|Geoffrey Dean blog: tasting highlights from Cape Wine|
|Friday, 28 September 2012 09:26|
After a four rather than customary two-year gap on account of the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, the Cape Wine trade fair returned to Cape Town this week. A huge number of interesting and high quality South African wines were available for tasting, in the presence of a phalanx of winemakers at the Cape Town Convention Centre. Harpers sampled scores of the wines, and here are some of the highlights, all of which should be available in the UK.
Hartenberg, The Stork 2008 Shiraz: the pedigree Stellenbosch winery became the first from South Africa to win number one in the Syrah du Monde this summer with this stunning effort. Old World in style, it beat off competition from other New World pretenders as well as the Europeans.
Porseleinberg, Syrah 2010: this hillside Swartland shale vineyard was identified by Eben Sadie, the rock star of the Cape flying winemakers, as potentially the best site for Syrah in South Africa. Callie Louw, working on behalf of Boekenhoutskloof, who own the plot, does not disappoint with this brilliant first vintage, which became the first wine to be sold for 1,000 Rands at the prestigious Cape Winemakers Guild Auction. Ultra low yield of 12 hl/ha with 1400 bottles made. Likely retail of £70 in UK but worth it.
Scali, Syrah 2008: sumptuous, spicey wine from Willie de Waal, whose 2009 pinotage is on a par. Hugely talented young winemaker, who has also made a notable first vintage of sparkling wine by the Methode Ancestrale (single fermentation in bottle) with Chenin Blanc and Viognier.
Mullineux, Syrah 2010: husband and wife joint effort from Chris and Andrea Mullineux, who source their fruit with considerable skill from selected Swartland vineyards on granite and schist-based terroirs, and are making top-class wine. Watch out also for their massively concentrated Straw Wine 2011 (230 g/l residual sugar).
Adi Badenhorst, White Blend 2010: as many as eleven cultivars make up this complex Chenin Blanc -predominant Swartland wine. Others include Grenache Gris, Roussanne, Verdelho and Chardonnay.
Vriesenhof, Piekenierskloof Grenache 2010: Jan Boland Coetzee, the former Springbok rugby international, has long been making superb wines like this one. From an iconic site for Grenache with 50-year old vines at high altitude (700m) with free-draining decomposed sandstone soils, this 13.5% abv wine has lovely primary fruit but also earthiness and minerality.
Sadie Family, Pofadder 2011 Cinsault: from a 30-year old Swartland vineyard on slate soils, this will age as it has massive tannins but is surprisingly approachable now.
Flagstone Pinotage 2010: Bruce Jack is winemaker for Accolade Wines, but also produces his own wines under the Flagstone label. This Pinotage is as good as it gets, the fruit coming from the top 15 rows of a 420m Bredekloof vineyard that, until 2010, used to lose all its best fruit to baboons, who ate only the ripest grapes. A new electric fence has finally kept them out. Yet to be released, but get it if you can as only 1500 bottles produced.
De Morgenzon, Chenin Blanc, 2010: immense concentration from 30-year old vines but also excellent acidity and brightness. Not big and buttery but full of wonderful freshness.
Vondeling, Sauvignon Blanc 2012: outstanding example of this varietal, whose Weerstasie (‘weather station') clone is one of the oldest in South Africa. Most other producers use 317 ‘improver' clone. Not overly acidic (TA 6.7g/l), this is a wine where the second bottle is no problem.
Delaire Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: top 16 barrels of what was an outstanding vintage in Stellenbosch. Beautifully balanced despite 14.5% abv, this complex wine, made by Morne Frey, has soft, silky tannins and chould become a classic with age.
Journey's End, The Cape Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: good balance with lovely fruit and acidity, this 13.5% abv single varietal is great value at a likely retail price of £19.99.
Welbedacht, No 6, Red Blend, 2006: Schalk Burger Senior's outstanding fruit from his Wellington farm has been winning Boekenhoutskloof plaudits for their Shiraz. Burger's six-varietal flagship red, named after the number Schalk junior wears for the Springboks, is Shiraz dominated, with Cinsault, Viognier, Mourvedre, Carignan and Pionotage making up the blend. The old bush vine Chenin Blanc is also outstanding.
Mt Sutherland Shiraz 2009: no one thought wine of this quality could be made in the semi-arid Karoo, 350km inland. Danie de Waal, of Uiterwijk fame, did though, and in conjunction with co-winemaker, Kyle Zulch, the pair have produced a fine first vintage of Syrah from vines planted in 2004. "A lot of people said we were mad and that it couldn't work as there's such isolated rain and the soil is salty," Zulch said. "But we found different pockets of soil with shale and clay that were water retentive. We have half a dozen little dams from which to irrigate, and the temperature never gets above 35 degrees. We have cool nights and good breezes." The result is an approachable wine of 14.5% abv that is well-balanced with lovely fruit. Just this week, it won a gold medal in the China Wine Awards.