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The wines of Warwick Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa  

PO Box 2, Muldersvlei 7607, South Africa
Tel: (021) 884 4410 Fax: (021) 884 4025
E-mail: mike@warwickwine.co.za Website: www.warwickwine.co.za  
UK agent: Louis Latour Ltd (020 7409 7276)

From this tasting, Warwick Estate appears to be towards the front of the pack of South African wineries. Mike Ratcliffe (right), who comes across as shrewd and personable (and is still only 30!), explained how Warwick are continuing to invest in the vineyards, which currently cover 57 ha. Most interesting to me is the way that they are adopting precision agriculture techniques to monitor the small-scale variations in climate and soil, and target treatments appropriately. The tools for this include pre-harvest satellite photography, a new drip irrigation system and mesoclimatic temperature sensors placed at intervals. They have also tried going round the vineyard at veraison (when the grapes change colour) and marking those bunches that change first (apparently thereís quite a difference in bunch development). These are then harvested before the others. This sounds highly labour intensive, and Iím not sure how widely itís practiced, but it is indicative of the forward-thinking philosophy here. Donít worry though: while the viticulture is state-of-the art, the wines arenít too modern. Rather, they show a fair bit of old world elegance, and are worth looking out for.  

Developments for the future include a new Sauvignon Blanc, named Professor Black. First vintage (2002) yielded just 800 bottles, but within a few vintages this is expected to rise to 17 000 cases. For this, it is likely that Warwick will be taking advantage of the very recent change in the rules which now allows wine Estates to utilize bought in grapes and still use the name of the estate on the label. h

Chardonnay 2001
From a 1.5 ha single vineyard plot on the coolest part of the farm, this spends 5 months in new French oak. Lovely intense nutty nose is quite elegant with well-integrated oak and some complexity. Rich, attractive texture on the palate, with nice acidity and a lemony edge: it works really well. First vintage of the Chardonnay was 1991, and this grape represents just 3Ė4% of the portfolio. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Waitrose) 

Chardonnay 1999
A deeper golden yellow colour, this is more mature with a nutty nose showing a caramel edge. Quite complex, nutty palate is still quite fresh. Mature but drinking well now. Iíd have preferred it a little younger. Very good+

Bush Vine Pinotage 1999
From 32 year old vines, 2000 cases of this were made. The philosophy with this wine is not to produce anything too flashy, but instead make a softer, consumer-friendly wine. No new oak is used, which tends to overwhelm Pinotage. Warwick are currently building up their Pinotage blend, so they are making progressively less straight Pinotage. Vivid cherry red colour. Lovely sweet cherry and berry fruit on the nose which is very forward and accessible. The palate is nice and juicy with a slightly meaty/cheesy edge. Delicious stuff: juicy and fun, but with enough interest to hold the attention. Very good/excellent

Three Cape Ladies 1998
A blend of Pinotage (25%), Merlot (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), first made in 1997. 1200 cases produced. The nose shows lovely chalky-edged berry fruit with a slightly spicy, meaty edge. Lovely tight spicy palate with juicy berry fruit: quite structured but tasty. Extremely appealing. Very good/excellent (Production of this wine, which has been highly successful, is going to rise over coming vintages)

Cabernet Franc 1999
Lighter colour with a slightly fading rim. Lovely chalky berry fruit on the nose which is quite minerally. Juicy palate shows good concentration, tight berry fruit and a chalky edge, together with some leafy notes. Wonderful stuff in a restrained, classy style, showing good varietal character. The 1999 is the 14th vintage. Very good/excellent

1999 Merlot
Subtle, leafy-edged cherry fruit on the nose. Juicy, lively balanced palate with tight, ripe berry fruit and some tannins. Very good+

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
The 18th vintage of this wine. Trademark classy Warwick nose with a spicy edge to the cassis and berry fruit. Substantial palate with firm, spicy tannins: quite structured, and with its tannic, mineralic character this needs time.  Very good/excellent

Trilogy 1999
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

wines tasted May 2002; article posted September 2002; revised February 2003

Update: some more wines tasted in May 2003

Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc 2002
A new project for Warwick, taking advantage of the new-found popularity of South African Sauvignon Blanc. It has a nice, forward grassy nose with some nice ripe tropical fruit notes. Good concentration of grassy fruit on the palate. Nice style, balancing ripeness with a crisp freshness very successfully. Very good+ 89/100

Chardonnay 2002
Very nice intensity of fruit and oak. Mainly tropical fruit but with good acidity and well integrated oak. Very good+ 88/100

Trilogy 2000
Nice ripe slightly meaty nose showing some blackcurrant and berry fruit. The Cabernet Franc makes its presence felt with some slightly herbaceous notes. A nice wine. Very good+ 88/100

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