An illustrated report from today's big South African tasting

Spent an enjoyable few hours at today’s South African tasting, held in the rather dimly lit great hall at Vinopolis. The time passed quickly. There’s lot of interesting things going on in the South African wine scene. Here’s my brief illustrated guide.

Adi Badenhorst (above) is making some lovely wines. His red and white Secateurs wines are both delicious and affordable. His 2007 Badenhorst Family red is one of South Africa’s great wines: complex, pure and balanced. New to his portfolio is a solera-style non-vintage white simply titled ‘Wine’. It’s a bit like fino sherry, but unfortified. Complex, food-friendly and hard to resist.

Paul Boutinot (above) is the man behind Waterkloof. Since he purchased the property in 2003 he has led it in the direction of biodynamic farming and a natural approach in the cellar. The wines are lovely, and Paul is quite honest and disclosing (for example, he says that the 2008 Syrah was picked too late, and agrees that there’s a slight South African/Pinotage character to the 2008 Circle of Life red). These wines, already very good, are only going to get better. Look out in particular for the Circle of Life white 2009.

One of the standout whites was this: Chris Williams’ Foundry Grenache Blanc 2010. A bargain at just £10. His Viognier is also sensationally good.

Also fabulous (and fabulous value for money) were this pair from new label ‘Liberator’ – a project devised by Richard Kelley. They’re the first two releases, and they are 200 and 250 case lots of wine from a producer Richard can’t disclose that he liberated and is selling himself. At £13 each, they are tremendous value: serious complex wines from the Swartland.

I enjoyed meeting Carla Kretzel and Craig Hawkins from Lammerschoek. Craig is buddies with Dirk Niepoort, and the Niepoort influence is rubbing off on him (in a positive way) – he’s been making wines here since the 2010 vintage (previously he worked with Eben Sadie), so watch this space to see some very interesting bottles emerge, including a white macerated on its skins.

Miles Mossop is another winemaker who I’d read about, but hadn’t met. As well as making the wines for Tokara, he’s allowed to do some under his own label. Showing today was the lovely Saskia white blend (2009) and the elegant Bordeaux blend Max (2007). Miles probably won’t thank me for the photo, which isn’t all that flattering. Sorry Miles.

The big news? I found a Pinotage I could drink. From star Franschhoek producer Chamonix. It’s made by the ripasso method, with an early picked fermentation then supplemented by some part-dried grapes (thanks to Tim James for an explanation of how this works). Lovely expressive, pure berry fruits.

Very nice wines from Albie Koch’s De Toren. Two Bordeaux blends – Z and Fusion V. Really elegant and pure, with silky smoothness. Quite seductive, but still fresh, and not spoofy.

I finish with two greats. Eben Sadie’s Palladius and Columella are both thrillingly good. Yes, they are expensive. But they are just so nice.

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