My Taste: Wines of South Africa
Andrew Catchpole and Ted Sandbach review the WOSA Mega-Tasting in October.
Andrew Catchpole, wine writer
This year’s WOSA Mega Tasting behind the art deco façade of Earl’s Court Exhibition Hall was a calm and focused affair, perhaps reflecting the country’s cautious optimism as it approaches the FIFA World Cup year.
The 2009 whites were the visible yardstick to the recent vintage with many Sauvignons and Chenins showing well even at this early date.
Wines as geographically diverse as Klein Constantia’s elegant yet intense Sauvignon Blanc (DGB), Iona’s ripe and minerally example from Elgin (Enotria), Springfield’s bursting fresh Robertson Special Cuvee (Bibendum), and the grassy-ripe Southern Right Sauvignon from Walker Bay (Hallgarten) all showed a great balance of ripe fruit, good mouthfeel and pert acidity. Similarly, the complex, intense Raats Chenin (Alliance), Flagstone’s almost lusciously ripe yet zingily fresh Noon Gun Chenin/Viognier/Sauvignon blend (Constellation) and Kleine Zalze’s layered, rich Vineyard Selection Barrel Fermented Chenin (Matthew Clark) all pointed to a well-balanced, intensely textured vintage.
Elsewhere, the Platter table offered rich pickings among a who’s who of SA’s celebrated producers, with the spicy depths of Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2007 (Raisin Social), Kanonkop’s brooding, intense 2006 Paul Sauer Cabernet (Raisin Social) and the aromatic, savoury, minerally Sadie Family 2007 Columella Shiraz/Mourvedre (Richards Walford) blend among many deserving five star red wines.
A couple of new wines that caught the palate came from the premium ranges of bigger players, including Spier’s small volume Creative Block releases (PLB), which tie into a community arts project. Creative Block 2 2009 Sauvignon/Semillon showed great fruit balanced by a fine minerally lick of acidity, while Bellingham’s Barnard Series (DGB) came up trumps with a 100% Rousanne, again showing how well a plethora of Rhône varieties are adapting to South African climate and soils.
Ted Sandbach, Oxford Wine Company
With South Africa’s star very much in the ascent at the moment, the Mega Tasting struck me as the perfect event to be at right now.
For me, it was the white blends that stood out. Talking to the winemakers I suspect we are going to be seeing a lot more of these in the future – no great surprise then that Platter’s White Wine of the Year is a blend of six varieties superbly put together by blendmaster Eben Sadie using his non interventionist approach - the Sadie Family Palladius 2008 (Richards Walford) showed superb depth of complex concentrated aromatic fruit with retrained oak and excellent length.
Quality varied on the Platter 5 Star table, but the Rall White 2008 blend also showed well, with complex fresh zesty greenish fruit and retrained use of new oak – a good fruit driven wine. The best Sauvignon Blancs showed more leafy lifted character and poise than in previous years – I liked the Fleur du Cap Sauvignon Blanc Unfiltered 2009 (Distell Europe) because of the sheer depth of pure, crisp aromatic fruit – a really refreshing wine. My top Chardonnay was the Bouchard Finlayson Missionvale Chardonnay 2008 (Seckford) from estate vineyards that showed vibrant fruit and nicely balanced integrated semi-toasty oak.
The Syrahs tasted varied enormously but at the top the Sadie Family Columella 2007 (Richards Walford) Syrah/Mouvedre blend was superb, showing very deep concentrated fruit, spice, and integrated oldish oak – fantastic winemaking. My personal favourite though was the Haskell Pillars Syrah 2007 made by Riane Strydom – a wine that shows an excellent balance of soft deep fruit, spice, toasty oak, fine grained tannins and a silky mouthfeel that drives you wild – yes please!
Of the Bordeaux blends, my favourite was the Stony Brook Ghost Gum 2006 (Wilson Wines) that shows toasty oak on the nose followed by well structured fruit and a good aromatic finish – a wine with plenty of potential to improve.
But without doubt the most interesting wines at this tasting for me were Adi Badenhorst’s impressive range of individualistic, hand crafted wines from the up and coming Perdeberg region.