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Showing posts with label South Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Africa. Show all posts

02 June 2020

Lockdown bubbly of the moment

Prestige Cava Rosado & Prestige Cava Brut
At first, I thought this dynamic duo were the usual Marks & Spencer Cavas with flashy new labels and a price rise, but they are additional to the range and definitely noticeably tastier and toastier quality-wise for the £10 price tag.

01 April 2017

South Africa: whites, pink fizz and reds to tantalize...

Here's a random selection of half-a-dozen higher-priced South African palate-tantalizers test-driven in recent times, which all show it's worth paying a little more for this country's wines as the quality and character factor appears to rise quickly in tandem. Without wanting to make generalisations, which is asking for trouble but I'm going to anyway, I think it's also better to buy South African wines bottled at source rather than those bottled in the UK or Germany for instance. While, in principle, bulk-shipping in tankers is a perfectly sound winemaking and distribution practice, given the advanced technology and know-how behind it nowadays; but this sort of wine is probably more processed with, for example, up to the maximum permitted levels of sulphites used to help preserve whites and rosés in particular. No doubt some angry wine business technician will disagree, but this is my experience from actually drinking some of those wines...

The 1812 Overture of South African reds, from kanonkop.co.za
Stellenrust Chenin Blanc 2016, Stellenbosch region (13.5% abv) - This famous and long-established winery (vineyards here dating from the late 17th century they say) is pretty good at a variety of Chenin styles. This one's ripe and rounded with exotic honeyed edges vs nice zesty citrus and yeast-lees notes on the finish. Good value for flavour. £7 (on offer)/£8 Sainsbury's.

Cornelia White 2015, Swartland region (Chenin blanc, Roussanne, Verdelho, Viognier; 13% abv) - Made by Adi Badenhorst, who's also a bit of a star for quirky white blends like this: attractive mix of oily texture, peach and apricot fruit with fresher spicier undertones and concentrated too. £10 Marks & Spencer.

Jan & Johan Old Vine Cinsault 2015, Paarl region (14% abv) - Tantalizing mix of lightly wild and perfumed berry fruits with fairly soft mouth-feel yet weight and roundness too. There's still a good deal of old vine Cinsault in parts of South Africa, like in southern France, although much of it has been pulled up. €8.99 Aldi Ireland.

Kanonkop Kadette 2015 Cape Blend, Stellenbosch region (about 50% Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc; 14.5% abv) - This is their 'junior' red blend of these four varieties, which is something of a house specialty, offering lots of flavour and style for the money. Smoky red pepper notes mingle with blackcurrant, dark plum and spicy oak (14 months in French barrels); quite firm and structured still with power and concentration on the finish, nice texture and depth of fruit though. £8 (on offer)/£10 Sainsbury's.

Bellingham The Bernard Series Basket Press Syrah 2014, Stellenbosch region (14% abv) - Bellingham winery seems to be good at this sort of wine (also has 2% Viognier, all barrel-fermented together in open-top casks): touches of oak and solid and dense to start, but reveals lush dark spicy fruit with savoury edges; pretty classy red. £13 Sainsbury's.

Graham Beck The Rhona Brut Rosé NV, Méthode Cap Classique, Western Cape (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier; 12.5% abv) - Beck is up there among South Africa's finest fizz makers, this sumptuous Champagne-style rosé bubbly is rich toasty and yeasty with aromatic brioche and red berry notes, intense and stylish with fresh bite balancing it out nicely. Yum. £15 M&S (sometimes £12 on offer).

03 July 2016

Posh Chardonnay: California, South Africa, Australia

Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2014, California (13.5% abv) - This classy wholesome Chardy is "a winemaker’s blend of mountain, ridge, hillside and benchland (a long narrow valley without a river apparently) hand select grapes grown along California’s cool coastal appellations." (The Banke-Jackson family owns vineyards in Santa Barbara, Monterey, Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties in fact). Each 'lot' is then fermented separately and barrel-aged. Enticing mix of buttery oatmeal aromas and flavours, and not too toasty with it, and sunny citrus/peach fruit, nice full mouth-feel yet reasonably subtle and fresh. Quite dear, although on a level with good white Burgundy especially if you're splashing out for you-know-what day tomorrow: £15.95 Slurp.co.uk.

Grier Family Villiera Brut Natural Chardonnay 2010 'Methode Cap Classique'; Stellenbosch, South Africa (12% abv) - This stylish Champagne-esque fizz was treated to no less than 34 months yeast-lees ageing in the bottle and unusually has no added sugar (unlike typical so-called 'Brut' styles) or sulphur dioxide. Still surprisingly youthful at first with frothy, fresh and structured palate; then revealing delicate 'brioche', oatcake and roast hazelnut flavours vs crisp and dry finish. Marks & Spencer £12.

Robert Oatley Vineyards '6285' Chardonnay 2014; Margaret River, Western Australia (13% abv) - Tasty example of that little extra touch of style you can find in Western Oz, this showed a deft mix of ripe juicy fruit, creamy texture and subtle oak spice in the background. Marks & Spencer: again fairly dear at £13 (I bought it on offer though) but you should be reasonably impressed.

28 December 2015

South Africa: Pinotage revisited (part 2)

From www.welgegund.co.za

There's been an energy-saving spotlight on South African Pinotage on this blog with these two posts penned earlier in the year: South Africa: Cape Winemakers' Guild Auction (September) featuring a 'wow' Pinotage from legendary Kanonkop, and South Africa: Pinotage & Shiraz/Syrah (June) including over a dozen tasty Pinotages such as Spice Route, Kaapzicht, Darling Cellars, Boschendal, Brampton and Lutzville.
And so, as all good things sometimes have to come to an end, I'm closing off the year spicily with a couple of gracefully ageing older vintages from "small scale artisan grower-producers," as Russell Wallace put it, general manager of importer and online retailer Exel Wines based in Scotland. These two "premium Pinotage(s)... are the Pinotage that first convinced me that sometimes the grape was worth something!" he quipped. I wouldn't take that too lightly though, since his company lists no less than 57 Pinotage wines (Heinz eat your heart out) including red blends and rosé.
Aaldering is located in the Devon Valley in Stellenbosch, and Russell added "they keep trying to buy back" the 2007 vintage in the limelight below. The 2009 Welgegund comes from this 18th-century property's Wellington farm in the Western Cape, although it looks like they don't make Pinotage any more and Exel claims to have some of the last remaining stock of this vintage. So the 'rarity factor' helps partly explain the quite high prices of these two wines, although you could easily pay that much for comparable quality and maturity from elsewhere in the wine world. And there's a good reader deal now available - see discount codes at the bottom.

2007 Aaldering Pinotage (15% abv) - Still has a fair amount of coconut/vanilla oak on the nose but there's lots more too, liquorice and pepper with complex maturing dried raspberry and blackcurrant fruits, savoury vs minty as well. Powerful mouth-feel with nice and smooth tannins, coco vanilla notes and dried blackberry and spice; turning meaty and punchy but that 15% alc. blends in well to its soft and sweet/savoury texture vs light grip on the finish; concentrated with lingering flavours and power, drinking well but not going to fade away fast. Has none of those dry bitter tannins you can find with older Pinotage, showing fair class and depth with 'thick' but not tannic texture, smoky oak turning to sweet berry fruit and savoury flavours. Next day: 'cheesier' and meatier notes, more like good old Rioja but gutsier. £25.44
2009 Welgegund Pinotage (14% abv) - Complex nose, red pepper blackcurrant and mint/wild herbs with savoury maturing and liquorice tones; concentrated and lush vs crunchier fruit vs dark chocolate and cherry, more of those wild aromatic characters too with oomph and light bitter twist; attractive combo of soft and maturing vs structured and powerful. Good wine. £19.51 sale price.

Exel has set up a couple of reader discounts as follows:
Enter the code WineWriting (click there) to get 5% off across the site (on top of any sale prices and loyalty points with free shipping on 12 bottles or more).
Enter Pinotage for £5 off per bottle of the Welgegund and Aaldering wines only (follow those links).
WineWriting.com & French Med Wine is purely the media for this offer and isn't responsible for order processing etc.

30 September 2015

South Africa: Cape Winemakers' Guild Auction

From www.capewinemakersguild.com
The 2015 Cape Winemakers' Guild Auction 'of rare Cape wines' (as the glossy brochure says) takes place this Saturday 3 October at Spier winery in Stellenbosch. This organisation represents 'South Africa's finest winemakers,' the blurb continues: looking down the list of names, you'd be hard-pressed to disagree though. "You have to be invited and voted in by the rest based on track record etc..." as member-winemaker Andrea Mullineux explained at a recent preview tasting in London.
The idea is that these winemakers create a specific small-batch wine 'exclusively for this auction' (some of them do end up being released commercially, or at least a different label based on the blend), which the proceeds of go towards funding the Guild's Development Trust 'to support social development through further education in the South African wine industry.' This includes accredited wine training courses, the Protégé Programme for 'cultivating, nurturing and empowering promising oenologists and viticulturists' and bursaries to university students. So, now you know, get your Rand at the ready. Here's my pick (17 wines) of a selection of this year's auction labels tasted a couple of weeks ago.

Graham Beck Non Plus Ultra Méthode Cap Classique 2008, Western Cape - Pieter Ferreira. 81% Chardonnay (some of it barrel-fermented), 19% Pinot Noir; 72 months lees-ageing, 6.7 gr/l residual sugar (RS), 11.66% abv. Lost its fizz quite quickly, nice complex toasty and rich aromas/flavours though vs dry and 'salty' tang, lacks a little zip in the end; classy fizz although has probably seen better days.

Kanonkop CWG Pinotage 2013, Simonsberg - Abrie Beeslaar. Old low-yielding bush vines; 18 months in barrel, 14.9% abv. Wild peppery nose with spicy alcohol tones and coconut/chocolate oak, fairly extracted but has good tannins and lots of peppery fruit, enticing mix of roasted red pepper vs that 'dark side'. Wow: still needs some time to come together and for the oak to melt in...
Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2012, Simonsberg - Abrie Beeslaar. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc from 27 year-old vineyards picked very ripe; 24 months in new French oak, 13.9% abv. Quite firm and taut with crunchy cassis vs darker berry fruit, solid and fresh mouth-feel with subtle concentration, still fairly oaky yet has attractive texture with well-balanced mix of tannins/acid vs grain vs depth, very long; still youthful and structured, not too oaky in the end.
Rust en Vrede CWG Estate 2012, Stellenbosch - Coenie Snyman. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 5% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; 22 months in barrel, 14.78% abv. Smoky maturing nose with cassis, black cherry and spicy red pepper notes; firm and fresh mouth-feel with quite supple tannins though and nice smoky sweet/savoury fruit finish. Good wine: powerful and concentrated but balanced; less 'austere' than the Paul Sauer.

Jordan Chardonnay Auction Selection 2014, Stellenbosch - Gary Jordan. From his Nine Yards Chardonnay vineyard; wild yeast fermentation, barrel-fermented 12 months, 13% abv. Riper citrus fruit with creamy toasty edges, a tad more oak but it's fairly lush with fuller texture, 'sweeter' fruit and buttery toast flavours vs a little bite. Very nice Chardy: different from the Cluver below and a bit more upfront.
Jordan Sophia 2012, Stellenbosch - Gary Jordan. 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc from 'the best hillside vineyards'; 26 months in French oak, 14% abv. Red pepper and spicy cedar tones on the nose, firm vs lusher side with nice crunchy vs richer blackcurrant fruit, taut yet attractive tannins with fresh acidity too, subtle cedar/coconut grain, well-made and quite stylish.

Paul Cluver The Wagon Trail Chardonnay 2014, Elgin - Andries Burger. 100% Chardy 'selected from 27 year-old vineyards, the oldest on the property.' Barrel-fermented with one-third new wood, left on the lees for 9 months; 13.34% abv. Buttery and aromatic, light toast and coconut grain / spice vs lush and creamy with 'sweet' citrus fruit vs nice bite, lovely balance of rich vs crisp and lively.
Paul Cluver Auction Selection Pinot Noir 2013, Elgin - Andries Burger. From their 'highest lying Pinot Noir vineyards...'; 11 months in oak (only 25% new), 13.61% abv. Sexy Pinot nose with perfumed sweet/savoury notes, maturing savoury fruit vs attractive bite and freshness, elegance vs weight, concentrated and long with subtle spice tones. Lovely wine.

Hartenberg CWG Auction Shiraz 2013, Stellenbosch - Carl Schultz. From their 'two single vineyard Shiraz sites, Gravel Hill and Stork...'; 21 months in 50% new barriques, 14.54% abv. Peppery black cherry nose with a touch of coconut and vanilla, powerful vs lush dark and spicy fruit, still quite firm yet nicely textured tannins, punchy and peppery mouth-feel with sweet vs savoury fruit and some wilder edges too, the oak is well-balanced in the end. Good stuff.
Hartenberg CWG Auction Merlot 2013, Stellenbosch - Carl Schultz. 'Single vineyard parcel' - 20 months in new French and Romanian oak, 14.34% abv. Cedary with herbal red pepper notes, lusher plum fruit on the palate in the background vs still very firm structure and lingering leafy/cedar tones. A tad austere at the moment, but there is something 'classic' about it...

Savage Wines 'Follow the Line' 2013, Western Cape - Duncan Savage. One-third Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah 'sourced from a number of altitude and maritime vineyards around the Western Cape.' Made in clay amphora and large old oak tuns, 13% abv. Aromatic cherry and spice on the nose, a hint of 'funk' too; seems punchy although more peppery, quite soft tannins with savoury edges. Pretty good and a bit different.

Mullineux 'The Gris' Semillon 2014, Swartland - Andrea Mullineux. 100% Semillon Gris from 'a 56 year-old heritage dry-farmed vineyard grown on granite soils...' Natural barrel-fermentation, one year on lees without stirring; 12.66% abv. Lightly nutty/coconutty, creamy and exotic vs tight and closed up still, fine-grained texture vs 'sweet' fruit and weight vs 'salty' acid structure. Intriguing wine, could be good; probably needs a bit more time: did open up nicely over lunch actually.
Mullineux Trifecta Chenin Blanc 2013, Swartland - Andrea Mullineux. From 'our three best Swartland vineyards (schist, granite, quartz)...' Barrel-fermented 'naturally'; 13.68% abv. Lovely honeyed and nutty nose, creamy with savoury hazelnut, nice weight vs a fresher 'saltier' side, maturing roast nut flavours vs subtle balance. Very nice Chenin. Andrea expanded: "I wanted it to be more of a winemaker's wine than a terroir Chenin Blanc like our other one."

Boplaas Ouma Cloete Straw Wine 2013, Calitzdorp (Klein Karoo) - Carel Nel. 'Crafted from the most raisined sun-dried bunches of Viognier fermented in traditional lagars...' 183 gr/l RS, 10.7% abv. Marmalade and honey with dried apricot, very lush and sweet with fair bite and fresh cut.
Sijnn !uri 2014, Malgas (Breede River) - David Trafford. 55% Viognier, 35% Chenin Blanc and 10% Roussanne 'all barrel-fermented in French oak for 10 months, 50% new... natural yeast fermented and bottled unfiltered.' 14.56% abv. Pretty golden in colour, quite rich honeyed pineapple fruit and subtle toasted coconut notes, powerful with light oak grain and fairly luscious lingering exotic fruit (it's very dry though); well-handled winemaking touches.

Louis Nel 'A Thousand Kisses Deep' Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Stellenbosch - Louis Nel. Three months on lees; 13% abv. Very aromatic citrus and pear, softer SB style but lively and lees-y with nice ripe kiwi fruit and zesty 'chalky' mouth-feel, crisp and quite delicate finish; subtle depth though for a very 'approachable' wine. Must ask him where that name came from.
AA Badenhorst Family Wines 'Geel-Kapel' Muscat de Frontignan 2013, Swartland - Adi Badenhorst. From old vines in the Moutonshoek Valley (sounds like sheep's corner?); aged for 1.5 years in an old cask, not fined or filtered and no added sulphur dioxide; 13.63% abv. Quirky natural-leaning, although cleverly reined in, and dry style of Muscat: apricot and grape aromas mingle with quite volatile wilder-edged tones, turning nuttier with oxidising notes and a bit of oomph too vs very dry and crisp even, pretty intense finish and nicely textured as well. Adi must have added this bold comment at the bottom of the page: 'This wine will be ready for drinking in 10 years' time'!

23 June 2015

South African Shiraz update: Cloof

Following on from my recent piece on South Africa: Pinotage & Shiraz / Syrah, I've added two more tasty Shirazes ("sexy" even...) to this and featured them below as well, which are definitely worth throwing out there into the digital wine sphere (they've been winning a few medals recently too: find out more on their site). Both come from Cloof Wine Estate in the Darling region (about an hour or so north of Cape Town) and are 2012 vintage: 'The Very Sexy' Shiraz and Cloof Shiraz. Click on the highlighted link at the top to read the original post. These reds 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 (see site as linked above).

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?

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.

18 April 2015

Pinot Noir & Cabernet Sauvignon: 'reds of the moment'

A few words about a pair of Pinots and a couple of Cabernets, pitching the US against South Africa and Chile against Argentina, which I selected for a 'classic grape varieties' tasting held in Belfast a few weeks ago. All different and all good.

Primarius Pinot Noir 2011, Oregon USA (12% abv) - I was slightly apprehensive buying this Oregon red at this price (they're mostly dearer), but wasn't disappointed. Quite light and elegant style yet has plenty of attractive clear-cut Pinot character, aromatic red fruit notes vs a more 'mushroom-y' (!) side and background oak adding a little roundness, refreshing and tasty finish. Drink now. £8.99 Tesco

20 February 2014

'Wines of the mo' - Germany, S Africa, Spain, France, Portugal, Argentina

My favourites - and many of the enthusiastic attendees - from around the globe tasted on a recent Saturday 'wine workshop' I ran in Belfast, which deserve a little more airing:

Germany, Mosel: Selbach-Oster Riesling Kabinett 2006

31 December 2013

S Africa, Italy, France, Chile: 'whites of the mo' Chenin, Fiano, Sauvignon.

Following in the red-tinted wake of my previous New Year-y Italians of the mo type posting, here are a few gratuitous and varied white recommendations sampled recently hailing from the deep Italian south (Puglia, Sicily), South Africa, Chile and France...

The Garden Route Chenin blanc 2013 Western Cape (13% abv) –

09 December 2013

Champagne & sparkling wines: festive fizz

Cava - Catalunya
Updated 11 December:
Conde de Caralt Rosado (Trepat, Monastrell, Garnacha) - lightly yeasty nose with milk chocolate biscuit edges, ripe red fruity palate with oily texture vs quite crisp and off-dry. DWS (Belfast) £9.25, Cases Wine Warehouse (Galway) €14.95
Enric Nadal (Torrelavit) 2007 Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Parellada, Macabeu, Xarel-lo, 12% abv) - rich toasted yeast and chocolate cake aromas, maturing nutty savoury flavours with still fresh and fizzy contrast, tangy finish with dry bite vs plenty of lush flavours. Yum. £15 / €25 James Nicholson
Juvé y Camps Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2009 (12%) - same trio of Catalan grapes as above, similar in style although a bit less rich and toasty perhaps, nice nutty honeyed flavours and crisp dry finish. Wasn't hugely fizzy, perhaps it didn't enjoy sitting in the warm duty free shop at Alicante airport and the flight home! €13.50
2010 Mas Miralda Rosado Vintage Brut (Monastrell, Trepat, Garnacha and Pinot Noir; 12%) - one of Asda's own label "extra special" range, nice and red fruity with light biscuit touches and frothy off dry finish. £6 on offer.
Loads more Cava HERE (links to intro to my 12-page mini-guide, now available for £2.50 or free to subscribers).

Prosecco - northeast Italy
La Jara organic rosé (grape variety = Glera, 10.5%) - attractively light and delicate, fruity rosé fizz with nice frothy lively mouth-feel and sweet vs crunchy red fruits, fairly crisp and medium-dry. Swig Wine £10.95 (9.95 if you buy 6).
Col de l'Utia 2012 Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene, Spumante Extra Dry (Prosecco grape, 11.5%) - similarly light and refreshing, has background yeasty biscuit notes and light almond and apple flavours, crisp and off-dry finish. Not massively exciting but a good example of elegant easy-drinking Prosecco. Naked Wines £10.99 (Angel's price: see here for more about that).

South Africa
Cape Fairtrade Sparkling Brut Rosé 2009 Du Toitskloof (12.5%) - good value with lots of flavour for the money: quite toasty with chocolate and aromatic ripe red fruits, rounded and easy-going vs fresh bite, nice style. The Co-operative £7.99

From facebook.com/DigbyFineEnglish
England - Sussex, Kent, Hampshire
Although made at this winery in West Sussex, the fruit is sourced from selected growers across southeastern England (not unlike how most Champagne houses operate) by winemaker Dermot Sugrue. Watch out for my in-depth supplement on English sparkling wines, including a fuller profile on Digby.
Digby Fine English 2009 Vintage Rosé Brut, Wiston Estate Winery (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay; 12% abv) - Delicious mix of ripe strawberry/raspberry vs toasty and chocolate biscuit, lush rounded and fruity vs fresh acid structure, showing depth and class. Yum. £38-£40 from their on-line shop or at Selfridges, Vagabond Wines and Wine Pantry; which is fairly dear, obviously, but no more so than other similar quality English rosé sparklers or rosé Champers for that matter.
Digby 2009 Reserve Brut (two-thirds Chardonnay + the two Pinots; 12%) - Elegant mix of citrus vs buttery fruit vs yeasty oat biscuit flavours vs crisp and refreshing, quite tight and structured still with nice fruit and light toast. A tad drier and crisper than the rosé with apple and citrus vs yeasty notes, good stuff again with a touch of class, more vintage Champagne like. £31.49

Champagne - France
Louis Chaurey NV Brut (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier; 12%) - tried this last year (goes there) on a similar "half price" deal at Marks & Spencer, and it's just as good this year too. Pretty classic non-vintage Champers with nice fizz, a bit of creamy body vs crisp refreshing bite vs yeasty oat cake flavours, quite long. Good for £16, I wouldn't pay £32 though.
Franck Bonville Prestige Grand Cru, Blanc de Blancs Brut (Chardonnay, 12.5% abv) - Made from 100% Chardy grapes from top-rated vineyards in the village of Avize; shows some real class with lovely creamy buttery fruit, delicate mouthwatering length, nice depth of flavour, rounded and toasted oat-y vs structured and quite serious food-demanding style. Marks & Spencer: £28 at the moment, usually £39.

McGuigan Black Label Premium Release Sparkling Shiraz (13.5%) - Just for fun and oddity factor, sparkling reds like this take a bit of getting used too (some won't), with lots of spicy ripe berry fruit, tannin and alcohol; has a more refreshing side though with ripe dark fruity finish. Try with chocolate desserts or mature cheeses. Wine World / Wine Flair £9.89

I've added / might add more good fizz to this post before the end of December. In the meantime, here are some links to even more fizzy posts HERE.

15 April 2013

South Africa: Grenache

As an enhanced little update to this peppery piece posted last October:
Here are a couple of Cape Grenache reds worth mentioning, discovered at the World Grenache Competition held in the south of France earlier this year... More on that here (overview), here (Roussillon & Chateauneuf), here (Sardinia), here (Spain) and here (Australia).

2012 Waverley Hills Grenache, Tulbagh region (13.5%) - aromatic floral liquorice and pepper on the nose, quite soft and tasty palate with attractive aromatic fruit, touch of tannin adds grip vs nice rounded mouth-feel. Silver Medal winner.
More on Waverley here (goes to South Africa archive page).

2011 Diemersdal Grenache, Durbanville valley (14%) - herby and peppery aromas, quite intense in the mouth with a touch of sweet oak, firm dry mouth-feel vs sweeter wild fruit on the finish.

06 February 2013

World Grenache Competition part 1: Spain, Sardinia, Australia, South Africa.

The first of its kind, I/they believe (? and set to become a regular event I hope), an international wine competition in celebration of one of my fav varieties, Grenache / Garnacha / Garnatxa / Cannonau: red, white, rosé and fortified wines. And absolutely why not, I hear you say. Ah, yes, Cannonau: it took me a while too to remember that Sardinia's Cannonau di Sardegna red is made from what they call Grenache!
I was on one of the tasting panels in Perpignan on 24th January; my table of tasters (two Spanish winemakers - erm, one Valencian, one Catalan - three French and yours truly) sampled and marked about 30 wines: one flight of Spanish rosés, one of Cannonau and one of Roussillon 'table' reds (my pick of the latter appear in part 2 of this report on my French Med Wine blog). Being held in Perpignan, there were naturally a lot of local entries, which is probably reflected in the amount of medal winners from this region (and some good wines of course). Then again, most of the world's Grenache is planted in France - split between the Rhone valley, Roussillon and Languedoc - and Spain, Garnacha's spiritual home (I have/found contradictory info disagreeing over whether Spain or France has the most!). There were also some entries from Australia (probably not as many as there could/should have been?) and South Africa (again, medal winners and my favs are below), accompanied by surprise samples from Brasil and Republic of Macedonia! But what about California? I believe the main criterion applied for the contest was for large-majority Grenache (red, white, grey or 'furry'...) wines, which perhaps also explains the dominance of the Roussillon and lack of Chateauneuf-du-Pape or Languedoc in the 'French category' and wines from Aus and SA (tends to be a lower % of the blend), although you'd still have expected more Rhone wines in the medal line-up.
Talking of which, this is where I might make myself unpopular. I counted 163 Gold and Silver medals including nine Trophy winners: out of only 364 wines tasted, that's nearly 45% of them, which is too high a proportion compared to other international competitions; and in fact OIV regulations, the organisation that dreamed up the frankly stupid 'official' system used, apparently state that "awards are limited to 30% of samples entered..." I've come across this system before, where you have to allocate a set amount of marks to all aspects of each wine, including e.g. colour and clarity as if that really matters when making a quality judgement. Especially since Grenache isn't naturally known as a variety with lots of rich colour (you can if you really extract it), compared to say Syrah or Cabernet. Anyway, this very long-winded methodology does at least add up to 100, but it's more generous - or the opposite - than the 100 point system used by some wine critics. Scoring works as follows: 84 to 87 Silver medal, Gold 87 to 92 and Trophy 92 to 100 (see what I mean). It's too easy to award too many or too few marks to a wine by adding them all up for each 'category' (visual, olfactory, mouth-feel, overall impression and totally subjective 'typicity'), as you're supposed to. So I judged them applying the 'traditional' 100-pointer in my mind while asking myself: "is this really a silver or gold wine?" Then did the silly math afterwards.
Rant over: you have to use some scoring system or other obviously. And I'm certainly not knocking any attempt to promote great wines made from Grenache from around the world. The nine 'trophy' winners were as follows, which include a fair few Vins Doux Naturels fortified reds and 'whites' from the Roussillon (red highlight = link to profile on my other blog):
Château de Péna Hors d'âge AOP Rivesaltes Tuilé, Roussillon.
Dom Brial 2010 AOP Rivesaltes Grenat, Roussillon.
Domaine Rossignol 2008 AOP Rivesaltes Ambré, Roussillon.
Albera En croisade Hors d'âge AOP Rivesaltes Ambré, Roussillon.
GT-G 2010 LePlan-Vermeersch AOP Côtes du Rhône Villages.
Lafou Els Amelers 2011 Roqueta DO Terra Alta white, Catalonia.
Saint Roch Kerbuccio 2011 Maison Lafage AOP Maury Sec, Roussillon.
Sartiglia 2011 Azienda Vinicola Attilio Contini DOC Cannonau di Sardegna (actually my top wine in our flight from Sardinia).
Sur Grains 2011 Domaine Boudau AOP Rivesaltes Grenat, Roussillon.

The full results are viewable here: www.grenachesdumonde.com.

My pick of the Spanish rosados and Cannonau di Sardegna reds (tasted in the competition blind) (will) feature in separate posts (click on highlighted links), along with a few succinct points plucked from the presentations given in the afternoon on Grenache and pen names in Sardinia, Aragon, Catalonia and Australia. Plus more wines worth mentioning sampled / quaffed that evening at a food & wine tasting bash or the previous night over dinner. Any medals awarded appear in brackets and/or my 100-point style score afterwards...
AND "WGC Part 2" including my favs from the Roussillon and Rhone Valley IS HERE, with the first outing, for me at least, of some exciting Maury Sec dry red wines (the appellation rules were amended from vintage 2011 to embrace 'dry' and fortified sweet reds from the same area based on Grenache)...

23 November 2012

South Africa part 3: Chenin blanc, Viognier, Grenache blanc, Semillon...

This third blast of "blurb & bottles" in my recent South African mini-series - see Part 2: "unusual" reds (well, some of them) (posted October) and Part 1 Pinot Noir (September) if that grabs you - takes a brief look at a few tasty white wines. And especially perennial favourite Chenin blanc, which I've gone on about before (goes to SA archive page) and no doubt will do again. This French variety has a long track record in the Cape and can make a dazzling array of quality dry to sweet wine styles, including some very sound sparkling wines too; as long as it's not too mass produced, which usually ends up as rather bland and characterless. Viognier is, like in most wine regions outside of France, a relative parvenu in South Africa; and winemakers here are beginning to show us what they can do with this more exotic and powerful grape, as a varietal wine or blended with Chenin and/or others such as Grenache blanc. The latter Catalan / southern French variety is also featuring more and more in the Cape wine-lands and, logically, seems to suit South Africa's warm/hot climate zones well. This merry band of whites was tried and tested on different occasions this year, some of them at the London Wine Fair a few months ago and the rest at home or on wine courses I've been running.

Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc (14%) - tight and steely at first layered with a subtle creamier honeyed side, not very revealing when I tasted it (was too cold) but feels like it's got a bit of class underneath. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Adi Badenhorst 2011 Secateurs Chenin Blanc, Swartland (14.5% alc) - lovely exotic honeyed character with cantaloupe melon fruit and oily rounded mouth-feel, fair weight too then steelier and spicier finish nicely counteracting its rich style. UK £9.75 James Nicholson (NI), £11.50 Swig (London). Older Badenhorst here.
Spier 2010 21 Gables Chenin Blanc (14%) - full-on Burgundy-esque buttery style with sweet fruit and creamy hazelnut flavours, nice weight and mouth-feel; good although could be Chardonnay! £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Jean Daneel 2011 Chenin Blanc (14%) - quite rich and toasty with hazelnut undertones, dry and steely palate though with intense long finish; still tasting young needing a few months bottle age probably, but promising. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Ken Forrester 2011 Reserve Chenin Blanc (14%) - Mr. Forrester is 'the daddy' of Chenin blanc (and makes a few own-labels in the UK such as Tesco's Finest CB), and this example shows his usual class. Quite restrained tight and zesty to start vs a weightier honeyed side, crisp long finish; needs time too to come together and open up.
Villiera 2011 Traditional Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (13.3%) - aromatic juicy honey and melon with greengage edges, turning more buttery on the palate vs good bite and length; nice style. UK £7-£10 Crush Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
De Trafford Four V Chenin Blanc (14.68%) - fairly powerful stuff with rich honeyed fruit and texture, attractive nuttier finish too. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Beaumont 2011 Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc (12.5%) - not showing much at first, gets fuller and rounder though with nutty flavours, a hint of sweetness too vs lively yeast-lees notes. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Stellenrust 2010 '46' Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc (14%) - leesy nose, quite toasty and rich too with juicy honeyed melon fruit, nutty and crisp on the finish vs full and ripe. Another attractive style. UK: Bibendum Wines.
Bosman Family Vineyards 2010 Optenhorst Chenin Blanc (13.5%) - fairly lush with toasted hazelnut vs maturing savoury oaty notes, finishing with steely bite; attractive and quite classy. £10-£20 UK (Thierry's), €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.

Leeuwenkuil Family Reserve white 2011 (50% Chenin blanc, 20% Roussanne, 16% Grenache blanc, 10% Clairette blanche, 4% Verdelho; 13.5% alc.) - juicy honeyed and creamy with aromatic nutty side too, quite punchy vs very crisp (the acidity's a little hard actually) vs toasty rounded finish. Interesting though. UK £7-£10 New Generation Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
KWV 2010 The Mentor's Grenache Blanc (14.2%) - interesting quirky wine, big and punchy with enticing hazelnut vs herby notes, rounded and full-on vs crisper nutty finish. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone or $30-$50 USA.
Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Whole Bunch 'Grenache Blanc with Viognier' (14%) - rich and toasty with powerful palate, again has surprisingly tight and subtle finish after that full-on start; probably needs a bit of time to express itself. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Bellingham 2011 The Bernard Series Hand-Picked Viognier (13.5%) - steelier more restrained style of Viognier with zesty lees notes vs lightly exotic aromatic fruit, tight and quite crisp finish vs touch of richness. £10-£20 UK, €15-€30 Eurozone (imported by DGB Europe) or $30-$50 USA.
Flagstone 2011 Word of Mouth Viognier (14.2%) - hints of floral apricot, again quite discreet at first yet powerful in the mouth; either a tad lacking or a little more elegant than is good for it?! UK £7-£10 Accolade Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.
Escapades 2011 Semillon (14.5%) - a bit cold and closed up when I first tried it, develops toasty edges vs 'waxy' honeyed fruit, tight and fresh mouth-feel vs pretty full-on and rounded. Needs a few months?
Cloof 2010 The Very Vivacious Viognier, Darling (12.5%) - well, not very, but this is still an attractive lighter style of Viognier with floral peachy apricot notes and rounded easy-drinking palate. www.winesulike.co.uk £10.99

30 October 2012

South Africa part 2: "unusual" reds (well, some of them...)

Even the dog thinks the Shiraz
is sexy from www.cloof.co.za
Part one being South Africa: Pinot Noir posted last month (plus there's a load of archive stuff on this page), soon to be followed by the unmissable sequel: "Just when you thought it was safe blah blah, South Africa 3 - unusual whites (well, some of them...)."
Cutting rapidly to the chase, you'll find below an eclectic mix of ten recommended South African red blends and varietals, loosely "Mediterranean/Rhone" in make-up with a few Shiraz based cocktails plus some Portuguese & Italian varieties and a sort-of indigenous one, all sampled recently through rouge-tinged spectacles. There's perhaps a longer tradition (more European if you like) in South Africa of creating red blends (especially Bordeaux style mixes) rather than varietal wines, although things change of course and there are plenty of tasty examples of straight Shirazes, Pinotages, Cabernets etc. But if certain combinations work particularly well, and sometimes you need a good few (hundred) years of trial and error to suss it out, why change it.

2009 The Cloof Cellar Blend Darling (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz; 15% alc.) - intriguing nose with baked volatile tones, rich and smoky with maturing meaty/leather edges vs spicy liquorice and herby minty dark fruits; concentrated with firm dry tannins layered with lovely 'sweet/savoury' fruit, powerful finish vs dense texture and complex flavours. 'Traditional' style red and good with it, drinking well now although should go on for a few years yet. £11.99 www.winesulike.co.uk, €12.99 O'Briens.
2009 Cloof Pinotage Darling (14.5%) - similarly rich smoky and dense style with solid framework vs lush ripe vs sour fruit, dark plums and dried fruits vs light red pepper tones, nice 'sweet' vs maturing savoury finish. £10.99 www.winesulike.co.uk
2010 The Cloof Very Sexy Shiraz Darling (14.5%) - quite sexy actually, yet another dense and chunky red from Cloof although this one is more youthful with very ripe blackberry and light spice rounded off with touches of coconut/vanilla oak, less firm on the finish but still has fair punch and depth of fruit. £11.99 www.winesulike.co.uk, €12.99 O'Briens.

2010 Leeuwenkuil Family Reserve Red, Coastal Region (mostly Shiraz + a splash each of  Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsaut; 14% alc) - fairly chocolate oaky on the nose vs rich dark and spicy backdrop, firm yet silky tannins with powerful finish balanced out by tasty ripe vs savoury fruit. UK £7-£10 New Generation Wines, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.

2009 Spice Route Chakalaka (Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Tannat; 14.5% alc) - love that name and quirky blend: hints of spicy oak topped with rich ripe wild fruits vs herby combo, grippy and textured mouth-feel countered by lovely lush dark vs savoury fruit, powerful but it works with long tasty finish. UK £20+ Raisin Social, US $50+, Eurozone €30+.

2008 Leopard's Leap Family Collection Shiraz/Mourvèdre/Viognier (13.5%) - mature savoury style with minty edges, a bit old perhaps but it's interesting with those nice developed characters. UK £7-£10 Raisin Social, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.

2010 Savanha Frieda's Vine Shiraz/Mourvèdre (14.5%) - 'modern' fruit-driven style with punchy yet tasty palate, finishing with more interesting savoury and spicy flavours with hints of leather and black olive, dry but rounded tannins. UK £7-£10 PLB, US $14-$30, Eurozone €9-€15.

2008 de Trafford Sijnn (Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Trincadeira, Touriga; 14% alc) - aromatic spicy minty nose, dark pruney fruit with peppery olive tones, soft tannins vs power, weight and lovely savoury fruit finish. Good stuff. UK Bibendum Wines.

2011 Howard Booysen Pegasus Cinsault (12.5%) - odd nose, moves on to perfumed sweet berry fruit, quite soft and easygoing with tasty delicate finish.

2009 Nederburg Ingenuity Red (Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo; 14.5% alc) - dried cherry and blackberry notes, rich extracted and a tad oak-heavy to start, although has nice underlying developing savoury fruit, concentrated and chunky too with long maturing finish; that oak calms down in the end lending rounder texture. UK £20+, US $50+, Eurozone €30+.

South Africa part 3: Chenin blanc, Viognier, Grenache blanc, Semillon...

08 September 2012

South Africa: Pinot Noir

These eight reds scrutinized and tasting-noted below perhaps give a reasonable snapshot of what's happening with Pinot Noir in the Cape, all sampled in London a couple of months ago. As for wine regions I've breezed through here, the producers are based in: Stellenbosch not far east of Cape Town, the Elgin Valley found about an hour southeast of the 'capital' up in the mountains; and heading further south, you come across arguably the best-known name in South African Pinot, or certainly something of a pioneer for the variety, Hamilton Russell nestling in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near the town of Hermanus on the coast; then keep going south along the coast and you'll eventually reach Cape Agulhas, the Western Cape's and South Africa's most southerly vineyard area. Getting a pattern here location and climate wise... Some of the Pinots I tasted with 14% or more alcohol seemed less balanced and accomplished, implying it doesn't suit hotter areas like the Paarl Valley as well, which is a little further inland from Cape Town than Stellenbosch (although is still mountainous). Or being picked too late.
As for quality and/or value for money, the price ranges I've indicated below are a bit vague but show these producers are generally neither expensive nor cheap in the context of good Pinot - and these ones mostly are - with a couple of quite dear bottles (that's famous names for you) and 'best value' probably coming from Strandveld winery.

The Winery of Good Hope team
The Winery of Good Hope 2010 Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir, Elgin (13% alcohol) - quite delicate and has that tasty 'sweet/savoury' Pinot thing going on, with refreshing bite / light bitter twist; less concentrated than some of this batch of Pinots but is still an attractive obviously PN style. Price: UK £10-£20 (importer Les Caves de Pyrene), Eurozone €15-€30 (e.g. Cassidy Wines Ireland), USA $30-$50 (Martignetti and World Premiere Wines) and just about everywhere else by the looks of it (click on link above in photo caption then "where to buy").
Kleine Zalze 2010 Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch - a tad juicy fruity to start on the nose, moves on to nicer savoury tinged palate showing a bit of grip vs silky fruit texture. Not bad in the end.
Paul Cluver 2009 Pinot Noir, Elgin (13.3%) - maturing 'sweet/savoury' fruit aromas, elegant and tasty palate showing attractive freshness vs ageing character lingering on the finish. Good stuff. £10-£20, €15-€30 or $30-$50. Widely distributed in Europe, North America etc: see www.cluver.com.
Meerlust 2010 Pinot Noir, Stellenbosch (14%) - lovely savoury vs fruity profile, nice rounded tannins with pretty intense and powerful length; weightier wine yet stylish. £20+, €30+ or $50+ (UK/US: Maison Marques et Domaines) - more info @ www.meerlust.co.za.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley (13.7%) - elegant ripe berry notes with savoury / 'forest floor' edges, has nice bite combined with a little weight and subtle concentration and length; a touch of class. UK importer Hallgarten Druitt: more @ hamiltonrussellvineyards.com.
Creation Pinot Noir 2011, Hemel-en-Aarde (14.4%) - enticing 'sweet/savoury' Pinot nose, quite big and structured palate showing a hint of oak, delicious fruit though despite that alcohol lingering a bit too much on the finish. £10-£20, €15-€30 or $30-$50: widely exported, see www.creationwines.com.
Strandveld 2009 First Sighting Pinot Noir, Cape Agulhas (13.7%) - browning maturing colour with intriguing 'cheesy' mushroom tones on the nose, has quite lush 'sweet/savoury' fruit on its silky maturing palate; finishing with a bit of power vs still quite fresh actually despite those attractive ageing flavours. £7-£10, €9-€15 or $15-$30: find importers on their site.
Glen Carlou 2011 Pinot Noir, Paarl (14%) - fragrant ripe red berry notes turning to liquorice even, tinged with savoury edges; fairly punchy palate vs more delicate fruit underneath and a hint of fresh bite too. Nice but a little 'clunky' perhaps. £10-£20, €15-€30 or $30-$50. Part of the Hess Family group so widely distributed I'd imagine: www.glencarlou.co.za.

South Africa part 2: "unusual" reds (well, some of them...)
South Africa part 3: Chenin blanc, Viognier, Grenache blanc... 
South Africa archive page.


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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.