Monday, 11 May 2015

Cape Crusaders: More South African Wines for You to Try

Photo Credit: Steampunk Family
Looking back to the start of the month, Hugo made us all REALLY jealous with his travels to South Africa, telling us about wonderful wines from Villera. Well, I’ve been on a Cape crusade of my own – albeit down to my local wine shop (Tivoli Wines, Cheltenham) – to taste a number of wines the country has to offer.

So, South African wines tend to straddle the Old World and New; they smell of lovely ripe, silky fruits, yet still have quite an earthiness about them. As the country has a generally warm climate, the grapes can get very ripe, and produce full, high alcohol wines, often with jammy, baked fruit flavours. However, South Africa also has the benefits of cooler climates, particularly on the Western Cape (where many of the Vineyards are), and there’s been a rise in popularity for making these cool climate wines. Valleys, rivers, and ocean breezes keep the acidity and freshness up, ensuring they’re food friendly.

Four of my favourites of the night were as follows... You should certainly hunt them down!

There’s an interesting story about the name of this wine; basically, Jordan began growing a clone of Rhine Riesling grapevines in their estate - achieving great results - but in stipulating a ‘Rhine Riesling’ from South Africa on their bottles, they got into a number of legal battles from the miffed Germans. As a tongue in cheek response, they decided to call it ‘The Real McCoy’; genius.

Riesling is King of the Grapes with such a varied profile - bone dry to super sweet – and this one is pretty punchy on the lemon-lime flavours at the start. A hint of residual sugar leads to more of a white peach-apple flavour, with luscious acidity and a little spice. As with most Rieslings, it’s ideal for food matching; Asian in particular.

Situated on the Stellenbosch Wine Route, Zevenwacht is in a prime location with panoramic views of Table Mountain, Table Bay and False Bay. The name “Zevenwacht”, derived from the Dutch “Seven Expectations” is a modern wine farm with a 300 year history; the slopes not only produce wines, but also mark the site of one of the Cape’s most remarkable Commercial enterprises – The Tin Mines (hence the name) which operated here in the years leading up to the First World War.

A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 28% Viognier, 21% Chenin and 1% Roussanne; The Tin Mine is a multi-layered wine with a distinctive complexity. The Chardonnay gives superb lime-citrus flavours; the Viognier lends a delicate perfume of dried peaches and apricots, while the Roussanne and Chenin act like salt and pepper, spicing things up! Ripe, rich and exotic, it has the benefits of being subtly oaked, giving it faint aromas of roasted almonds. The Tine Mine cries out for fish related foods, and could easily cut through creamy sauces.

Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the Walker Bay area is one of the coolest wine growing areas in the Cape. The valley is surrounded and sheltered by a mountain barrier, which traps the cloud cover and moisture brought in from the sea by the prevailing wind. The sea breezes work to keep vines cool thereby encouraging slow ripening and flavour-rich grapes.

Young Alsatian winemaker Julien Schaal, clearly knows what he’s doing. His goal was to make a Syrah with voluptuous fruit that reflects ‘Terroir and Passion’, and this is exactly that. Aged for 12 months in 900 litre barrels from Burgundy, the top quality Syrah grapes sing true; round, pure and powerful, a palate of soft red and black berries that have not been overpowered by oak. Instead, a perfume of mixed spice, a little lavender and gentle tannins. A true beauty.

Winning Gold at 2014 UK Sommelier Wine Awards, this is a wine for those who like their reds to be big and substantial. A Bordeaux blend from 30 year old vines - 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc - it’s been matured for 24 months in French oak (70% new), making it bright, bold and moody.

Cassis, cranberry, violets, vanilla and oak spice are satisfying aromas on the nose, intertwined with herbaceous-ness and complex dark chocolate. It has a concentrated depth with ripe fruit, snappy acidity and refined tannins; the ultimate expression of the Jordan terroir. Cobblers Hill is vibrant, fresh and good for aging, as it should be considering its higher price. In terms of food; GIVE ME MEAT (preferably beef). Yu-um.

Photo Credit: Ken Hawkins

Other wines we tried were:

Bon Courage Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Robertson: Light in body, lean and full of tropical fruits, this is a Sauvignon that’d suit everyone. It’s not got that ‘green-ness’ about it, and isn’t too acidic; simply crisp, fruity and refreshing. Also, FYI, Cape Sav Blancs are a lot less popular than ones from New Zealand, Australia, California, etc, so you can actually get a top quality wine, just at a much more affordable price! (£9.89 from Old Butcher’s Wine Cellar

Jordan Chenin Blanc 2013, Stellenbosch: The use of French oak barrels adds some sass to this wonderful grape, whilst fermenting 50% in steel tanks keeps it fresh and lifting. Honey pears and tropical fruits with a deliciously mouth-filling experience of citrus cream complexity. Its length is wonderful; this wine delivers. (£10.99 from The Wine Reserve)

Chamonix Feldspar Pinot Noir 2013, Franschhoek: Made in a Burgundian way, but with New World flavours, this is a Pinot that you could happily sip on its own. Bright red in colour, it has a bouquet of ripe red summer berries and spice. Sappy fruit and soft tannins give it a long dry aftertaste, which is well balanced and appealing. (£15.95 from The Halifax Wine Company)

Tokara Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Stellenbosch: A classic style of Cab Sav with aromas of dark cherries, cassis, ripe plums and smoke. 10% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot help give it good structure and tannins, whilst green, eucalyptus flavours and a little oaky sweetness keep us intrigued. (£13.79 from SA Wines)

Adoro Naturally Sweet Mourvedre 2010, Coastal Region: An excellent alternative to fortified wines, this has been specifically made to be a perfect match for cheese. It’s naturally sweet, with a thick fruit compote of plum, raspberries and dark cherries. Off-sweet on the entry, the full middle palate matches the weight of richer, heavier cheeses, whilst the acidity could cut through creamy, runny varieties, or even balance hard and mild types. Prune and raisin notes akin to Port would enable it to pair with desserts too, so it’s very versatile. (£11.49 from The Wine Reserve)

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