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south african wine, part 2
Radford Dale

Alex Dale is a big bloke, much bigger than me. He’s also a Brit, and one of the partners in Radford Dale (along with Aussie Ben Radford), a new-ish venture aiming to make top quality wines from a variety of vineyard sites in the Western Cape. 

Alex has an interesting winey background. He did a harvest in Burgundy when he was 15 years old, and lived and worked for 12 years in the region. Prior to coming to the Cape he was employed by Jacques Prieur in Meursault. After several visits, he eventually moved to South Africa three months after Mandela became president.

Radford Dale own some vineyards, but most of what they do is work with growers, taking them out of the scenario of supplying coops and helping them develop the potential of their land. First vintage was 1998. Like Ken Forrester, who we met in the last part of this series, Radford Dale believe strongly in Chenin Blanc’s potential, and they are doing good things with it.

A word about names: the venture goes under a number of monikers and brands, which can be a little confusing. It’s ‘Radford Dale’, ‘The Winery of Good Hope’, ‘The Winery’ and ‘Black Rock’.   

Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc 2005 Stellenbosch
This is Radford Dale’s more affordable, everyday Chenin, which is fermented in tank with some extended lees contact. Nice honeyed nose with a trace of herby Chenin fruit. Lovely palate is quite rich with some delicious cheesy, herbal fruit. Lots of personality to this fruit-driven wine. Very good+ 87/100

Radford Dale Vinum Chenin 2004 Stellenbosch
With this, Alex is looking for a wine that will age longer, with more minerality and flintiness and less fruit. A small proportion goes into small French oak barrels. There’s lots of personality here: it’s minerally, with notes of straw and herbs. The palate has a lovely savoury, herbal character together with  nice minerality and weight. A lovely food wine. Very good+ 89/100

Radford Dale Chardonnay 2003
Lovely weight and richness: an expressive, slightly nutty Chardonnay with a toasty edge to it. The oak doesn’t overpower. It’s rich, but not over the top; a nice wine, made with restraint. After alcoholic fermentation this is kept at 4–7 ºC for five or six months to delay malolactic and give the wine a chance to interact with the lees and oak. Malolactic is inhibited with sulfur dioxide after this. Very good+ 88/100

Black Rock 2004 Perderberg, Swartland
The first release of this wine, which comes from the up-coming Perderberg region. It’s mainly Chenin (75%) with some Chardonnay and a touch of Viognier. There’s a nice weight of cheesy, straw-tinged herby fruit. It’s generously textured and has good acidity. A really lovely wine that combines weight with freshness. Very good/excellent 90/100

Radford Dale Shiraz 2003
Sweet dark fruits nose with a sweet vanilla and coconut edge, together with some tarriness. The palate shows good concentration of sweet, accessible red fruits. Perhaps just a touch confected but very approachable. After a while there’s a bit of dark chocolatey fruit. It’s tighter and more expressive. Very good/excellent 90/100

Radford Dale Gravity 2004
A blend of Cabernet (50%), Merlot (25%) and Shiraz (25%). Lovely ripe dark fruits nose with a minerally, slightly leafy character and a tarry edge. The palate is dominated by smooth sweet dark fruits. Well defined with an earthy, spicy savouriness adding a lovely spicy definition. Very good/excellent 92/100

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

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