a flinty edge, meaty palate and a zippy finish – different and likeable. The chard ’07 is 9months oak aged with lees ageing. Style Shows oak richness. Merlot ’07 is a bit unripe. PN ’07 is a restrained stone fruit style, elegance is a definite yes. End somehow seems to fade fast, a tad lighter than imagined or expected.
31. Creation: Lovely labels, great packaging and branding. SB ’08 nice flower hint honey elderflower character, not green. Viognier ’08 is also very commendable. Old world with expression upfront. Chard and PN are barrel-samples and great absolutely. The Shiraz-Grenache is stunning. Super soft and super powerful a la fois. The Bordeaux blend is a bit unripe. Hmmm.
32. La Vierge: Well funky labels – colourful and imaginative. Ok wines. White SB is clean, at best. The Shiraz-Mourvedre is ok.
33. Domaine des Dieux: Forgettable green SB for the moment. More wines yet to be released. A very recent start-up and will be interesting to revisit in a few years.
34. Whaleheaven: Viognier-chard is a great lil’ number, rich and fat without being flabby. PN ’07 is good. CF ’06 is not bad but can get riper. Oak is soft so fruit stays forward which is good.
35. Spookfontein: Cab ’06 is not as bad as I expected, sort of half redeems itself. Has some meaty fruit, low on finish. Cud use some flesh. CF ’06 fares better. Merlot ’04 is pretty decent. Even the ’06 holds well. Balance is there. Finally, the bdx blend is sustained and doable. Kudos!
Durbanville: 1500Ha, 265Ha of SB.
36. De Krendel: SB ’08 Honestly, very pleasing and very attractive on the nose. Palate is a bit terse, not as inviting as the aromas. Citrusy, some bitter stone-fruit, short finish. Doable.
37. Durbanville Hills: Rhinofields SB ’08, aromas more appealing than the palate which has green herbaceous character and a real short finish. Funny thing is that all that was in the first sip. Second sip thr wine seems to have attended finishing school: the good aromas stay, the palate seems to pick up well. Not too dry a finish. Am confused. For 65R they don’tmake much (20,000 litres) and so, it’s worth it.
38. Nitida: This is a 7500-case producing, small 30-something acre house in a region of 100-plus acre farms. SB ’08 is very tasty – tropical fruit, pear-drop, some hint green pepper – good varietal character and most importantly, meaty. I like that, especially in crisp style grapes likes SBs. Lovely dry finish. Ripe, round, ready – beautiful! Very drinkable SB which is rare coming from me. Bernhard: owner&winemaker. Named after a type of Protea.
39. Hillcrest: SB ’07, green with Aloe Vera -like on the nose. Bitter gourd follows on the nose and palate. Lean mostly. Different, but not my style.
40. Terra D’aria: Still under construction. SB ’08-neat and classic, aromas are on the perfumed pear-drop side. May seem a bit weak but makes for a decent drink. At 35R it is way past anything India has ever produced.
41. Altydgedacht ‘always thinking of you’: damned if I can pronounce or spell it; especially after 2 drinks. SB ’08-different, very different. From aromas to tactile profile, the whole wine stands out and in a very dignified manner. Fat structure. Skin contact and small productions. They say green fig character, I say I don’t get around that much to really tell.
42. Meerendal: SB ’08 is a serious wine; right from the aromas you get the feeling that this wine is not for easy play. If you want to understand this wine, you’ll have to do the movies followed by a fancy dinner. A bit closed on the nose, the palate is where it flexes its muscle well.
43. Diemersdal: Big house. SB ’08 single vineyard. Cat’s pee and the likes. The same house that made the 8-row SB which was very aggressive herbaceous style – not for me but a big hit apparently. Back to the wine at hand, not bad but nothing super exciting. Finish is strong and long, bitter-fruit notes. Question of personal style and liking I guess.
44. Klein Constantia: pretty average. The sweet one is good, especially the bottle shape.
45. High Constantia: Ok whites, Good reds, super small production. CF pure is a bit pencil shaving topped. Malbec tastes better. 5-way blend Sebastian CS,CF, Merlot,Malbec,PV is a shade better. Had heard lots about them but couldn’t find all.
46. De Wetshof Estate: Robertson. Nice clean and fresh, bug very very different. Likeable, definitely.Super Limestone minerally character in the end. Bon Vallon Chardonnay ’08 clean unoaked style, good clean palate, soft finish. Appealing wine with good fruit but not my style, personally. Minerality on finish again. Lesca Chard is hint oaked but the elegance is superb. Lasting and lingering with fruit and oak play, fantastic! 100%new oak but doesn’t come thru at all! D’honneur is a full-on oaked chard with tropical fruit forward style, difference comes from clones. Minerality is replaced by nuttiness as the wines are strong toast oak aged. This may do MLF but not for others. Is oaky but finish is still elegant; needs time though. Bateleur (eagle found close to Kruger park, 1m wingspan) Chard is similar but more fruity and approachable..more appealing than previous. PN ’07 nature in concert is a nice fruity style but still far from the elegance of their whites. A bit of a downer though. Noble Late Harvest Riesling ‘Edeloes’ is a nice botrytised wine as the owner Danie de Wet studied in Germany hence the Riesling passion. A bit lacking in acidity though. Overall, great wine house for whites.
47. Lindhorst: Paarl. SB ’08 is a very green peppery style, not capsicum though, just not my style. Onto the reds, merlot ’06 is convincing. Oak is a bit musty/dusty but goes away. Good. Statement blend is strong, a bit overpoweringly daunting but still has elegance. Powerful but doable. Shiraz ’05 is done well but again strength before elegance. Lovely labels, and not just saying it. Max’s Tribute ’97 CS with hint merlot – strong but not head, not unripe. Which is a good thing. Max’s Shiraz ’05 with 15% CS toasty, wood first, strength first. Pinotage ’06 from 5 yr old vines and is fruit forward but the vines r still green, showing some nail polish character. Straight CS ’05 is tannic n tight. Too strong a style overall.
48. Mooiplaas: meaning ‘beautiful place’…Chenin ’08 is super fresh and ripe, even a touch botrytised (beeswax character on nose) – super clean not flabby and finishes excellently. Pinotage ’04 first time a PN style wine. Elegant, light, cherry-like, soft, mild on tannins…tastes like wine and not like oak juice. Super.
49. Overgaauw: Since 1905. SB ’08 is fruit forward, tropical but also with apple and pear notes. Chard ’07 is half & half oak-fermented, good balance, clean citrus finish is soft and short. Shepherd’s Cottage Pinotage Rose ’08; oldest house and newly-weds stay there. Nice and easy, soft and off dry, red fresh fruits, good in a new market. CS ’05 spice, raspberry, elegant, not too heavy but decently corpulent. Tight tannins, firm but ripe. Tria Corda ’05 CS60%Merlot/CF20%-fairly light but nothing exceptional. Tannins are better integrated, good wine but am a bit tired. Day over! 🙂
50. Boekenhootskloof: Wines to die and kill for, even pillage. The Journeyman is my high although I would prefer it in a nice seated setting where I can give it time and attention. Mark knows his grapes and also does some decent drinks at much more affordable ranges.
51. The Goose: SB ’08, (€30+) Very clean style, a bit too overtly clean for me, green, citrusy grapefruit aplenty, nice, just not my style.
52. Sir Lambert: Diemersdal connection. SB ’08 is a mineral-rich white; very classic, very terse and withheld on the palate. Good.
53. Cape Point Vineyards: Duncan Savage. Isliedh ’05 is 85%SB and 15%Semillon. Super structure and strength of flavour from nose through till finish. Clean on the end. Great.twixt €15-€30
54. Virgin Earth: Shiraz-CS-Merlot-CF-PV ’05 is good with chalky tannins. Ageworthy with length, restrained fruit.
Wines are stored underwater for a few months, happened when they first put their barrels in the lake to keep cool. Quirky!
55. Scali Wines: Paardeberg area. Syrah ’04 almost like the fabled Faberge egg, more showy on the outside. Thin on the mid-palate.
56. Luddite: Shiraz ’06 -very chalky texture, soft and smooth with a nice mouth swirl, a bit daunting on tannins. Wood is hidden, but so is fruit and length. Hmmmm
57. Cederburg: Teen die Hoong Shiraz ’05: Oak-juice all through! Likeable for its milky MLF-ed mouthfeel, caramel and toffee, not terroir wine or even wine.
58. Kleinood (Tamboerskloof): the Viognier ’07 is ok, Syrah ’05 is a light style, very drinkable. Not heavy, not complex. €5-€7.5
59. Graham Beck: SB ’08 7 block selection. Crisp, light, lifting, fruit-forward-more white fruit than tropical. $5 ex-cellar. The Pheasant’s Run SB ’08 Gooseberry/mineral, some bitter stone fruit,$8. Nice richness and length. Bush vines giving crisp character. Gamekeeper’s Reserve Chenin Blanc ’08 old bush vines, hint oak fermented, no MLF, stirring on lees, clean and fruity with floral notes on finish, terse and held.$7. Rose ’08 Malbec-Sangiovese, old school- not sweet but a soft mouthfeel. But delicate. May not manage transport to India. Shiraz ’05 has this nice greasy spicy mouthfeel, very tasty, easy tannins, fruit forward with a long enough finish. $6. Very drinkable. Can be done BTG (by-the-glass). The William Cape Blend ’05: tight and spice forward, a bit daunting a style. Tannins and power may intimidate average diner. Also, very peppery. The Joshua Shiraz-Viognier ’05 is a nice Rhone styled wine, tannins are powerful but softening. Good red fruit character, more a dinner wine $8. Doable. The Ridge Syrah ’03 is oak fermented and has plenty of coffee-cocoa character. Aromas are a bit uni-dimensional but taste is evolved; has elegance even though is well powerful. $8. But on the whole I prefer this to the previous red.
60. Savuri: SB-Chenin ’08 Does well on the palate, very easy. Shiraz ’06 is fruit forward. Bottle was a bit reduced but comes around well. Good. Cabernet ’06 is well tasty, a bit grapey but also raspberries. Fairly easy and drinkable. Some mint but v light. Merlot ’05 is definitely different – burnt pepper and spice, some white tobacco. Brilliant.
61. Benguela Cove: SB ’08 has lovely pear drop, tropical fruits, flab with crispness; really good stuff. Mineral finish to boot. Very neat on the whole. Shiraz ’07 is all fruit up front with some smoke and spice on the palate; smooth and elegant. No oak appears. Nice. Likeable. Alcohol too is well tame.
So much for that…Do share your thoughts, especially if you feel that a certain wine-house has not been aptly appropriated. I’ll try and address…