BIll, for better or worse, with South African business partners, I now travel regularly to SA. Over the course of a couple of trips, I have driven all around Stollenbosch and been luck enough to be in Jo'burg for their annual wine expo. There is no doubt they are making some really interesting wines at present so I have cut over a write up from an earlier post together with a couple of additions from recent trips.
On the first trip we started out with a visit Haskell Wine and Rianie, the winemaker is passionate about her wines and will happy spend an hour or so talking you through her superbly made wines. So first up if you get to Stollenbosh, head to Annadalee road with Haskell at the top of the road on the right hand fork. http://www.haskellvineyards.com/index.jsp
They make a superb Boulder Rd Shiraz
. The 05 pick up double gold which I am told in SA is a very good thing with two golds being better than one. Very much in a cooler climate style, soft tannins and red cherry flavours supported by white pepper notes. Excellent drop and just sad I had to give my bottle to the lovely lady at Customs in SA because I forgot you can no longer take bottles on board planes.
Also tried two very different chardonnay. The 05 having gone through malo treatment whilst the 06 had none. Of the two, I preferred the 05 with its butterscotch palate and suspect in future they may do a 50/50 mix. The 06 being more in the linear citrus new world style.
Further down the mountain, we also stopped in Ernie Els winery. No sign of the Man but a very impressive set up with stunning views from the tables set out the front on the patio. Tried all the wines but the one to go for is their flagship drop names after Ernie: Ernie Els
. Excellent bordeaux style this wine is no shrinking violet. big French oak, long cassis palate, cigar box and even some pencil shaving for those that seek pencils. The one bottle I did get back through those diligent men and women at Australian Customs will go to the back of the cellar for the next 15 years. The other main wines being the Proprietors blend of cab/shiraz was ok but not up to similar Aus styles of this blend. Also next door so to speak was the wellknow and justly so Rust en Verde. Lovely cab sav style and worth a bottle or two with one of the BIG steak the boks spend all their time eating.
At the bottom of the hill was the historic Weberburg Wines
with its white washed Cape Town buildings dating back to 1796. Fantastic lodging for those seeking some where to stay. The straight Cab Sav was a good wine without being exceptional. Slightly two dimensional and lacking in fruit and comlexity, it is still nevertheless worth a visit.
On a subsequent trip we journeyed to Thelma wine for lunch. Serving some of the best food in South Africa, springbok with a lobster sauce, the views back down the valley over the vineyards to the ocean beyound are stunning.
With a business partner who is passionate about his wines and a cellar to match, the 10 days produced a great intro into South African wines. First up Chardonays. My pick of the tour was a superb drop by Ataraxia 05
. Apparently the wine of the moment in SA and with good reason, it is in built in the Leewin Estate style, great length, with stunning citrus flavours and excellent length structure. I would happy put this up against any modern Aus style Chard.
Next and a completely different style was the Springfield Estate Methode Ancienne
. As John Platter (the SA wine critic guru/god) describes it, "extreme winemaking taken to the extreme limit... "inspired by ancient Burgundy" and a native yeast ferment. This wine caused huge debate at the table. The host hated, I loved it and the others were just confused. Any forumites out in SA have to give it a crack if only once.
At the wine expo we started with chardonnays. First up, the Jordan Nine Yards Reserve
, one of the granddaddys of the SA wine biz. Big new world style, excellent grape selection with great comlexity and length and fuller overall style. Also worth tracking down Bouchard Finlayson Croc Liar Chard
and Hamilton Russell Chardonnay
. The latter having undergone malo but retained elegance.
In terms of riesling, these are very much out of fashion although I did try a very good 98 rielsing from Klein Constania
with German like residual sweetness.
The other big grape category is the Pinotage. This was really interesting. Top of the list for me was the Diemersfontein with its amazing chocolate covered coffee bean style although one winemaker was kind enough to inform me this wine was developed for the masses and undermined the intregity of the grape ( sounded like sour grapes to me). Also tried some older Pinotage care of friends. The Kanonkop 92 Pinotage
shows that this wine if well made can easily last 20 years. At this age, the tannins have softened and the wine takes on a subtle complexity built around its choc/coffee flavours.
The one observation from an evening at the WineX is that Brett remains a major problem for many wineries. A number of the wines at the show had that whiffy barnyard nose that is thankfully missing from Aus wines. I have never really understood this condition when raised by the Brettanazis on this site but I really understood it after an hour of random tasting in SA. I asked a couple of winemakers and most were prepared to admit in the older wineries this problem is more common than most would be prepared to admit
No doubt the most stunning SA wine I have had so far however has been the Sadie Columella 2003
. A boutique wine with cul tlike status in SA, it is a blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre from a range of soil types. The nose is whilst the palate has dark fruit and wonderful complexity overlaid by a chocolatey character and integrated oak.
Miss dhem Saints.