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02 June 2015

South Africa: Pinotage & Shiraz / Syrah

Traditional vs new South Africa perhaps? Maybe not: I was at least curious to 'revisit' the sometimes unloved Pinotage variety and see how the wines have changed over the past few years. And likewise, although hardly ever unloved, for Syrah or Shiraz (seems to depend on whether the producer feels they're aiming for a French or New World style, or their marketing angle), which is a relative newcomer to South Africa and, going back in time a little, sometimes ended up as rather clunky overblown reds. So, the big "42"? Well, it's not hard to find good wines made from either, or a mix of the two even. Here are 30-odd that did it for me - some of them are pricey though by the way - mostly varietal Pinotage or Shiraz with a few blends of the two or other combos.

2012 Spice Route Pinotage Swartland - smoky nose with coconut edges, lots of spicy fruit and oomph with subtle oak backdrop on the palate, firm mouth-feel but not over-extracted. Good mouthful of flavour although should be for £11.49-£12. Vineyards Direct, SA Wines Online, Lea & Sandeman.
2009 Spice Route Terra de Bron Syrah Swartland - quite concentrated with perfumed sweet berry fruit, turning savoury vs still firm on the finish with attractive ripe fruit. Good Rhone-y style, expensive though: £18-£19. SA Wines Online
2010 Glenelly Syrah Stellenbosch - vibrant and spicy with white pepper tones, punchy and concentrated palate with alluring minty side too, dry yet nicely textured tannins. £12 Tesco.com Wine Direct.
2011 Ernie Els Proprietor's Syrah Helderberg (+5% Viognier) - fairly tightly structured wine, spicy blackberry fruit develops vs again well-done tannins. Still a tad young really with promise. $27-$40 Wine.com, Cape Ardor. £21.75-£22.50 SA Wines Online, Wine Direct.
2010 Rustenberg Buzzard Kloof Syrah Stellenbosch - fairly rich and concentrated with more coconut oak, quite austere big Northern Rhone style perhaps needing even more time in bottle... £16.69 SA Wines Online, £15.70 (casex12) Wine Down.
2011 Kaapzicht Pinotage Stellenbosch - quite concentrated with peppery cranberry and red pepper notes vs a darker smokier side, tight and firm mouth-feel vs stylish spicy/sweet/savoury combo finish. £14.69 SA Wines Online, Tanners.
2010 Kaapzicht Estate Pinotage (barrel selection) - more obvious oak but it's richer and more concentrated, showing enticing sweet/savoury development, punchy and spicy vs nice lingering maturing fruit. Yum - typically it's their dearest one: £27.99 Virgin Wines.
2013 Darling Cellars Black Granite bush vine Shiraz Coastal Region - spicy minty style with ripe berry fruits, quite soft and juicy vs punchy finish. Attractive now. £8.50 Amazon (case x 3), Wine Down £7.99 (case x 12).
2013 Darling Cellars Chocoholic Pinotage Coastal Region ('Ripasso' style with some dried grapes) - lush and smoky vs peppery and herby, big solid finish layered with chunky sweet fruit. £8.95-£10.99 The Drinks Shop, Great Grog, Oxford Wine Co., Paul Roberts Wines, Tesco.com, Harvey Nichols.
2012 Baker Station Reserve Shiraz Franschhoek Cellars - fairly rich and spicy with light coconut grain, firm 'chalky' tannins plus a bit of weight and roundness, drier on the finish. £7.49-£8.95 Fine Wines Direct, Village Wines, Corks Out, SA Wines Online.
2013 Rib Shack Red 'Extra Smooth' Pinotage/Shiraz Douglas Green - spicy berry and smoked red pepper then juicy and fairly soft palate, nice 'commercial' style. c. $10 widely available in the US; £7.39-£7.99 Amazon (case x 3), SA Wines Online.
2014 Douglas Green Pinotage - spicy smoky roasted red pepper notes mingle with peppery berries, again quite soft and juicy mouth-feel. £6.59 SA Wines Online.
2012 Bellingham Basket Press Syrah Stellenbosch (+ a splash of Viognier) - a touch of coconut grain with spicy berries, quite elegant and tight actually with subtle long finish. £11.60 Amazon (case x 3), £11.79 SA Wines Online.
2012 Boschendal Bush Vine Pinotage Stellenbosch/Darling (25+ year-old vines) - concentrated spicy berry, again tightly structured and quite elegant vs big and punchy, still needs some time in bottle but impressive. About £15.
2013 Brampton Estate Pinotage - spicy berry on the nose with roast red peppers, juicy vs grippy palate, attractive style.
2012 Brampton Estate Shiraz - peppery blackberry notes, then tight and 'chalky' tannins with nice combo of almost crunchy vs sweeter fruit, promising. £10.19 SA Wines Online.
2012 Welgemeend Amadé Grenache Syrah Pinotage Paarl - earthy and peppery, quite restrained and firm on the palate vs nice sweet berry and spice, fairly tightly structured 'Euro' style.
2012 Doolhof Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage Wellington - toasty roasted red pepper plus a smoky darker side, coffee and dark chocolate too, quite soft and silky though with tasty savoury flavours as well. £10+ UK, about $20 in the US.
2010 Major's Hill Pinotage Robertson - smoky roast red pepper and spice vs maturing savoury notes and a touch of coconut grain, fairly full and punchy on its lightly grippy finish. €17-€18 Searsons Wine Merchants, Baggot Street Wines (Dublin). £18.90 Catchpole Cellars.
2013 Lutzville Ebenhaeser Pinotage/Shiraz Oliphants - quite intense and spicy with firm tannins vs vibrant berry fruits and coffee vs roasted red pepper finish.
2012 Lutzville Pinotage François Le Vaillant - touch of coconut spice and grain vs fairly concentrated palate with spicy berry fruits, grippy but nice tannins with attractive savoury vs spicy combo finish. Good.
2014 Lutzville Shiraz - lively blackberry with blackcurrant too, juicy with a touch of grip then nice punchy peppery finish.
2012 Oak Valley Shiraz Elgin - coffee and mocha tones with spicy red peppery edges, lively and juicy palate with structured vs softer mix, smoky 'cooler' style.
2012 Ormonde Chip off the Old Block Shiraz Darling - intense mint/eucalyptus edges vs smoky dark berry fruit, quite concentrated and chunky/grippy vs attractive sweet/savoury fruit on the finish. Good stuff.
2012 Balance Pinotage Western Cape (mostly Swartland) - spicy nose with coffee vs red pepper, lively smoky berry fruit, soft-ish tannins with a little depth and grip to finish.
2010 Somerbosch Shiraz Stellenbosch - maturing savoury vs minty spicy nose, some firmness on the palate still vs nice maturing fruit with spicy berry and coffee tones, drinking well now.
2013 Cavalli Cheval d'Or Black Beauty Shiraz Western Cape - mocha vs roasted red pepper notes, peppery blackberry too with smoky savoury hints then lively finish with light grip. £10 Hard to Find Wines.
2012 Saronsberg Shiraz Tulbagh - coconut oak touches, fairly concentrated though with nice texture, still quite structured with peppery berry finish, needs a few more months/years to round out. £20 Adnams.
2011 Post House Missing Virgin (70% Pinotage 30% Petit Verdot, 15.5% abv) - lush and dark with a touch of oak vs attractive savoury side, chunky firm tannins vs rich and concentrated with gutsy finish for sure. Irony. About $30 in US, Classic Drinks in Ireland.
2012 Cloof 'The Very Sexy' Shiraz Darling (14.5% abv) - Attractive style, deep purple black, nice peppery black fruit nose with earthy gamey edges even and a hint of coconut oak, quite punchy and spicy mouth-feel, ripe and rounded with light coco texture vs a tad of dry grip, enticing lingering ripe vs savoury fruit with some freshness too. Next day: more savoury and peppery with roast red pepper tones vs fairly rich dark olive vs blackberry and meaty edges. Drinking nicely now although there's no hurry. R75, £12-£13, €15.49.
2012 Cloof Shiraz Darling (14.5% abv) - Apparently there's more oak on this wine but it doesn't really taste of it apart from a background note/texture. Nice wild herby/minty aromas with dark berry, cassis and cherry and liquorice vs savoury tones too; rounded and powerful with attractive tannins vs sweet fruit, roasted red pepper and meaty undertones, light bitter twist and grip on the finish vs a bit of punch and sweet/savoury flavours. Next day: meatier, mintier and spicier and a tad oakier wierdly (?) with that funky roasted red pepper vs cocoa/mocha notes too, sweet dark fruit vs firm and punchy vs rounded and textured, pretty concentrated as well with that light bitter twist adding a bit of edge. R120, £35?
The two reds above were both aged for 15 months in barrel with more new oak used for the second one, which is also only made from selected bush vine fruit with much lower yields. UK importer: Berkmann Wine Cellars, Cloof Wines UK; online: SA Wines Online, Wines U Like, All about Wine (£ prices stated). O'Brien's in Ireland (€) and many other international distributors.

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