Thursday, February 01, 2024

Wine Tasting - Showcasing South Africa

Bassenthwaite Lake Station, Cumbria. Thursday 01February-2024.

Like buses, nothing for ages and then two South African wine tastings come along at once. It was only at the end of November that we attended a wine tasting of Swartland wines from Edmond Wines. There I noted that our first trip to South Africa was designed around visiting a number of the wine districts. Our purchase of a holiday home there resulted in visiting many wineries in that country. Even so there are always more to discover and it’s always good to try wines available locally.

We did our usual routine of booking ourselves a Dinner, B&B deal in the Pheasant Inn which is staggering distance from the tasting. We have an early supper before the tasting, they do provide a small cheeseboard but it is more like a snack.

I resisted nibbling on the cheese until halfway through when we switched from the whites to the reds. Chatting to one of the pourers I introduced her to the phrase “Buy on apple, sell on cheese” - a maxim in the wine trade. Wine always tastes better if your palate has been coated with some tasty cheese, so if you’re looking to buy from the producers you nibble a piece of apple to keep your palate clean. However, if you are a merchant trying to sell to a customer, then a little bit of cheese will make your wines taste even better.

Name of wine Vintage Region ABV Shop or Supplier Retail price

Bassenthwaites notes

  • Mary's notes and ✱ star rating

1. The Capeography Co. - Grenache Blanc 2022 Swartland 12.5% Booths £10

Grenache Blanc from the Swartland is an exotic affair of jasmine and white tea notes over a generously fleshy yet spicy palate. The drought-hardy, dry-grown variety loves the Swartland's deep sandy soils and granite bedrock.

  • Powerful nose, pear drops, floral; rich texture, good, acidity, and balance, spicy, floral, short, potentially slightly flabby? ✱

2. Vergelegen Millrace - Sauvignon Blanc 2023 Stellenbosch 13.5% Majestic £11

Vergelegen Estate is the third-oldest wine producing estate in South Africa. Established in 1700, this heritage estate is known for crafting wines of exceptional quality. Grapes are meticulously picked by hand and crafted in their innovative gravity-flow winery. They're all about purity of fruit, and you'll certainly taste it in this elegant bottle. Expect vibrant flavours of guava, passionfruit lime blossom and quince.

  • Smoky, grassy, herbal; smoky, slightly, not typical, SP, good acidity, some length ✱

3. Stellenrust, Stellenbosch Manor - Chenin Blanc 2023 Stellenbosch 13.5% Sainsbury’s £10

This Chenin Blanc is crafted with the exact detail and harvested from traditional bush vines delivering ripe zesty pineapple, pear and white peach with a refreshing lime acidity. The proud history of Stellenrust, founded by master stonemason and builder of the Castle of Good Hope, Douwe Steyn, is depicted in the gabled manor house on the 1692 Stellenrust wine farm.

  • Less powerful nose, tropical fruit; fresh, acidic, minerally, light, tropical fruit ✱

4. Discovery Collection - Field Blend Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc & Marsanne 2022 Paarl 13.5% Majestic £10

This rich and honeyed white is a fabulous example of what can be created from South Africa's old vines. Ripe stone fruits on the nose lead to poached apple and pear notes on the palate with hints of dried pineapple and an underlying salinity. The Wildeberg winery is set against the dramatic backdrop of the majestic Franschhoek Mountain. Here, head wine maker JD Rossouw works with grower partners to source these grapes from old vines in Paarl, where the varied soil types and mediterranean climate make for perfect growing conditions. This generous white is great with simply cooked fish and seafood dishes.

  • Tropical fruits; good flavour development – tropical fruits, spicy apple; good body, some length ✱

5. Grand Vinde de Stellenbosch Village - Viogner 2023 Stellenbosch 13.5% Majestic £12 

Bernard Fontannaz, founder of Origin Wine, acquired Le Grand Domaine in 2016 with a view to it becoming his 'South African Château. Little wonder he was attracted to the property: set at the top of the beautiful Devon Valley overlooking the majestic peaks of Stellenbosch, it's in a beautiful spot that's consistently produced premium grapes since the 18th century. Winemaker Debbie Thompson crafts wines including this Viognier from iron-rich soils, ageing different components separately in amphora, French oak and stainless steel before blending. The wine is rich and spicy with mouth-watering notes of apricot, peach and honeysuckle - and a rounded, smooth finish. Its full and fruity flavours makes it a great match for poultry dishes, Thai green curry or grilled salmon.

  • Light nose; Rich, spicy, pear / peach / peach kernel, good acidity, good length ✱

6. Jordan Stellenbosch - Unoaked Chardonnay 2022 Stellenbosch 13% Booths £14

Situated at the upper end of Stellenbosch Kloof, with views overlooking Cape Town, Table Mountain and Stellenbosch, Jordan is a family-owned estate and premium destination offering a unique Winelands experience. The pure, primary fruit flavours from Chardonnay grapes grown on the cooler, morning sun vineyards are enhanced through cool fermentation and lees maturation in stainless steel tanks. The extended lees contact intigrates the bracing citrus flavours with layers of creamy tropical fruit.

  • Soft, creamy nose, good acidity, tropicals fruit, smooth body, lovely unoaked Chardonnay ✱

7.  Southlands Cool Climate - Pinot Noir 2022 Western Cape 12.5% Sainsbury’s £9 

Sourced from vineyards at the tip of South Africa, influenced by the cool climate surrounding the Cape of Storms, these grapes benefit from a long and gentle ripening season. A delightfully smooth & fruity pinot noir. Light-bodied and bursting with ripe cherry flavours, perfectly balanced with subtle notes of spice and a touch of oak.

  • Light, very slight vegetable; light ✱

8. Journeys End The BlueGum - Merlot 2021 Stellenbosch 14% Sainsbury’s £10

Ruby, clear and bright. Aromas of blackcurrants and raspberries with hints of violets and vanilla from well balanced French oak. Pallate displays nutmeg and vanilla with elegant, polished tannins providing enough grip to reward patient cellaring. Mineral rich, granite soils, cool coastal breezes ang long sunny days have played their part in delivering healthy concentrated berries, handpicked and carefully selected to provide the perfect foundation for this wine.

  • Ripe, soft, fruit, raspberries & violets; minerally, blackcurrant/raspberry, smooth, lovely aftertaste ✱

9. Kanonkop Kadette - Pinotage 2021 Stellenbosch 14% Majestic £14

Kanonkop was named Outstanding Producer of the Past 50 Years at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in 2019. The family-owned estate is considered to many as the equivalent of a South African First Growth. And when you taste what they've done with the country's star grape, Pinotage, you'll know why. Made in a soft, fruit-forward style, it spends 12 months in French oak barrels to give a silky-smooth texture. This is a complex Pinotage wine, with notes of raspberry, strawberry, red cherry and chocolate. Try it with a hearty beef burger.

  • Soft, fruity nose; some tannins, complex, good flavour development, good length ✱

10. Dynamite Factory - Shiraz 2022 Cape Coast 14% Morrisons £7

Unearthed from the Cape Coast region, this Shiraz shows aromas of red cherry and plum which explode on the palate along with black cherry and a hint of pepper and spice. The tannins are soft and silky with a lingering dark chocolate finish.

  • Soft, green peppers, peppery; plum, soft tannins, good finish. Fantastic value for money. 

11. Rustenberg Stellenbosch R.M.Nicholson - Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot 2020 Stellenbosch 14% Booths £11 

Rustenberg's Murray Barlow is the only person to be named Young Winemaker of the Year twice by Diners Club. And he's a specialist in creating exceptional reds under the Stellenbosch sun. This is a blend of Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. An unconventional mixture of traditional Bordeaux and Rhône varieties that creates something truly fantastic. It has flavours of blackcurrant, black pepper and spice that are a treat with a chargrilled steak.

  • Lovely dark fruit nose; smooth, lovely fruit flavours; good finish ✱ 

12. Journeys End The Pioneer - Malbec 2022 Western Cape 13.5% Majestic £10 Coastal Region,

While most associated with Argentina, Malbec thrives in South Africa too thanks to an ideal mix of Southern Hemisphere sun and refreshing ocean breezes. This example comes from the Gabb family, originally from Shropshire in the UK, who purchased 20 scenic hectares of vines in the Western Cape in 1995. Their terroir, nestled in the Schapenberg Hills, is some of the finest in South Africa, and this wine comes from three different vineyard blocks set 350m above sea level. Carefully picked at optimal times of day to ensure perfect ripeness, the grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks before ageing in oak barrels for six months. Expect plenty of plum, cherry and blackberry flavour with a subtle note of cooked banana. Soft and silky, it'll go well with both red and white meats, as well as stews and pasta dishes.

  • Plum and blackberry nose; good tannins, and acidity, soft ripe fruits, shortish ✱

As always an educational and fun evening with some interesting wines at reasonable prices and all available locally.

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