jamie goode's wine blog: Two top South African reds

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two top South African reds

I've neglected South Africa of late. I'm sorry. It's just that in so many of their red wines I get this South African signature that I don't really like: it's a sort of earthy, green, slightly bitter character that gets in the way of the fruit. These are warm-climate wines, yet they don't have the sweetness and purity of fruit you might expect from warm-climate wines. I got the South African character in the Warwick on the first day, but by the second it had pretty much disappeared to reveal lovely pure fruit. Perhaps it's a reduction issue, in part? Anyway, these are two pretty good wines that I enjoyed drinking, from two of the country's leading producers.

Warwick The First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Western Cape, South Africa
14% alcohol. Attractive dark, gravelly blackcurrant fruit backed up by earthy, minerally notes. On the first day this has the fruit obscured by a green, earthy, slightly bitter character that is often encountered in South African reds, but the following day the fruit is much purer with sweet berry and blackcurrant notes. Finishes earthy. Tasty wine. 88/100 (UK agent Louis Latour)

Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Stellenbosch, South Africa
14.5% alcohol. Lovely dark blackcurrant fruit dominates, with meaty, savoury, earthy notes. There’s also some cedary woodiness, too. There’s an interesting tension here between the sweet, open fruit and the more savoury, minerally, earthy notes. Finishes dry and spicy. A sophisticated wine. 90/100 (£13.99 Majestic, SWIG, The Vineking, Hailsham Cellars, SA Wines Online)

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At 9:40 AM, Anonymous Laurence said...

If South Africa is to 'make' it in the UK retail sector then 2009/10 is the year. SA is one of the few countries in the world where the exchange rate is working in the favour of the UK; there is the 2009 Lions tour and the 2010 world cup showing off the country as well. Yes, there is the 'burnt rubber' and yes there is pinotage (both of which are at the very least, acquired tastes), but some of the wines coming from the cooler areas (Elgin in particular) are outstanding. I spent a lot of time at LIWSF on the SA stands and I was very impressed.

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Agree Laurence although as Jamie knows I do have an interest in a Cape winery based in the Swartland area.
There is "burnt rubber" in many of the wines but not in a lot of others and I think it unfortunate that some critics----notoriously that "lady" from the Times,write off all Cape wines.
Happy that people such as Tim Atkin,Anthony Rose and Tom Cannavan who spend quite a lot of time in the Cape, do appreciate and report fairly on this countries wine.
As of course you often do Jamie although sometimes you do come out with the most bizarre remarks especially on Pinotage!!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Harry said...

I find this burnt rubber issue over written, little understood, and blown out of proportion whilst tediously being applied to wine produced by a nation where it should be applied to wines specifically, or at least producers.

Laurence: Your quick association of Pinotage and burnt rubber being infections from the same wound is unfair and unfounded. Burnt rubber I have tasted sure, but not as a general affliction. Pinotage is not my favourite, yet I have found offerings that taste wholly different to that which is normally offered. (I am reminded of a certain one-barrel-escapade of the varietal that was not allowed to be called Pinotage as it "lacked varietal characteristics". I thought this a good thing. It was too sweet to be sure, yet the strawberry earthy character was appealing. It was in the end called The Reject.)

Just as the common wine drinker in South Africa has little access to wine from beyond our shores, so you who dwell beyond said shores do not get to taste all we have to offer. I would not suggest we are producing the best in the world (though what that is remains murky in the world of wine Journalism), but burnt rubber and (bad) Pinotage should not be synonymous with South Africa.

Post Script. Forget the reds for now, drink our whites.

At 5:38 AM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

and by the way Jamie--I would not class either of the wines you tasted as top SA reds.
Vergelegen No 3 red and Warwick an average estate who make good QPR wines.

At 3:08 PM, Blogger 'The Blog Master' said...

Thank you for your candid comment on Warwick. As a 'fellow' South African producer, perhaps you would be better advised to consign your comments to a less public forum than Jamie's blog - or did you think that it was anonymous? One of South Africa's greatest assets is the ability of it's producers to promote the greater good rather than the individual attributes of each producer. The industry, possibly, waits with baited breath for the emergence of your new track record as a producer.
Perhaps your invective would be more fitting if it was anonymous?
Mike Ratcliffe

At 6:20 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

I am entitled to my opinion and I stand by my comments-----of course I realise the internet is a public domaine.
You make excellent QPR wines but IMHO they are not the top wines in South Africa!!
And I am not a producer---merely an investor!! but someone who loves and promotes Cape wine.


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