WineWriting.com & French Mediterranean Wine
Richard Mark James' wine and travel blog

South Africa: Lazanou, Waverley, Waterkloof, Cloof, Rustenberg, Garden Route, Carmen Stevens, Du Toitskloof, Porcupine Ridge, Badenhorst; Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, "unusual" reds, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Grenache blanc, Semillon...

LATEST/MORE on SOUTH AFRICA (click on highlighted links):
South African Shiraz update: Cloof 2012 vintages 'The Very Sexy' Shiraz and Cloof Shiraz (June 2015)
"Wines of the mo" Rustenberg RM Nicholson red (Feb 2014)
"Whites of the mo" Chenin Garden Route and Carmen Stevens (Dec 2013)
"Festive fizz" Fairtrade Sparkling Rosé Du Toitskloof (Dec 2013)
South Africa part 3: Chenin, Viognier, Grenache blanc (Nov 2012)
"White of the moment" (July 2011, Fairtrade Chenin Blanc)
"World Class Chardonnay" tasting (Feb 2010)
Pick of Waitrose tasting (2004)

Lazanou Vineyards - Wellington
Lazanou is an organically run "boutique wine farm," as they describe themselves, located in the Wellington valley not far from Cape Town. The name is a slips-off-the-tongue combo of the owners Josef Lazarus and Candice Stephanou, who bought it in 2002 and added a few more varieties to the small plot of Chenin Blanc already there. So, there's now a huge 5½ hectares under vineyard out of total land covering 8½, which must make them one of South Africa's smallest. The rest of the estate is, well a proper farm really i.e. not just vines: cow pastures, olive groves, fruit orchard, bird sanctuary and "most importantly a number of biodiversity zones." The latter meaning areas where the natural habitat, flora and fauna, is being preserved. I enjoyed these three wines at Millésime Bio wine fair in Montpellier, January 2009 (full marks, by the way, for coming all the way over to, at that moment in time, not very warm southern France for this increasingly buzzing organic show. I wasn't overly excited by their Chenin and Chardy / Chenin though, but hey c'est la vie...
2007 Chardonnay ("lightly wooded," 13.5%) - lightly exotic peachy v subtle toast and cream; has a bit of weight and richness v elegant bite v slight kick; nice style combo. 85+
2007 Syrah (14%) - touches of chocolate oak with overlaying spicy berry / cherry fruit and herbal notes; a tad too toasty on the palate but it does have some elegant fruit and fresh acid / suitable dry tannins too. 85
2008 Syrah / Mourvèdre (14%) - more aromatic and smokier too with pepper, 'tar' and black olive notes; very peppery palate showing nice weight, black cherry fruit and dry v rounded tannins; a bit of punch but still well-balanced finish. 88+
More info @ www.lazanou.co.za.

Waverley Hills & Dixon's Peak - Tulbagh
No, not the view over Edinburgh station but another organically farmed estate winery lying in the shadow of the Witzenberg Mountains in the Tulbagh region. It's owned by the Du Toit family, who planted 21 ha here in 2000 ("let's all meet up in the year 2000..." from a song by which English 90s band, answers on an e-postcard please...) using the organic touch from the start. They also grow and make organic extra virgin olive oil and have a smart-looking restaurant at the cellars. I tasted these three lively reds at Millésime Bio wine fair in Montpellier, January 2009 (full marks, by the way, for coming over to France for this increasingly buzzing organic show); as well as their 2008 Semillon / Sauvignon (OK but not worth getting too excited about, I'm afraid in MHO).
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon "No added sulphites" (12.5%) - nice herbal minty nose moving on to 'sweet' cassis and ripe plum fruit; soft and fruity palate, elegant style. 85
2007 Shiraz (14%) - rich and spicy, lots of black pepper and blackberry with herbal edges; juicy v firm mouth-feel with a bit more power, not surprisingly (+1.5%). 87
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot - minty v funky nose, quite lush with smoky cassis fruit; dry v 'sweet' coating, subtle concentration and depth of ripe cassis on the finish. 89+?
More @ www.waverleyhills.co.za.

Waterkloof Estate - Stellenbosch
British importer/exporter/producer Boutinot (they also have offices in France and the States) purchased the 122-hectare (300 acre) Waterkloof estate in 2004. The plan, according to their website, is "to create a new flagship wine for South Africa, and one of the world’s great Sauvignon Blancs." Sounds like Paul Boutinot's words himself, not one to make modest claims or lacking ambition! They have some good Merlot as well and planted quite a bit of Mourvèdre, which looks promising in South Africa's best coastal sites.
Waterkloof vineyard is located 3km from the sea in one of the country’s best known 'cool climate' regions. It lies on Schaapenberg Mountain in Somerset West and "benefits from the moderating effects of coastal breezes off the cool Atlantic currents flowing through False Bay," apparently. Winemaking and viticulture is headed up by Werner Engelbrecht "following natural winemaking methods," such as wild yeast fermentation and extra lees contact (light yeast deposits, standard practice for making quality white wines). The Waterkloof wines are sourced from the upper slopes (up to 400m/1250 feet altitude) and Peacock Ridge from the main body of the estate (200-290m/750 feet).
Tasted at their trade tasting in the Tower of London (mind your head) Feb 07, posted Aug 07. To find stockists of these wines, and those above and below, check out the Boutinot website.
2005 Peacock Ridge Merlot - herb v plum aromas lead to a quite lush palate with fresh firm finish. UK retail approx £7.50 87-89
2006 Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc - citrus fruit with green pepper notes, intense mineral mouth-feel with zesty length. £10 87+
2006 Circumstance Mourvèdre rosé - zesty and elegant Bandol rosé style, mineral v oily palate, long and fresh. £9 87
2005 Circumstance Merlot - spicier and rounder than the PR Merlot with more oak showing at the moment; however, has good balance and classy length. £12 88-90
2005 Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc - grassier incisive style, fatter fruit palate v eye-watering acidity, steely elegant length. £15 90+

Golden Kaan
The Golden Kaan brand was created by German multinational drinks company Racke in partnership with Cape winery KWV. Typically there are different tiers of quality, wine style and packaging: varietal range, Reserve Selection and Winemaker's Reserve. The basic spread isn't up to much apart from the two Pinotages - you have to ask why they sent samples of 2004 vintage southern hemisphere whites? - but it gets a bit better as you go up; although in some cases 'reserve' appears to mean more oak. However, a couple of them are pretty good and show where their strengths lie. Tasted September-November 2006:
2004 Pinotage, Western Cape - attractive smoky style showing rustic lushness v tangy plum, red fruits and burnt spices; fair weight and rounded tannins. Better with hearty food such as pork and garlic sausages, as it's a little bitter on the finish on its own. 80-85
2005 Pinotage rosé - plenty of vibrant red fruit notes, quite rich then tangy and spicy, juicy and ripe v crisp and dry. 85-87
2004 Chardonnay - a bit flat and fading with hard acidity.
2004 Sauvignon Blanc - too old otherwise not bad.
2004 Merlot - a bit rough and thin; softer the next day but it's just the alcohol holding it together.
2004 Shiraz - vanilla and smoked bacon essence; fruitier the next day although a bit boring with clumsy oak chip character and 14% alcohol keeping it alive.
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon - OK, better than the Merlot or Shiraz with ripe cassis v herbal red pepper style and soft-ish mouth-feel; still at basic vin de pays level though.
2005 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Selection (12%) - the first bottle was a bit sulphide on the nose, but it goes with some air; develops a nicer mix of tropical fruit v gooseberry zing, quite mineral and long actually. 87
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Selection (13.5%) - mature minty berry fruit, quite soft liquorice palate finishing with dry bite; nice enough but lacks a bit of substance and depth of flavour. 83-85
2003 Shiraz Reserve Selection (14%) - appealing mature rustic v herbal peppery & smoky bacon notes, combines with liquorice and black cherry fruit, quite firm with punch of alcohol; not so complex, again went well with fried liver but less attractive on its own. 85
2003 Chardonnay Winemaker's Reserve, Coastal Region (14%) - pretty oaky start yet has plenty of rich tropical pineapple and buttery yeast-lees complexity, developed fruit supported by quite powerful alcohol v touch of fresh acidity and aniseed bite; try with guinea fowl, mushroom & gruyere risotto or trout in a rich sauce? 87-89
2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker's Reserve, Stellenbosch (13.5%) - better after one day open: at first it's all vanilla coconut oak then develops gamey cassis and plum notes, lusher palate v that coco oak (although remains pretty toasty); quite firm yet fresh finish goes some way towards countering the coating of chocolate tannins. 87-89

South African Chenin Blanc

"One of my favourite things," (as Julie Andrews almost uttered) Chenin Blanc really excels in parts of the Loire Valley in France - e.g. Saumur or Savennières for zesty or rich dry whites, Vouvray from dry to super sweet and good sparkling too - and coastal wine areas in the Cape, making a range of styles from fresh easy-drinking to full-bodied barrel-fermented to lusciously sweet. Here are a dozen tasty Chenin Blancs sampled at the London Wine Fair in May 2006, listed by region: Swartland, Perdeberg, Cederberg, Avenir (pic.), Rijks, Rudera, Simonsig, Spice Route, Kleine Zalze, Bellingham, Good Hope and Spier. Missing from this line-up are wineries such as Asara Estate and Ken Forrester, whose Meinert Chenin is a 95 points world classic: see my Waitrose Christmas Wines 2004 feature (when I get round to redoing it!) More info on the SA Chenin Blanc Association website or hot Chenin tips from on-line Cape magazine Grape.

Swartland
2006 Swartland Winery - fairly citrusy Sauvignon-esque aromas, more juicy melon notes on a fresh gummy palate; pleasant 'commercial' style. 85

Malmesbury
2004 Spice Route
- rich creamy and complex with subtle toasty oak and colourful fruit, fresher palate with mineral tones, power and ripeness v elegant length. 90-92

Paarl
2005 Perdeberg Cellars Reserve - oilier more honeyed style, fuller with mineral depth and fresh dry finish. 85-87

Olifants River
2005 Cederberg Private Cellar - quite complex aromas offering richness yet herbal green fruit notes too, zesty and mineral v fat mouth-feel, very fresh acidity. 87-89

Stellenbosch
2005 L'Avenir Estate - intricate waxy honey and floral tones, lovely juicy fruit set against acid structure, weighty yet balanced with long tight and dry finish. 90-92
2004 Robusto, Rudera Wines - exotic honey notes lead to rich rounded palate showing nice pure fruit, then tight mineral finish; elegant and fresh v very light toast, drinking now. 87-89
2004 Avec Chêne, Simonsig Family Vineyards - subtle exotic fruit v toasty notes, rich honey and light buttered toast, concentration and power v fresh and dry; classy. 92-94
2005 Bush Vine, Kleine Zalze (15%) - complex floral notes with creamy honey undertones, big power carried by fruit concentration then mineral bite, ripeness v acid/alcohol structure; wow, that alcohol's a bit heavy but this has rich depth of fruit too. 89
2005 the Winery of Good Hope - background toasty oak v intricate herbal notes, elegant fruit and pretty dry finish; nice although a little short in the end. 87+
2004 Spier Private Collection - attractive buttery tones mix with exotic melon and peach, rich and creamy v mineral freshness and subtle oak, nice energy on its tight length. 90-92

Tulbagh
2004 Barrel Fermented, Rijks Private Cellar (14%) - oily nose with lightly buttered toast, rich and weighty palate with complex fruit and oak undertones set against zesty dry finish; nice foodie I'd say. 89+

Coastal Region
2004 Bellingham 'Maverick' - lush and toasty up-front giving way to more elegant mineral length; pity it's a little too oaky as the rest is good. 87+