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south african wine, part 14
Glen Carlou, Paarl

Next visit was Glen Carlou, a well-respected winery that’s now part of the Hess Group (along with the Hess Collection in Napa, Peter Lehmann in Australia’s Barossa and Bodega Colomé in Argentina’s Salta region). The 125 hectare farm is located in the northern foothills of the Simonsberg, and has 70 hectares of vineyards.

I met with viticulturalist Marius Cloete (left), who gave me a tour of the vineyards and explained how technology helps him do his job better. They use in-vineyard environmental data gathering, which is linked up to a computer in the winery running Plant-PLUS (here). This is a decision support system that is used to predict the incidence of pests and diseases, allowing control only where it is needed. 

The system uses data collected from the various parts of the vineyard and combines these with weather forecast data, indicating when control might be needed. Further data on the growth phase of the vines can be added manually by the viticulturalist. As a result, minimal chemical inputs are used, and they system paid for itself from these savings in just one season.

Glen Carlou have some very nice looking vineyards, but like many South African producers have suffered from leaf roll virus in recent years. The solution is fairly drastic: replanting with virus-free vines. But even then, new plantings can be reinfected via infection with mealybugs, which act as a vector for the virus.

The tasting notes below should be taken with a grain of salt. I tasted from bottles at the cellar door most of which, I reckon, had been open for some time. Slightly daft to treat journalists this way, but then it was a Saturday morning I suppose.

Glen Carlou Tortoise Hill White 2005
A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier. Very fresh, clean and fruity with a nice balance between the crispness and weight. Very good+ 87/100

Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2004
Quite a rich style with lots of nutty, savoury, spicy oak, hints of coffee and creamy vanilla notes. The palate has nice bright fruit and strong vanilla oak, finishing creamy. Still manages to stay light, even though it’s a bit oaky. Very good+ 89/100

Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2004
Aged in 700 litre French oak barrels. Tight, spicy berry fruit here with some savoury, oaky notes. Nice weight of fruit on the palate with some savoury, spicy structure. Not big but still bigger than you’d expect from a Pinot Noir. Just out of the fridge. Very good+ 88/100

Glen Carlou Grand Classique 2002
A blend of five Bordeaux varieties that’s been made since 1989. Quite rich, intense liqueur-like nose of sweet berry and black fruits. Soft, rich and slightly flabby on the palate with some evolution and ripe, soft red fruits. Lacks focus: a bit mushy. Very good+ 87/100

Glen Carlou Syrah 2004
Striking nose: dark and intense with ripe, meaty black fruits, together with some spice and roasted oak character. The palate shows some unusual woody fruit with spicy dark fruits and an odd dusty edge. Savoury stuff. Very good+ 88/100

Wines tasted 12/05
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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