Tag Archives: South Africa

THE WINE BUNCH Tasting: SOUTH AFRICAN REDS June 2013

 Caroline_Byrne_and_Ernie_Whalley

SOUTH AFRICAN REDS Week 1

 

In the early post-apartheid years South Africa enjoyed considerable patronage from Irish wine drinkers. Today, however, inflation has ramped up prices, making them a hard sell. Initially, South African wine was massively over-hyped. Years of isolation left the industry with scant opportunity to investigate what was happening in other wine regions and bereft of self-criticism. South Africa was also lumbered with pinotage, an indigenous grape variety seen as a national treasure but which, maladroitly handled, produces a wine with an elastoplast nose and a palate revealing notes of ersatz coffee and smoking tyres. Better wine science, helped by Interaction with winemakers in other countries, subsequently improved the wines dramatically. A key factor in the quality hike has been the transference of varieties such as merlot and sauvignon blanc to more suitable sites. In this tasting we found many interesting wines – including a respectable pinotage! 21 wines tasted, 8 chosen, here are the first four. Caroline Byrne, wine columnist  for Irish Garden, deputises for Martin Moran, away judging in England..

 

Neil Ellis Aenigma 2007, Elgin €18.99 Mortons, Galway; www.drinkstore.ie, D7, 64 Wines, Glasthule. Co Dublin

BRONZE

EW: The cheaper of a brace from a respected winemaker, this was a Bordeaux blend where the mint and herbal fragrance of cabernet franc floated over substantial plum and cabernet fruit. Absorbing and well-made.

CB: Fragrant mineral nose, with a touch of green bell pepper leads into very drinkable merlot-led red and black berry fruit fruit.

15.5/20

 

Post House Penny Black 2010, Stellenbosch €25.99 Many independents including Hole in the Wall, D7; Matsons, Bandon, Co Cork; Grapevine,Glasnevin, D9; Mulcahy’s. Charleville, Co Cork

SILVER

EW: An unfeasible pot pourri of shiraz, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot and chenin blanc (ours not to reason why) that  fuse into a beast of naked power that still manages to charm. Skillfully made – but pleading to be drunk with rich roast meats.

CB: Phew! A floral  plus heather-and-herb nose then an explosion of rich ripe fruit – everything from raspberries to damsons. Needs food.

17/20

 

Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2011 Paarl €16.99 Florries Fine Wines, Tramore Co Waterford; Worldwide Wines, Waterford; www.fallonandbyrne.com, D2   BRONZE

EW: A fragrant floral and true-to-varietal nose segueing into strawberry and cherry fruit with good balancing acidity make for a very pretty, even elegant, wine. Good value too.

CB: An intriguing black pepper-spiked nose, with strawberry, anis and cake spices on the palate with a Graves-like powdery aftertaste. Very pretty wine.

16.5/20

 

Graham Beck Pinotage 2010, Robertson €15.99 www.obrienswine.ie and many independents. BRONZE

EW: Amazing! This ultra-reliable producer has made a ‘pinotage without tears’ even I can enjoy.  Fragrant lightly-roasted coffee, violets and bergamot on the nose. Abundant plummy fruit, highlighted by soft dark tannins and pluperfect acid balance. Long finish.

CB: By far the nicest of the pinotage we tasted. An attractive floral nose, followed by dense blueberry fruit with a hint of cumin and coffee.

16/20

 

 

SOUTH AFRICAN REDS Week 2

 

If your grapes can’t stand the heat, get into shiraz, seems to be the mantra for modern South African winemaking writes Ernie Whalley. It’s a course of action I remember advocating on a visit there over twenty years ago after tasting a good deal of ‘overcooked’ merlot and pinotage. The suggestion was met with decided scepticism from grape farmers ingrained in the old ways. Things change – today syrah/shiraz is the cultivar that has shown the most dramatic growth in terms of plantings, new wines and competition entries.

The first confirmation of shiraz being planted on South African soil was at the end of the 1890’s in the vineyards of Groot Constantia. Later, some 15 examples are recorded as entries in the 1935 Cape Agricultural Wine Competition. Interestingly, 12 of these were sweet wines. By 1978 a mere 20 shiraz-based wines were recorded but the 1990’s saw a boom in plantings. Today shiraz is the country’s second largest planted red variety and fourth overall after chenin blanc (steen), cabernet sauvignon and colombard.

 

Bellow’s Rock Shiraz, 2011, Coastal Region €9.99 www.obrienswine.ie BRONZE

 

EW: A whiff of black pepper and allspice announces classical shiraz with a weight of greengage, dark plum and brambly fruit, with the alcohol sensibly constrained to 14.5% ABV. Excellent value.

 

CB: Floral nose with notes of black pepper and a whiff of spice. Plenty of rich fruit and a long finish. A touch of class about this wine.

 

16/20

 

Boland Cellar Five Climates Shiraz 2010 €13.99 Londis, Malahide, Co Dublin; Fresh Stores; Hole in the Wall, D7; 1601, Kinsale, Co Cork; Village Off Licence, D15 BRONZE

 

EW Spice and savoury fruit, a decent stab at producing a South African wine with Northern Rhone character. Pleasurable, greatly involving and good value for the ask.

 

CB: On the nose a compote of plum and morello cherry. Masses of plummy fruit on the palate, with grippy tannins that will help the wine develop.

 

 

16/20

 

Goats do Roam 2011, Paarl €12.99 www.sweeneys.ie, D11 and many independents BRONZE

 

EW: Charles Back’s vintage pun – Côtes du Rhône, geddit? –  still amuses and this balanced blend of Syrah (61%) plus 5 other grapes associated with the Southern Rhône proves reliable as ever.

 

CB: Not overly complex but well-made tasty stuff that emphasises good fruit selection and confident winemaking.

 

15.5/20

 

Delheim Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch €15.99 www.obrienswine.ie nationwide SILVER

 

EW: Serious wine. Beautifully integrated fruit with an abundance of dark berries; tannins resolving nicely, good length. All-in-all, enticing well-structured wine that belies its age.

 

CB: Extraordinarily aromatic with a touch of smoke, blackcurrant and blueberry fruit. Well integrated oak and tannins.

 

17/20

 

READ ERNIE WHALLEY &  MARTIN MORAN every Sunday in ‘Sunday’ Magazine in The Sunday Times (IE)

COFFEE CULTURE – Ernie Whalley finds a Pinotage he can actually drink

Sophia Pritchard, winemaker at Clos Malverne, with 'Le Café'

 

Until yesterday I’d always thought that offensive Pinotage and inoffensive Pinot Grigio were two grapes that should have been strangled at birth. Now, after a tasting of Dunne’s Stores current and proposd South African range, I’m prepared to grant the former at least a stay of execution.

I’ve always hated Pinotage. If I wanted to smell smoking rubber I’d have become a Formula One tifoso. Were I that fond of elastoplast I’d have become a paramedic. Every wine I’d ever tasted that was fettled from this grape seemed, however well-made, utterly charmless. The worst were savagely aggressive –  a mad axeman in a bottle. I’m not lacking company in my dislike of this varietal. Many wine writers have dissed Pinotage, to the extent where one of the fraternity called it “the punchbag of wine criticism”.

Yesterday, though, I found a Pinotage I could actually finish a glass of. And maybe a tad more.

According to Clos Malverne winemaker Sophia Pritchard what’s become known as ‘Coffee Pinotage’ is trending among South African wine drinkers, particularly among the younger set. The style, now around ten years in existence, was ‘invented’ by a winemaker called Bertus Fourie at the Deiemersfontein winery. Subsequently he was lured away by the giant KWW to create a Pinotage called Café Culture. The people at Diemerfontein were, apparently, not impressed, even going as far as to contemplate litigation, reckoning he had nicked the recipe. Bertus Fourie, having gained the nickname of ‘Starbucks’, left KWW in 2008 for a boutique operation called Val de Vie who also run a Polo Club and an estate agency. Val de Vie were Rhone varietal specialists, producing an iconic, for South Africa, Syrah. Curiously, what they didn’t have was Pinotage or at least it was never listed among their varietals on the website. However ‘Starbucks’ and his brother Martin, also a winemaker, set to and produced what was aimed at being the cream of the coffee Pinotages, a wine named (flourish of trumpets) ‘Barista’.

So, what’s the secret of the kick in ‘The Coffee’? According to Sophia the key ingredient is top-notch fruit, ripe in similar vein to the Merlot of the Bordeaux ‘garagistes’. Hand-sorting too, the motto being “If you find anything green, get rid of it.”  Plus cosseting  soft pressing. The main difference, however,  is in the wood employed – usually staves but there is some matured in new French barriques. The wood is toasted to a high ++ specification. I doubt you’ll find oak this charred elsewhere. This subdues the trademark vanilla and coconut of oak aged wine, replacing it with coffee sensations. The effect simulates someone tipping a few gallons of double espresso into the vat. The high toast also contributes, along with the premium fruit, to taming the weird things that go on in the typical Pinotage and making the wine more relaxed, more joyful. I found  the Clos Malverne ‘Le Café’ very decent. Full-boded, rounded and balanced with roasty-toasty aromatics announcing a heap of plum and Morello cherry fruit. Some South African winemakers seem bent on making a ‘Pinotage Light’, more in the manner of a New World Pinot Noir; I think the ‘Coffee’ route may present better opportunities of getting the grape worldwide acceptance.

That said, in all honesty, I couldn’t detect much of a taste of coffee. I roast coffee and my nose and palate are pretty well attuned to picking out the nuances. The smell of roast coffee is one of the great sensory myths. Initially, after roasting, there’s no smell at all until the CO2 generated by the process has dispersed. And during roasting what you are getting is the smell of…. yes, ‘roasting’. If I loaded my HotProg roaster with acorns it would smell much the same. Coffee, cocoa and chocolate flavours show up in a lot of red wines, particularly in New World Cabernet and Shiraz. Wolf Blass President’s Selection, to name but one, is a veritable chocolate factory.

Footnote: Clos Malverne ‘ Le Café is on the ‘maybe coming soon’ list at Dunnes Stores. I don’t have a price. Other wines that showed up well at the tasting were the clean, crisp Clos Malverne Sauvignon Blanc (€9.99); the well-balanced Clos Malverne Cabernet/Shiraz 2008 (€10.99); and the Bellingham Basket Press Syrah 2006, another hopefully en route from the Cape. There’s a Chardonnay, Heron’s Nest, on promotion at €6.99.

 

So it Goes… this week's decent drinking

Went to an office party in a fridge the other night. The top floor of Krystle – my nomination for the world’s daftest named nightclub – is badged as ‘The Penthouse’  leading to thoughts of sybaritic luxury, comfy button-backs and naked models reclining on tigerskin rugs. Alas it’s nothing like. Maybe the name’s not so daft after all as the sides are open to the atmosphere and the crystals were quickly forming – on nose, face, hands on on the outside of an already turbo-chilled pint of Guinness. As soon as I got the glass unstuck from my paws I switched to an old favourite, Black Bush, neat. Some compensation for the chill blast and the fact that those oh-so-ecological gas patio heaters had only been switched on minutes before our arrival. My gut feeling is that Black Bush has been tricked up over the years to make it sweeter – it’s still very palatable stuff though.

Couldn’t believe the prices that The Marine Hotel in Sutton charge for their wines at a function. €28 for Santa Rita 120 Sauv B. That’s 3 x retail and latterly I’ve seen it on special for €6.95.

Tesco have a rather fine albarino at the minute –   Pazo Serantellos 2008 (€9.45) .  Lovely stone fruit on the nose, following through to mid palate, leavened with citrus and crisp apple, with a spiky, energising lime lift at the back end. I’m also scouring branches of Superquinn for the remants of Paul Boutinot’s rather fine ‘Chat en Oeuf’ (groan!), a grenache/syrah blend that kicks ass for the modest price of €9.

Came across a great idea for a last minute Chrissie prezzie – Mc Hugh’s Off-Licenses have slashed the prices of two of the world’s most lauded dessert wines. Between now and Christmas and, of course, while stocks last, South Africa’s Klein Contantia 2004 Vin de Constance 500ml bottles and Canada’s Inniskillin 2006 Riesling Ice Wine 375ml bottles will be at a special price of €25 per bottle. These normally retail for €70 and €60 respectively. Both come in attractive gift boxes. They are an ideal gift for wine enthusiasts, especially oneself! I’m not a big fan of the Klein Constantia – though I know many who love its upfront unctuous richness – the Inniskillin is in a different league, spicy and subtle and I’m going to grab some of this if you guys don’t get there before me.

25e Malahide Road, Artane, Dublin 5. Tel: 8311867.
57 Kilbarrack Road, Dublin 5. Tel: 8394692.

Gilbeys Portfolio Tasting – Oct 14 2006 – WHITES and ROSE

The Gilbeys Portfolio press tasting was one of the best organised and most enjoyable tastings of recent memory – hats off to Julia Kennedy, Lynne Coyle and Mary Dowey – despite the worst efforts of the Guinness Storehouse staff who did their best to sabotage the event by mopping the floor of the adjacent restaurant with Jeyes’ Fluid!

These boys are big – one in every seven bottles of wine retailing at over ten euro is a Gilbeys bottle. The portfolio contains many hallowed names – Trimbach, Drouhin, Louis Latour, Jaboulet to name but four.

Anyhow, here are my impressions:

Wild Coast Chardonnay-Semillon, South-East Australia 2006. e7.99
Good, honest, pleasant, non-cloying quaffer, excellent value for money

*Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda 2006, e11.50
The base Santa Rita wines have,m in my opinion, underperformed in recent years. This one is well back on track with a nice minerally crackle at the front end and smooth luscious fruit at the back. From the recently-exploited cool (for Chile) region of Leyda. There’s hope for Chilean SB yet!

**Santa Rita Riesling Limited Selection, Valle de Casablanca 2006, e11.99
On special at SperValu and Centra for 7.99, this is daft money for a nicely-balanced, delicate riesling that comes without the ‘characterful’ benzine intrusion.

**Hunters Marlborough Riesling 2004, e19.99
Very smart stuff. Lovely minerally prickle folowed by a tangy weight of citrus and stone fruit, with a hint of herbs and beeswax. Classy.

***F.E.Trimbach Riesling Cuvee Frederick Emile 2003 e35
Benzine is back! All the characteristic of non-palate clogging classic riesling. Trimbach describe their gear as ‘Protestant Wine’. Don’t take this the wrong way, folks, this is no tub-thumping Lambeg drum pounder; they mean modest and understated but in reality this wine has nothing to be modest about. Lean, spare, suave, elegant, a total class act. One of the best food wines in the world and that’s the truth.

Next, two Burgundies from Louis Latour, both at 37.50.

The Meursault Premier Cru Chateau de Blagny 2003 had a huge hit of fruit and a decidedly long finish but was, for me, on the unsubtle side of unsubtle.

The Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 2002 was leaner, maybe even a tad unapproachable but should mellow.

The Biodynamic Joseph Drouin Meursault 2003, e40, was, a huge, vastly OTT wine with immense oaking. You’d need a hunk of roasted veal or similar to get this down. Not one for a quiet night by the fire.

**In contrast, the Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet, e40, was a more quiescent proposition. Still fat but with more elegance and a generous, lingering finish.
To be honest, there is probably better value in white Burgundy out there than this quartet.

Navarro Correas Coleccion Privada Chardonnay, Mendoza 2005, 10.99
All the plusses and drawbacks of budget chardonnay. On the one hand, uncomplicated and easy-to-drink. On the other, uncomplicated and easy-to-drink . Bit boring, really.

*Fairview Viognier Coastal Region (South Africa) 2004. e14.99
At last! A low-mid priced viognier that doesn’t clog the palate. Very decent and would make a nice change from the usual suspects.

Paul Jaboulet Aine Crozes-Hermitage Mule Blanche 2001. e21.99
Quite refined and stylish, but not a wine I’ll ever be fond of. Lot of competition at the price too.

**L’Expatrie Barossa Semillon, Colonial Estate 2003 e19.99
Lovely lemony well-integrated fruit, smartly judged fruit-acid balance, non-clying, long finish all the hallamrks of Jonathan Malthus. Love it!

***Clos Nardian Saint Aubin de Brannes, Bordeaux Blanc 2003 e75
Oustanding exposition of white Bordeaux style from JM again. Utterly gorgeous, but the price!

ROSE

**’G’ Saignee des Anges Bordeaux Clairet 2005 e12.99
Gold star winner in the Noffla Awards ’06. Far better than the over-trumpeted, over-blown Domaine Ott Bandol at twice the money. Clean, fresh, enjoyable entirely non-cloying.
The sheer weight of clean fruit comes as a nice surprise. As good as it gets, especially when the sun shines and you can drink it in the garden, poreferably with a bucket of Wexford strawberries.

*Chateau de Sours Bordeaux Rose 2005 e14.99
Benchmark stuff from a really good producer. Quite a big hit and hard to put down a second bottle, for me, a slight minus point in a rose but otherwise very impressive.

Santa Rita120 Reserva Especial Rose Shiraz , e11.50
Hasn’t managed to shed the spearmint overlay common to most Chilean rose. Not bad, but needs more work.

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Wine notes July 2006 Pinot Noir

When I started this column I cautioned against over-emotive language. Well, now for a grape that’s inspired more exuberant metaphors than you’d find in the complete works of James Joyce. Wine writers laud it to the skies. In Burgundy, where it first gained fame, vignerons also lavish choice epithets on pinot noir. Among other things, they call it “the black bitch”.
Thin-skinned, sulky, liable to catch any epidemic that’s going, endlessly picky about sun, scenery and soil, you have to wonder “Why do they persevere?” When you pay e25 and get a mediocre bottle you wonder twice.
The answer, of course, is that when pinot noir is on form there’s simply nothing to touch it. Seductive aromas, complex flavours, silky texture; it’s also the perfect accompaniment to feathered game and soft smelly cheese, of both of which I’m inordinately fond.
I used to lay down burgundy to tease out those hazelnut and truffle nuances, as was the fashion when I was finding my feet in wine. Older I get, the more I adore primary fruit, particularly the exuberant cherry flavours that good pinot yields. I’m happy, now, to quaff the night I buy.
Sending someone out to buy a bottle of e15 pinot noir is wine’s equivalent of rugby’s ‘hospital pass’. After a few bruisings I scored with “Les Maisons Dieu” 2001 (Fallon & Byrne, e14.95), from a reliable producer, Moissenet-Bonnard. I wouldn’t mind betting that some of you who followed my dictat ended up thinking “Bloody hell, I could get a nicer Shiraz (or Cabernet or Merlot) for the same money.”
But that’s pinot; never cheap, seldom a bargain. Things are better than they used to be. Market forces have made Burgundians less complacent and it’s now hard to find a real bummer. Nevertheless, given the investment level, it’s wisest to squirrel out the names of the smart lads and stick with them. Or go New World. New Zealand (Ata Rangi, Felton Road, Craggy Ranges etc), Tasmania, South Africa, Oregon and California (Marimar Torres) are also making reliable, occasionally fantastic pinots.
Recently I encountered a Chilean stunner. It costs e40-odd a throw so I won’t be drinking it that often. Perhaps this is the best way to think of pinot noir – as a treat, a wine lover’s alternative to taking in a match, a play or a concert. Two hours of passionless Eagles or 6 glasses of coruscating 2003 Casa Marin “Lo Abarca Hills” (Wines Direct, Mullingar)? No contest.

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Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love

Found this song I wrote in 2004 on my South African trip – with the help of Cole Porter – in the back pages I was gonna dump. Thought it should be preserved for, well, if not quite posterity, a bit longer. Had to put it somewhere, so it’s here.

LET’S DO IT, LET’S FALL IN LOVE
(South African Version)

Chardonnay, cask or tank, does it
Forrester claims even Chenin Blanc does it,
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
And Pinotage, which I hate, does it
Riesling, though it leaves in very late, does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Cabernet and its friends do it
In combinations of three
All those anodyne blends do it
(But never with me)
Viognier,sounds quite gay, does it
Colombard, though boring and passé, does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

Chasseurs in full hue-and-cry do it
‘Bok and kudu roasting on a braai do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Rednecks with long smoking guns do it
Germans eating ostriches on buns do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Americans filthy rich, do it,
They’ve read Hemingway
Some real sons of a bitch do it
Best keep out of their way
All men mild, meak or mean do it
Ancient Brits who sing “God Save The Queen” do it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

Jeanette who wrings Life from Stone does it
Even Robert Parker all alone does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Ferreira, Pete, with his fizz does it
Chrissie Keet, who we think is a wiz, does it
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.
Kevin A, in some style, does it
By the fountain at dawn
Charlie B, with a smile does it,
(Grazing goats get the horn)
Celtic blonde rag trade queens do it
Editors of gourmet magazines do it,
Let’s do it, let’s fall in love.

with acknowledgement to Cole Porter who wrote the original
 ernie whalley 2004

Dedicated to Jeanette Bruwer of Springfield Estate

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South African Saga

My wife and I have only ever argued about two matters, I think. One is my legendary untidiness. The other is South Africa. You see the ravine between our views is cut very deep. She has fond memories of working in Cape Town in her twenties. Me, I’m a veteran anti-apartheid hard-liner who considered such actions ‘propping up an illegal regime’.
Matters came to a head some years ago when I found myself sat at a dinner party next to an Afrikaner lady. As conversation opener she proclaimed “I think South African wines are better than French wines”. “Oh really,” I snarled and immediately went on the attack impugning both her reason and her (assumed) political views. Eventually she left the table in tears sobbing “Why does everybody hate us?”, my wife suddenly remembered an urgent appointment elsewhere and the host, a friend, didn’t speak to me for three years. The morning after, I woke up with fierce pains in my leg. I looked down to find it black and blue from being kicked under the table! Richly deserved, you may say, but I am largely unrepentant. Still, all things change and I’m glad to say that South Africa and I have since (Christmas just past) supped at the same table. And had the lady made the same remark today, while not agreeing entirely, I’d probably find some common ground .
After tasting in excess of two hundred wines in what was undoubtedly a real ‘bus man’s holiday’, I am of the belief that South Africa, since it shed itself of the trappings of the ancient regime and came out to play in the real world, is making magnificent wine and, what’s more, getting better at it year by year. Okay they’ve had a long way to come in a short time since the days of Pinotage and Steen overload; and yes I’ve heard about the recent ‘scandal’ of fruit juice infusions in budget Sauvignon Blanc which they are stamping out as I write. But compared to the lodestone of complacency that runs through Bordeaux and Burgundy and compared to the Aussies’ laid-back confidence that ‘marketing will win the day’ there’s an impressive missionary zeal about latterday South African winemaking; coupled with a willingness to try new methods and revert to the old as circumstances dictate.
Not everything in the garden is rosy. There are some very ordinary wines to be sure, and finding your way around is a bit of a minefield. There’s a book to help you – the Platter pocket guide. However while it’s a marvellous aide in introducing you to who makes what and where, when it comes to judging quality, Platter dishes out stars like a kindergarten teacher at an end-of-term party, so it’s not a deal of use.
But we did find some immense winemakers, sometimes through dipping into Platter, sometimes by word of mouth and sometimes through sheer serendipity.
On the crest of a slope at the Helderberg Mountain end of Stellenbosch there’s a guy called Chris Keet who, in the middle of masterminding a massive replanting programme, finds time to make a wine called Crescendo. Chris is an unassuming guy who clearly prefers his wine to speak for him and in this Crescendo lives up to its name, hollering “class act” at the top of its voice. It’s a Bordeaux blend, largely constructed from Cabernet Franc and while comparisons with Ausonne and, (whisper, whisper) Cheval Blanc might be a trifle fanciful there’s no doubt that Chris is also wringing the maximum potential from what is, in my opinion, an under-considered grape variety.
I’ve sung the praises of Springfield Estate ‘Life from Stone’ before; let’s just say it loud and clear one more time – this is world-class Sauvignon Blanc, as is the same vineyard’s ‘Special Cuvée’. The two wines, whose individual plots are separated only by a road wide enough to get a 4WD down, are distinctively different in character. ‘Special Cuvée’ is a Cloudy Bay competitor (for much less money) – grassy, gooseberry, lush mouthfeel. ‘Life from Stone’ is altogether leaner, but in no way meaner. It’s flinty, delicate and a tribute to Abrie and Jeanette Brewer’s hard work. – how many other vineyards have been realigned through 90 degrees?
Meanwhile, over in unfashionable Bots River Niels Verberg is making superstellar Shiraz. The label is Luddite, a telling name for a wine that would justify the description ‘hand-made’. I believe that one day this wine may become “South Africa’s Grange.”
Good news is Vaughan Johnson’s branches in Dublin stock all three.

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GUBU IV Good/Unlovable/Brilliant/Undrinkable

January 17th ushered in the Year of The Monkey which we celebrated with a Chinese Banquet chez moi, cooked by the esteemed Chung Yin who formulates all those tangy and entirely authentic Chinese sauces for Sharwoods. Chung is an amazing guy, a great chef too and produced a menu to die for including duck, beef, succulent scallops, fat muscly king prawns and a whole steamed sea bass, not to mention a dessert.
I’ll put the recipes on stove slave as soon as I have them to hand.
Six of us consumed all the above, plus ten wines (but not necessarily in the order listed below) viz:-

Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 1999, Alsace.
Lovely, beautifully bottle aged wine of some style and class. I’d like to get some more of this.

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Rich Reserve 1996
An older style of Champagne, a last minute dosage giving a richly sumptuous brew that you couldn’t call sweet, more lush and decadent. I could have drunk this all through the meal.

Springfield Estate Methode Ancienne Chardonnay 2002
Thank god I’ve got another bottle, I want to let it lie. Impressive now, I suspect there’s bags of keeping in this fullsome eminently stylish and beautifully balanced Chard. One of the superstars of a stellar evening. One guest said “If you’d told me this was 70 quidsworth of Puligny Montrachet I wouldn’t have demurred!”

Vasse Felix 2002 Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, Margaret River W.Aust
A hard act to follow, the Methode Ancienne, but this buttery expansive Aussie from one of WA’s best producers held up nicely.

Nepenthe Pinot Gris 2002
Decent , different drinking with some (American?) barrel age lending a touch of distinction. A bit lost by this stage, but would have made a very decent warm up – alternative to the Trimbach above

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose
Very decent gear, flavoursome, dry, crisp, slight tayberry fruit flavours with a little herby kick. I like these guys.

Cordoba Crescendo 2000 Helderberg, Stellenbosch SA
A brilliantly balanced Bordeaux Blend varying from year to year but always majoring on Cabernet Franc, another huge hit on the night. Complex, intense figgy fruit, herbal and flowering current fragrance, lovely powdery aftertaste, massive length, everything you could wish for in a wine and for the price charged (well under e20) fantastic value for money.

Albet Y Noya Col Leccio 1999 Penedes Spain
Brilliant stuff from Spain’s kings of organic wine. Mint on the nose, blackcurrant, plums and all sorts of nice things on the palate and again, huge length.

Penfolds Bin 389 Shiraz/Cabernet 1997
The “baby Grange”, always a class act, a darling of a red wine from the guys who’ve forgotten more about Shiraz than most New World wine makers know. Elegant, dark, brooding, plummy with black coffee overtones and a fine white pepper nose this is one joyful wine.

Villa Maria Pinot Noir 2000
Middle of the road NZ Pinot. Clear evidence that they are getting to grips with this difficult grape the French call “The Black Bitch.” Some way to go before it gets desirable, though. For me, Felton Road leads by miles.

Also tasted recently

Springfield Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2003
I seem to keep plugging this but with every bottle I drink it seems to shout “World Class” in fact Springfield are making some of the best wines to come out of South Africa so I’m entirerly unabashed. Pristine SB, with that killer so-refreshing mineral zip – for me you can keep most of the Kiwi gooseberryfests if I could drink this. Bloody brilliant and only e15-ish a bottle.

Nugan Third Generation Chardonnay 2002. South East Australia.
Decent stuff, quite civilized for Aussie. Nice melon notes without diving into mango & pineapple overload. This should do very well for SuperValu

Nepenthe Pinot Gris 2000
Like the above only more so, mellowed with two year’s extra bottle age. Lovely stuff, deep gold, honeyed, subtle, great melon and marzipan flavour

Gigondas Laurus 1999 Gabriel Meffre – first bottle of this I’ve had since GUBU II so maybe time for a bit of a rethink as it’s mellowing out nicely, plummy and dark morello flavours, good long finish and still quite a bit of keeping in there.

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