Tag Archives: stellenbosch

The South African Winelands Low-down – Stellenbosch

  • Amani (£1.50 to taste all listed wines or choose)

A beautiful Estate, with tasting terrace overlooking the surrounding vineyards, gorgeous panoramic view. Very relaxed feel and helpful, knowledgeable wine advisor. We had the pleasure of meeting the assistant winemaker Chris van Reenen, who showed us around and explained they use all natural yeasts and no additions, fascinating to see in practice. All the wines came across as well made so there is definitely something working well here.

Star Wine:

  • Pinotage 2011, Limited Release – Black forest gateaux, dark cherry, mocha, chocolate and spice, medium bodied and balanced, integrated tannins, with a luxurious chocolate finish. Growing to like Pinotage a lot!

Also tasted:

  • ABC 2010, Chardonnay – Chablis in style? Tropical fruit, pineapple and nuts, backed by a mineral, crisp acidity, some creaminess underneath. 
  • The Bordeaux Experience, Pomerol 2008 – Cabernet Franc and Merlot, rhubarb and custard, maraschino cherry, plums, bramble and black fruits, herbaceous, the alcohol was a little noticeable but otherwise a deep flavoured, full bodied wine. 
  • The Rhone Experience, Young Palate, Pendana 2008 – 87% Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Viognier and Mourvèdre. Spicy, red and black fruits, cranberry and currants, acidity came across a bit spiky.
  • The Rhone Experience, Experience Palate, Forest Myers 2007 – 96% Shiraz, 9% Mourvèdre, 2% Viognier, named after the owner’s son who sadly died in a car crash 6 years ago. Softer and fruitier with a more developed nose than the 2008, mellowed and lovely.

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A picturesque setting for this Estate, where the wine is made and bottled on site. The winemaker Dirk Coetzee kindly showed us around and gave us a great insight into the workings here.

Impressed by:

  • Grand Vin Pinotage 2009 – The wine they are best known for and their description says it all – seriously sultry and laden with ripe black cherries, juicy plums, cassis and dark chocolate, nutty nuances of new French oak, hints of toffee and caramel.

Also tasted:

  • Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé 2010 – Lovely biscuit and fresh fruit aromas and flavours, raspberries, strawberries and cream. Fresh and young.
  • Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Citrus and herbaceously green, melon and lime, fresh and fruity.
  • Rosé de Pinotage 2012 – Summer in a glass, strawberry and floral tones, sweet yet fresh and dry.

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  • Delaire Graff (£0.75p per taste or £3 to taste 5 wines, Reserves £1.50 per taste)

An extremely impressive Estate, with wonderfully beautiful gardens, water features, slate stone buildings, sculptures and art all around you, cleverly designed features where views of the valleys open up from nowhere and neatly hidden seated areas with very plush furnishings. The reception itself is quite breathtaking. The tasting of the wines is explained by a knowledgeable wine advisor.

We decided to try the Reserve range to see what is deemed the best of Delaire and must admit both wines were very impressive.

  • Delaire Graff Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2010 – Small amount of oak influence, lovely zesty lemon and lime cheesecake tang, lemon curd edge with well integrated acidity and hints of vanilla, nice weight and depth of flavour. Felt this could develop further and grow more complex.
  • Delaire Graff Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009 – Only 4300 bottles produced, 100% Cabernet. Black fruits, blackcurrant pastilles, earthy, herbs and spice, hint of vanilla, lovely depth of aromas and velvety mouthfeel, good structure, tannin and acid balanced.

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  • Hartenburg (£1.50 to taste 8 wines, fee waived on purchase)

One of the first Estates we visited and we were so impressed. Beautiful grounds, white Cape Dutch buildings, vineyards as far as you could see. The tasting room had a feel of being welcomed into a Grandparents grand sitting room. The lovely wine advisor sat us at a table and explained the tasting. She then spent a lot of time talking through each wine, chatting with us while managing to keep other customers equally well looked after. A wonderful place, where the ethos is to look after their local workforce and provide housing and schooling onsite to make their lives easier.

Our 5* wine:

  • Occasional Riesling 2012 – Off dry style of jasmine flowers, honey and lemon curd, sherbet tang yet rich. Balanced and complex, a beautiful wine. We took this to our friends (Jeremy & Emma Borg) for dinner and it went down a storm, gorgeous as an aperitif before a light fish supper with gently flavoured vegetables and potatoes.

Also tasted:

  • The Eleanor Chardonnay 2008 / 2009 – Limited production, golden in colour and rich in flavour. Complex layers of fruit and toasty notes on the palate, great acidity. Don’t think I’ve tasted a Chardonnay quite like this. Might even be worth decanting this powerful wine. Great match for cheddar or camembert.
  • The Mackenzie Bordeaux Blend 2007 – Limited production, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, a Platter 5* wine! Named in honour of the Mackenzie family who have overseen the development of the modern Estate. Voluptous and layered with fruit, game and peppercorn spice, hints of chocolate and oaky pencil shavings. Silky with good tannic grip.
  • The Stork Shiraz 2007 / 2008 – Limited production, full bodied, black fruits, cherries and violet, underpinned with oak. 
  • Chardonnay 2009 – Elegant, creamy and zesty with a sprinkling of toasty oak, lovely.
  • Riesling 2012, aromatic and dry, floral, lime, honey and light spice, hints of kerosene, good acidity and good length.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2010 – Uncomplicated, juicy and fruity, full of berry richness, soft tannins and good aftertaste. Very drinkable and easy going.
  • Shiraz 2008 – Rich and concentrated dark spiced fruits, plums in particular, quite savoury.

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An Estate that couldn’t be more different to the old Cape Dutch wineries that we had become used to. Modernist and white, large, open tasting room with white tables and chairs, splashes of colour from balloons for parties and decorative furnishings, deeply coloured velvet curtains sheltered private tasting rooms for groups. Initially, a little skeptical about the nougat matching and potential sweetness of the wines, we were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the matches.

Favourite Sparklers:

  • Méthode Cap Classique, Pinot Noir 2008 – Paired with dark chocolate coated white nougat which brings out the red fruit character of the Pinot nicely, dry and crisp.
  • La Fleurette Rosé (carbonated) – Bubblegum pink in colour, lively with fruit, red cherry and strawberry, very sweet, but amazing paired with the gooey strawberry nougat, a great dessert idea for a dinner party to break from the traditional! I loved this.

Also tasted:

  • Méthode Cap Classique, Pinot Noir Rosé 2008 – Paired with rose Turkish delight which brings out the red fruits and rose beautifully, pleasantly refreshing and dry. 
  • La Vallée – Semi-sweet with added Chardonnay, we were told the South African palate is sweeter and this is a big seller. Crisp, creamy and brie like aroma, hints of apricot and tropical fruit brought out nicely with the mango and almond nougat, lovely sweetness not overdone.
  • Le Domaine (carbonated) – Made with Muscadelle and meant to be the sweetest of the selection and certainly smells sweet, aromatic peach and orange, but didn’t seem as sweet on the palate as La Fleurette. This was paired with white chocolate nougat and pistachio but seemed too sweet for the match and overpowered the nougat flavours. 
  • Jordan (£2 to taste 6 wines)

Lovely surroundings with shaded tables overlooking the reservoir and valley, very relaxed feeling. Erin, previously winemaker and now managing the sales side, talked us through the wines. We also met Kathy Jordan, Owner of the Estate, and her two very friendly dogs.

Award Winner:

  • Nine Yards Chardonnay 2011 – Awarded Decanter’s top Chardonnay in the world 2012 – what an achievement and worthy of it! Quite Burgundian in style, butterscotch, spicy cloves, lemon, lime, orange peel, fresh almonds and mineral citrus flavours. Lovely integrated flavours with long tropical finish.

Also tasted:

  • Chameleon Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay 2012 – A softer style for those who aren’t keen on the sharpness of Sauvignon or fatness of Chardonnay, refreshing and light with hints of green fig, melon and zesty citrus. 
  • Riesling 2012 – Off dry style, pleasant and light, zesty lemon and lime flavours with floral undertones, slight pepperiness on the aftertaste. Would be good with food.
  • The Prospector Syrah 2009 – Rich black fruits, fynbos, herb and spice, savoury, meaty tones, errs on the jammy side. 10% American oak adds a sweet summery undertone.
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Full bodied, full flavoured, blackberry, cassis, cloves, spice, chocolate and vanilla. Good structure and body. Lovely wine.
  • Cobblers Hill 2009 – 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc. Complex dark chocolate, black berry fruits and cassis. Sweet, fruity, spicy finish that lasts nicely in the mouth. Balanced and refined.

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A beautiful, large Estate with striking white gates at the entrance and white Cape Dutch buildings at the end of the drive passed vines and reservoirs, picturesque setting. Lovely, airy feel to the tasting room. We sat at the bar but you could have a table inside or out. Our wine advisor, Cobus talked us through all the wines and was great fun to chat to. He has worked there almost 15 years which gave him great depth of experience with their wines. He was also happy for us to taste different vintages side by side to allow us the chance to see their development, which makes such a difference in understanding where a younger wine is going.

Our Star Wines:

  • Chenin Blanc 2009 – From 55 year old vines, more than double the residual sugar than the 2010, lovely cooked spiced apple and clove aromas and flavours, rich and full, quite different and lovely! 
  • Yardstick Chardonnay 2011 – Pale straw green in colour, refreshing and mineral styled lime acidity, subtle nutty, creamy barrel ferment character. Rich but crisp.
  • Faithful Hound 2009 – 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, woody, earthy aromas underpinned with black fruits, blackcurrant, plums and blackberry, herbs and coffee, smooth mouthfeel.
  • Fable Lion’s Whisker 2009 – 79% Shiraz, 21% Mourvèdre. Deep crimson, full bodied, concentrated berry fruits and floral, violet notes.

Also tasted:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2012 – Strawberry zing, zesty and herby with a creamy finish. Lovely easy summer drinking.
  • Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – With 4% Semillon, not quite as tropical as some, but plenty of lemon zestiness, guava and passion fruit alongside that Sauvignon grassiness.
  • Chenin Blanc 2011 – Citrus lemon and pear, some tropical aromas with hints of white stone fruit, although a bit closed, acidity quite high.
  • Chenin Blanc 2010 – Rounder and fuller flavoured, more red apple, ripe pear and spice with floral notes.
  • Chardonnay 2011 – Pale lemon green in colour, citrus, pineapple and apricot with a touch of spice, almonds, a slightly oily texture and creamy aftertaste. 45% in stainless steel gives distinctly different character and flavours to the 100% barrel fermented wines.
  • Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2010 – Fresh zesty citrus with the waft of a lit match at first, more mineral notes. Oatmeal, tangerine, orange blossom.
  • Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2009 – Rounder yet still zesty. Oatmeal, tangerine, orange blossom.
  • Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2008 – Mellower, still with good acidity. Oatmeal, tangerine, orange blossom.
  • Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2007 – Deep lemon green in colour, very creamy body with citrus apple, tangerine, herb and chestnut flavours. 
  • Yardstick Pinot Noir 2011 – Very pale ruby red, red fruits of cherry, cranberry and tinned strawberries, waxy texture, good acidity.
  • Fable Bobbejaan 2010 – 100% Syrah, medium crimson colour, juicy fruit aromas with pink grapefruit and red currant, cranberry notes.

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German owned, large Estate and winery. Our wine advisor Jean-Louis was from France, studying a Masters in Economics and Business whilst working at the winery, interesting guy happy to talk us through the wines and more.

  • Gewürztraminer 2012 – Fresh and floral aromas, lychee, peppery spice, rosewater, hints of greenness in the background, would nicely match spicy food. 
  • Malbec 2011, lots of summery red fruits and berries, ripe plums, soft tannins, simple and drinkable.
  • Shiraz 2007 – Peppery spice with dark fruits, blackberry, prune and fig, good acid/tannin grip, needs strong food such as a peppered steak.
  • The Caracal Red Blend 2010 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, black bramble fruits, blackcurrant, plum and cherry, chocolate, oak, cedar and vanilla. Rich and velvety. Have since tried this back home, from Majestic, and was more impressed than when first tasted.
  • The Owl Post Pinotage 2010 – Ripe red fruits, raspberry, cherry, mocha and pepper, fruity chocolate gateaux, not quite as velvety textured as some we have tried. 
  • Pinotage 2007 – Fruity plums and prunes, berry fruits, hint of cinnamon sweetness.
  • Maria Magdalena Noble Late Harvest 2011 – Golden amber colour, concentrated dried apricot, raisin, orange rind and honey.

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A lovely Estate, small and hidden away up a long drive. More subtle, elegant styled wines compared to many we have tried despite high alcohol contents which surprised us, well made and polished, much like the feeling of the Estate. Excellent service from our wine advisor, who gave great information about the wines. Interestingly all red wines, no white. Quite demanding prices due to small quantities made.

Our Stand Out Reds:

  • Estate 2009 – Flagship wine in the Top 100 Wines in Wine Spectator the last 4 years. 60% Cabernet, 30% Shiraz and 10% Merlot. Delicate aroma of red and black fruits, floral notes (we are told comes from the Shiraz and is typical of the terroir on this Estate), herby and savoury, depth of flavour and soft tannin.
  • Single Vineyard Syrah 2010 – Only 2100 bottles made, very elegant wine. Violet, jasmine and cherries – anyone remember spangles? Tastes like that! Hint of meatiness, fruit cake and dark muscovado sugar richness. 

Also tasted:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Light in style despite 14.5%, red fruits dominate with a hint of oak, tannic bite but balanced, lovely mouthfeel. You can taste the potential.
  • Shiraz 2010 – Approachable at 15%, bright ruby in colour, a subtle nose of earthy spice, liquorice, red and black fruits, blackberry and bramble, touch of vanilla sweetness but well integrated oak. 
  • 1694 Classification 2008 – Named after the year this farm was established. 57% Shiraz and 43% Cabernet Sauvignon. Fuller bodied and weightier in the mouth, oozing dark brambley fruits and raspberry, subtle hints of cedar oak and vanilla.

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  • Rustenberg (£1.50 to taste 7 wines – fee waived on purchase)

Fabulous Estate, beautiful white Cape Dutch buildings and wonderful gardens, I could have got lost whiling away the hours there. We arrived quite late in the day so it was a fairly speedy tasting, however, the wine advisor was a star taking us through each wine with no rush to close. You can find many of their wines at Majestic, Waitrose and the Ida range at Tescos.

Our Takeaway Wines:

  • Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – Refreshing, mouth watering acidity and upfront fruit. A slightly fuller richer style without relying on the influence of oak.
  • Rustenberg Stellenbosch RM Nicholson 2009 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, deep concentrated black fruit aromas, cassis and cedar, blackberry, cassis, bramble and a minty aftertaste with soft juicy tannins.

Also tasted:

  • Rustenberg Stellenbosch Schoongezicht White Blend 2010 – 50% Semillon, 45% Viognier and 5% Roussanne. Lovely floral and orange notes with fresh stone fruits, zesty lemon and a hint of  flowers. 
  • Rustenberg Straw Wine 2009 – Sweet dessert wine made from Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Crouchen Blanc, the grapes are laid out to dried on straw in the ‘passito’ method, which concentrates the sugar, wonderful aromas and flavours of honey, marmalade and ripe peach, voluptuously textured and full flavoured.
  • Rustenberg Stellenbosch John X Merriman 2009 –  51% Cabernet Sauvignon,35% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec. Plum and cigar box aromas, multi layered palate with elegant tannin structure.
  • Rustenberg Five Soldiers 2010 – Chardonnay, full fruit flavours, good aromatics and acidity blended nicely with the oak.
  • Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2006 – Cabernet Sauvignon, made from the oldest vineyard on the Estate, rich and robust, upfront perfume, concentrated cassis, black cherries and some herbaceousness. 

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Grab a seat in the tasting room or outside and go up to the busy bar to be served. Our visit was made all the more interesting with the cute little meerkat running around up and down people’s legs, including mine!

Surprise Star Wine:

  • Port, Cape Vintage Reserve, 2009 – This wine was made by accident with Shiraz that was left over but what an accident, this is amazing! Beautifully perfumed brambley fruit and exotic spice aromas, rich, full and fiery with a long dry finish. Suggestion to drink with Stilton (yum), Pecorino cheese or chocolate. 

Also tasted:

  • Cuvée Royale, Blanc de Blancs, 2007 – Yeasty, creamy, almond and buttery brioche aromas, good acidic backbone. 
  • Chardonnay 2011 – Full bodied, rich toasty oak notes, creamy citrus tang on the finish. 
  • Gewürztraminer 2012 – Special late harvest semi-sweet style, rich, spicy nose with mandarin orange, lychee and palma violets, hints of rose petal with a dry finish, quite full viscous mouthfeel.
  • Merindol Syrah 2010 – Limited release from a single vineyard, fruity nose, aromas of black fruits, cherry and spangles (those again), with hints of hickory bonfire smoke. Definitely needs food.

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  • Spier (Spier Tasting £3 for 5 wines, Frans K. Smit tasting, £6 for 6 wines)

A large and gorgeous wine Estate with hotel, restaurant, gardens, tasting room and even a wild bird sanctuary. Certainly somewhere you can spend most of the day. We chose our tasting, which our personal wine advisor paced nicely, telling us plenty about the wines and the history of the Estate, an impressive set up.

Our Spier Favourites:

  • 21 Gables Chenin Blanc – Hints of citrus, pineapple, and stewed fruit, cooked apple and spicy clove, creamy hints, a little reminiscent of a white Burgundy.
  • 21 Gables Pinotage – Very distinctive style, savoury almost animal approach, with cherries, spice and hints of tobacco, the smell alone was enough to convince Kel he liked this one!

Also tasted:

  • Spier Signature Sauvignon Blanc – Gooseberry, green pepper, pear, hints of tropical fruit and a bit of spice on the finish.
  • Spire Signature Chenin Blanc – A pleasant aperitif style drink, light and fresh, citrus lemon, pear and apple, lively fruit and acidity, slight creamy texture although a little heat from the alcohol felt.
  • Spier Signature Pinotage – Quite light, juicy and fruity, almost more like a Pinot Noir. 
  • Spier Creative Block 2, 88% Semillon, 12% Sauvignon, rich and abundant stone fruit fruit, a hint of smokiness on the nose, quite a short finish.
  • Spier Creative Block 3 – Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Viognier, perfumed and toasty, dark, rich plum, fig, tobacco and leather with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, with food would be good!
  • Spier Creative Block 5 – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Ripe dark fruits, black cherry, blackcurrant and plum, fruit cake richness, cedar and spice, a touch of vanilla.
  • Frans K. Smit 2006 – 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Shiraz, 12.5% Merlot, 12.5% Malbec, 12.5% Cabernet Franc, 12.5% Pinotage, black fruits, blackcurrant, plum and spice, rich floral flavours and quite soft tannin which surprised. Acidity stood out a little.

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  • Thelema (£2 to taste 6 wines – fee waived on purchase)

The tasting room seemed quite small on entering but walking out onto the veranda you have a wonderful view of the vineyard and mountains behind, which is very picturesque. Crescenda, who served us was, very friendly and knowledgeable. We tasted the Thelema and Sutherland ranges (Sutherland is their cooler vineyard in Elgin). It was nice to see some different varieties at this Estate.

Our Star Wines:

  • ”The Mint” Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Concentrated cassis, mocha and dark chocolate with distinctive fresh mint character contributed from the mint planted near the vines, amazing freshness from this. Roast lamb anyone?
  • Sutherland Viognier/Roussanne 2010 – 60% Viognier, 40% Roussanne, dried apricot and rose petal aromas, honeyed, nutty flavours of almond and leesy creaminess.

Also tasted:

  • Thelema Riesling 2010 – German style with a fragrant spicy nose, hints of kerosene and lime, round acidity as this is slightly sweeter than normal with lower alcohol.
  • Thelema Muscat de Frontignan 2012 – Off dry and very aromatic, fresh and balanced, lychee, orange and palma violets, would be great with seafood.
  • Thelema Rabelais 2008 – 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 9% Merlot, 4000 bottles produced, luscious dark berries and cedar wood, sweet fruit character. Complex and full bodied.
  • Sutherland Riesling 2011 – Zesty lime and kerosene aromas, high acidity with some orange undertones. Advised to cellar for development.
  • Sutherland Syrah 2009 – Light and clean, earthy strawberry and raspberry flavours, a little perfumed.

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  • Tokara (free tasting of 6 wines, £0.75 to taste the Brandy)

A gorgeous modern slate stone and wood building, which is very architecturally pleasing, set against stunning views of the vineyards and valley. Open plan and extremely well designed interior with large glass windows that also give access to view the winery and cellar. Local art and sculptures are on show and available to buy. Tastings are at the bar and free!

Our Tokara Works of Art:

  • Tokara Reserve Collection Walker Bay Chardonnay 2011 – Lovely vibrant white floral aromas, lemon and lime citrus zest, white peach and hints of gunflint, underscored by fresh brioche and toasted pine nuts. Full, rich, buttery and creamy. Wonderful!

Also tasted:

  • Tokara Reserve Collection Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Very much nettles, grass, guava and gooseberry, lemon zest and white pepper hints. Refreshingly crisp.
  • Tokara Director’s Reserve White 2011 – 71% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Semillon, intense nose of quince, lemongrass and passionfruit, rich and a little toasty, oily and creamy texture, quite soft mouthfeel.
  • Tokara Director’s Reserve Red 2011 – 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, 6% Merlot, 4% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc. Intense dark berry fruit and cassis aromas, dark chocolate, spice and roasted fennel, hints of pencil wood, a fruity style, lighter than expected.
  • Tokara Shiraz 2010 – Quite light bodied, very drinkable. Five spice with blackberries, mulberries and a floral undertone, hints of fynbos and herb, evidence of Mourvèdre, textured tannins, nicely balanced fruit and spiciness.
  • Tokara Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc Noble Late Harvest 2011 – Rich, sweet and honeyed, complex nose of dried apricots, quince and pineapple. Rich and full with great acidity and hints of oak.
  • Tokara Potstill Brandy 2006 – Chenin Blanc on a new level! Orange blossom, fig, peach, raisin, floral jasmine aroma, smooth, hazelnut and brazil nut, dark sugar richness and sweetness, spicy pepper and vanilla notes. Intense stuff!

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Lovely rustic feel to this Estate, the main Cape Dutch styled building dominates when you arrive, opening onto a green garden area and reservoir, dotted with large umbrellas that shade beanbags, blankets and glasses for the gourmet picnics they prepare, and wooden picnic pods (each named after the wines) nestled under the shade of the tress for more privacy. The tasting room is great, nicely decorated and maintains some of its original features, it is open and airy with comfy chairs and tables dotted around whilst relaxing music plays in the background.

Firsts for us:

  • White Lady Chardonnay – Tropical notes of pineapple on the nose, toasty butterscotch nicely integrated flavours wrap around the tongue and softens the feel of the acidity.
  • Old Bush Vines Pinotage 2010 – Raspberry and cherry, fruit cake and spice, cassis, cedar and dark chocolate. Bright and juicy.
  • Trilogy 2010 – 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot, cherries, blackcurrants and dark chocolate notes, good fruit and tannin structure.

Also tasted:

  • Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Crisp acidity, lemon/lime citrus, peachy aromatics and herby.
  • The First Lady Chardonnay 2010 – Fresh tropical fruits, pineapple on the nose, crisp acidity with quite a viscous, rich mouth feel.
  • The First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – Red and black fruits, cassis and violet, vanilla, pencil, savoury animal notes and liquorice, medicinal nuances, good tannic grip and acid balance. Served a little too warm though.
  • Three Cape Ladies 2010 – 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Shiraz, 32% Pinotage, peppery and spicy, needs food.

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Welcome to The Winelands

Wine Routes of South Africa

Within our first few days of arriving in Cape Town, we visited vineyards and wine estates in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Swartland. This enabled us to see where Painted Wolf grapes are grown and the wine is made. We also had the opportunity to meet the winemakers at Mulderbosch, Rhebokskloof, Leeuwenkuil and Koopmanskloof.

IMG_0144On our first afternoon, we met Adam Mason, winemaker at Mulderbosch Wine Estate, and had our first taste of the busyness of a SouthAfrican winery in the throws of harvest time. We were lucky enough to have a taste of the Painted Wolf sauvignon blanc fresh from the tank, it was beautifully refreshing, full of tropical fruit and green herbaceous notes, perfect on a hot day. Fresh from bottling the following week we were privileged to receive a bottle pre-label and boy did we enjoy that, Kelvyn said “this is the freshest Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had” and not previously being a huge fan of sauvignon blanc that was a big compliment. We look forward to more of that Jeremy!

Whilst at the sorting table, we noticed that some of the grapes were red and that these were being sorted and put into a separate basket. Upon enquiring as to what these grapes were, Adam explained that they were a mutation of the white Semillon grapes that were being sorted. He said that he hoped to experiment with these to see if a good wine could be made from them. We shall wait in anticipation!

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We briefly met Francois Naude, new manager at Rhebokskloof wine estate, and tasted some wine from barrel. We will have to hunt out their reputable wines as we didn’t have the chance to return there for a full tasting.

We also had the pleasure of meeting the owner of Leeuwenkuil wines, Willie Dreyer, South Africa’s largest producer, which was fascinating to see compared to the smaller boutique styled wineries, huge stainless steel tanks in room after room, equipment all around you. Big business!

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Our first taste of work was green harvesting a plot of viognier vines at Southern Cross Farm. So up bright and early we shot off up the road from Stellenbosch to Paarl, about a 30 minute drive North. We each worked our way through the rows of vines, clearing leaves and foliage that was preventing the grapes underneath from ripening or allowing them space to breath to avoid rot. We also cut away any rotten bunches of grapes to allow the rest a chance of ripening fully. It was a great morning and before we knew it, it was 2pm, and the job was done! The ripening grapes had a fantastic orange tinge to them and tasted of the “orangeyness” that you get in the wine. They were juicy and I was surprised by their flavour.

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It was quite cloudy and rained a little when we ventured out this morning, but perfect for the work we did, as once the sun came out it was hot hot hot! By contrast, we drove up to Malmesbury and Swartland, which means ‘black’ land as it gets so hot the ground almost burns black. I could understand why, it felt dry and arid in comparison to the greenness of where we had just been. The earth was full of red quartz and glistened in the sun, hard to imagine anything living very well out there. But the divinely iridescent purple syrah and grenache were almost bursting at the seems with ripeness, almost ready to harvest.

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We were lucky enough to be offered the chance to help out at Koopmanskloof and what an amazing experience that turned out to be. We measured the sugar levels and checked the temperatures of the fermenting grape juices in tanks, barrels and vats. We made up additions for the ferments to help things along, topped up where tanks of barrels had lost a lot of juice in evaporation, we checked on ferments, cleaned tanks, cleaned equipment, cleaned crates, basically, we cleaned a lot! We helped load the de-stemming machine when grapes arrived for processing, of which everyday there were more and more as the harvest kicked into full swing.

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I was somewhat shaky legged when standing atop a vat of fermenting grapes balanced a little precariously on a plank of wood holding a quite heavy punching down prop to punch through the pretty solid cap of grapes, man that was a workout and a half. All I kept thinking was strong legs, focus, don’t fall in!!!

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We stayed in the beautiful university town of Stellenbosch for the whole three weeks, which I will describe in a little more detail separately, and hired a car to get around. Living and working here was the most amazing learning experience and far surpassed our expectations of what it would be like over there. I am working on a list of the wine estates we visited and the wines we tasted to share and hopefully inspire you to try South African wines because I will be honest we were extremely impressed.