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Wine Value Archive

© Copyright 1997 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.


Wines of South Africa

Pinotage "Paintbox"
Last summer, I learned an interesting descriptor that's characteristic of Pinotage, the South African cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut: Folks down there call it "paintbox," and it's reminiscent of that evocative smell of watercolor paints from elementary school. Frankly, I didn't like it much in the wine we were tasting that day. But the quality's a bit less forward in the wine at hand, and this time, I'm more than willing to go back for a second glass.
Kanonkop 1994 Stellenbosch (South Africa) Pinotage ($10.99)
Dark ruby in color. Plummy fruit with an earthy "paintbox" note that's characteristic of Pinotage. Warm, full fruit, seems a bit soft at first, but firm, tart acidity takes hold in the finish. Good table red, went particularly well with a simple wild-mushroom soup. Importer: Frederick Wildman & Sons, Ltd., NYC. (Oct. 18, 1996).

Mulderbosch 1993 Stellenbosch (South Africa) "Faithful Hound" Merlot/55% - Cabernet Sauvignon/45% ($14.95?? I've lost my receipt)
While shopping at Frugal MacDougal's in suburban Charlotte last week, I ran into a South African Bordeaux-style blend from Mulderbosch, a maker whose Sauvignon Blanc absolutely blows me away. It's got a pretty label with a friendly black-and-white dog on it; a sad story on the back (it's named after a dog whose master abandoned him and who waited patiently outside an empty shack on the Mulderbosch estate for three years before dying, alone); and tasting reveals a heckuva good bottle of red. What more can you ask? It's a clear dark garnet in color. Black currant and black-cherry fruit aromas are tied together with spicy-vanilla oak. Flavors follow the nose, adding "smoky," "tarry" elements reminiscent of the Rhone, ripe and bright, with soft tannins and juicy black fruit carrying on in a very long finish. Excellent wine. Importer: Cape Classics, Port Chester, N.Y. (Oct. 12, 1996).

Kanonkop 1994 Stellenbosch (South Africa) "Kadette" ($8.99)
Very dark garnet color. Spicy oak forward, plummy fruit back, with slight "organic" qualities -- leather and ripe cheese -- that diminish with airing in the glass. Soft, warm and simple fruit flavor, with a fragrant black- pepper note; dry and balanced with crisp acidity. Nothing fancy, but certainly a serviceable table wine. (Back label discloses that it's 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, aged 16 months in French Nevers oak.) Importer: Frederick Wildman and Sons Ltd., NYC. (May 11, 1996)

Nederburg 1989 Edelrood Paarl (South Africa) Red Wine ($8.99)
Dark garnet color. Spicy oak dominates a plummy fruit aroma. Soft, juicy black-fruit flavor backed by lemony acidity. Simple but well-balanced, a decent table wine. (I wonder if the '92 in the same bin for the same price is more fruity or less mellow; it seems like a wine that needs a little time to come together.) Importer: Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., New York City. (March 27, 1996)

Warwick Estate 1991 Stellenbosch (South Africa) Cabernet Sauvignon ($13.99)
Very dark garnet, almost opaque. Ripe black-currant fruit scent with a peppery edge. Big black-fruit and dark chocolate flavors, dry and tart, more than sufficient to overshadow firm tannins. Good black-cherry and a lemony tang in a long finish. Importer: American Wine Distributors Inc., San Francisco. (March 21, 1996)

Eersterivier Kelder 1994 Stellenbosch (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc ($11.99)
Pale straw color with a slight greenish hue. Pleasant aroma, mingles Sauvignon grassiness and subtle citric grapefruit. Flavors follow the nose, dry and crisp, with a good balance of tart citric and restrained green-olive flavors. It's not over the top like some of the Southern Hemisphere Sauvignon Blancs, but complex and pleasing and appropriately varietal. Very good wine! (Feb. 5, 1996)

Boschendal 1994 "Grande Cuvee" Paarl (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc ($9.99)
Clear straw color, with tiny bubbles that froth up in the glass when the wine is poured. Musky, grassy and grapefruit aroma notes, forward and ripe. Tart, citric fruit on the palate, lemons and grapefruit; clean and consistent in a very long finish. Importer: American Wine Distributors Inc., San Francisco. (Jan. 16, 1996)

All my wine-tasting reports are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores.

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