jamie goode's wine blog: Vilafonte: the C and the M

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vilafonte: the C and the M

Two wines tasted tonight. It's the 'C' and 'M' pair from high-end South African venture Vilafonte. This is a joint project between Mike Ratcliffe, Phil Freese and Zelma Long, aimed partly (I suspect) at the US market, which so far has been quite resistant to South African wine.

You can read more about the project at Vilafonte's excellent website, which also includes some video content. To supplement my tasting notes here, I'm also embedding into this post Zelma's own tasting comments on the two wines (she's in charge of winemaking at Vilafonte).

I think the wines are very good, and will likely age well. But at the prices they command (ranging from 25 at agwines.com to 28 at winedirect.co.uk to 43 at Handford), I have to be honest and say that I have some slight misgivings about the lack of fruit purity they are currently showing at this early stage in their evolution. I'd have expected young wines like these to be much more fruit-forward and linear in their early life; instead, these are both showing quite a few secondary spicy, earthy and even subtly medicinal notes. I hope that I will be proved wrong and that in a decade's time they will have evolved into something beautiful and complex. Currently, they leave me a little confused.

Vilafonte series m 2005 Paarl, South Africa
A blend of 52% Merlot, 17% Malbec and 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, weighing in at 14.5% alcohol. This has a dark fruits nose with a smooth, spicy, earthy edge and some hints of medicine and old libraries. The palate is earthy with smooth tannins and a long savoury finish. This is an interesting wine: it's not about primary fruit, but rather spicy and earthy notes dominate. Quite stylish with good ageing potential. 89/100

Vilafonte series c 2005 Paarl, South Africa
66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot and 6% Malbec. This is the more structured and dense of the Vilafonte wines, and I prefer it. The sophisticated, complex nose shows blackcurrant fruit with a herby, spicy, earthy sort of personality. The palate is strongly savoury with spice, earth and medicinal hints to the dense, structured fruit. A bold, savoury, tannic wine with a good future ahead of it. 91/100



At 12:54 PM, Blogger The Vilafonte Wine Blog said...

Hi Jamie, thanks for the positive comments on the Vilafonte wines. Am glad you liked the wines, but confused as to why you are 'confused' - this is not a term that is commonly utilised in wine tasting notes. It would be great to get some elaboration.

Next time we host a vertical tasting in the UK, I will invite you so that you can get a better impression of the ageing potential of the wines. Ageability, especially for the C, is one of Zelma's prime objectives.
All the best,
Mike Ratcliffe

At 3:31 PM, Anonymous Cru Master said...

i see the series c has been nominated for 5 stars in platter - congrats to the vilafonte team!


in such a short space they have achieved a great deal - i have sat in a vertical tasting of their wines, with zelma long leading, and it was amazing to see/experience the progression from one year to the next in terms of the style of wine she wanted to create.

whats more is that the wines just got better and more tightly nit as the years progressed.

so my conclusion is that it's a brand to take note of and has not yet reached it's full potential.

At 3:47 PM, Blogger The Vilafonte Wine Blog said...

Thanks for the kind words Brendan - OK, it's official Jamie, the invite for the JGWB Vilafonte vertical tasting is in an advanced planning stage. Although it is quite popular as a 'Youtube' video tasting - it's better in the flesh!

At 2:26 PM, Anonymous Mamboman said...


All this talk of primary fruit and fruit driven wines versus earthy edged, herby, medicinal, old library tinted ones. What is it that the American/UK market want exactly?


Do you think that SA Terrior translates more readily toward earthy toned wines and away from pure fruit driven ones?

At 4:43 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

I guess the 'confused' word comes in because I wasn't sure where the wines were placed in terms of their peers. They're made from Bordeaux varieties, but presumably in a climate that's a bit warmer. Top Bordeaux at this young age, or top Margaret River Cabernet, for example, would show tighter, purer fruit. These wines seemed to have more in the way of secondary complexity - notes of earth, spice and medicinal hints (in the M particularly).

Over the subsequent couple of nights the C was drinking really well, and seemed to improve. I guess this bodes well.

At 1:06 PM, Blogger The Vilafonte Wine Blog said...

Thanks for the clarification - will ask Zelma to comment when she gets back from Alaska on Monday.
It was interesting your comment about our wine (presumably) being made for the US market. Actually, we do sell about 25% of our wines in the US, but also across Europe and right across Asia. Asia is currently our biggest driver and we are seeing excellent success there.
In terms of our style, we are not striving to make a wine for any particular market - other than for those that appreciate a top drop.


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