wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


South African red blends: 20 wines tasted

Like many new world wine-producing countries, South Africa has a bit of a varietal fixation. It’s easy to see why: labelling by grape variety is the easiest way to market wine, and gives the consumer some idea of what to expect. But grapes often work better when they are blended, and so it’s interesting to see a number of South African producers moving increasingly to blends for their leading wines. In this tasting I sampled 20 different red blends from South Africa, all of which were of a pretty good standard and some of which excelled. As an aside here, the chief danger facing the new wave of South African producers is the question of style: the temptation for many is to produce wines that are over-ripe, with too much sweet fruit and oak, and not enough structure and elegance. I think that going in this direction would be a mistake.

Fairview Goat Roti 2001 Paarl, South Africa
If you like Fairview's Goats do Roam, then you'll love this supercharged sibling, with an equally witty pun of a name. Delicious savoury, medicinal edge to the nose which displays warm herbal flavours. Lovely savoury palate is nicely dense with complex berry fruit flavours and an attractive herbal savouriness. Spicy finish. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Oddbins, Western Wine Co.)

Ntida Calligraphy 2001, Durbanville
Warm caramelly edge to the berry fruit on the nose. Rich, ripe and rounded berry fruit on the palate. Quite rich and ripe. Very good+ (£8.99 Avery’s of Bristol)

Spice Route 2001 Swartland
Rich, intense fruity nose with menthol-edged sweet raspberry and berry fruit. Lovely, chewy savoury palate is accessible with a vanilla oak streak. Oaky but nice; a commercial style. Very good+ (£8.99 Waitrose, Wine Society)

Clos Malverne Auret 2000, Stellenbosch
Lovely pure blackcurrant and berry fruit on the nose, with an attractive herbal edge. The palate is chewy, dense and savoury with good acidity. Nice balance and concentration. Very good+ (agent: Capricorn Wines)

De Toren Fusion V 2000, Stellenbosch
Very classy. The nose shows tight-knit berry fruit with refined spicy oak notes. There’s a structured, chocolatey edge to the taut berry fruit on the palate, which is balanced and has a firm, spicy tannic structure. Very well made. Very good/excellent (£15.99 James Nicholson, Handford)

Du Preez Polla’s 2000, Rawsonville
This flirts with unripeness. There’s a striking, herbaceous green olive edge to the nose. The chewy berry fruit on the palate has a savoury, medicinal character. Odd but quite attractive. Very good+ (£8.99 Asda, Seckford)

Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2000, Paarl
Sweetly fruited nose shows a spicy, coffee edge to the pure blackcurrant fruit. The palate is balanced and midweight with nice use of oak and spicy finish. Quite a classy, balanced wine. Very good/excellent (£10.99 Oddbins, Frank Stainton)

Graham Beck Estate 2000 Roberston
Good value this, at just under a fiver. The nose displays sweet berry fruit with a herby caramelly character. The palate is chunky and chewy with some spicy tannins. Interesting, with good concentration. Very good+ (£4.99 Asda, Safeway, Sainsbury)

Ken Forrester Grenache/Syrah 2000, Stellenbosch
Nicely balanced fruity red wine with a pleasant savoury streak. A little bit simple for the price though. Very good (£8.99 Sainsbury)

Neil Ellis 2000, Stellenbosch
Ripe black fruits on the nose lead to a nicely savoury palate with a herby, sweetly spiced edge. Very good

De Trafford 1999, Stellenbosch
Nicely savoury nose displays notes of chocolate, coffee and green olives together with ripe black fruits. This leads to a chunky, satisfying palate that exhibits lots of spicy-edged ripe berry fruit. Almost lush in texture and quite tasty. Very good+(£10.99 Bibendum, Booths)

Jordan Cobbler’s Hill Reserve 1999, Stellenbosch
Plump and ripe, there’s a sweet liquoricey edge to the ripe red fruits on the nose. The palate is open with pure ripe fruit dominating, and smooth, slightly spicy tannins providing structure. An attractive wine. Very good/excellent (£12.99 Laytons, Alexander Wines)

Rupert & Rothschild Baron Edmond 1999, Simondium
Classy wine with tarry richness to the ripe berry fruit on the nose. There’s spicy complexity to the dense rounded berry fruit on the palate. Impressive and very appealing. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Vintage House, Halgarten Wines)

Rustenberg John X Merriman 1999, Stellenbosch
Chewy, chunky, dense wine with a savoury, spicy edge to the rich ripe fruit. Satisfyingly dense. Very good+ (£9.99 Virgin)

Vergelegen Estate 1999, Stellenbosch
Refined, classy nose displays dense taut fruit with a spicy, tarry sheen. Rich, dense, savoury palate. Tannins are smooth but firm: a rich, structured style. Very good/excellent (£17.99 Sainsbury, Alexander Wine)

Warwick Estate Trilogy 1999, Stellenbosch
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Produced since 1985. Expressive nose shows some spiciness and is not excessively fruity. Chunky, dense, spicy palate shows great balance and is quite rich, with a slight sweetness to the fruit. Lovely. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Hailsham Cellars, Handford)

Delheim Grand Reserve 1998, Stellenbosch
This is a big wine with prominent but integrated oak. Lovely dense nose exhibits rich, intense spicy berry fruit with classy oak and a tarry edge. The palate shows dense berry fruit with a spicy edge and a touch of sweetness. Very good/excellent (UK agent: Whittaker Wines)

Grangehurst Nikela 1998, Stellenbosch
There’s a slightly herbaceous, vegetal edge to the ripe sweet black fruit on the nose. The palate is full-on, concentrated and appealing with lots of fruit, spicy oak notes and a touch of that vegetal character shown on the nose. Very good (£14.99 Irvin Robinson, Welshpool Wine)

Meerlust Rubicon 1998, Stellenbosch
Taut spicy fruit on the nose leads to a chunky, chewy palate with firm dusty tannins. Very tight and slightly old fashioned, this needs some time to show its best. Very good+ (£17.99 Harrods, Friarwood, Selfridges)

Morgenhof Premiere Selection 1998, Stellenbosch
The nose shows classy tight-knit berry fruit and some spicy oak. Attractive ripe berry fruit dominates the concentrated palate. Very good+ (£7.50 Handford)

Back to top
wines tasted September 2002