Come back next week to read Julia's reviews of more than 100 of South Africa's finest wines.
£11.99 M&S, much less in South Africa
Those who know me well know my great love of Riesling, the greatest white wine grape in the world even if some wines labelled Riesling are disgusting. I'd like to hand a bouquet here to the South African king of Riesling, Paul Cluver, major pioneer of the cool South African region of Elgin. Once it was famous for apples but, as elsewhere (Washington state for instance), apples have been followed by wine grapes.
At Paul Cluver the first Riesling vines went into the ground back in 1987 (read here about the messiness surrounding the name Riesling in South Africa). Paul Cluver's current total of 12.9 hectare of Riesling makes it, alas, the biggest single Riesling grower in South Africa. Another reason for admiring Paul Cluver is that it was one of the first wine estates to initiative a black empowerment scheme (which doubtless has another name by now). See Thandi wines.
I am firmly of the belief that South Africa, cooled by currents directly from Antarctica, makes some of the best value white wines in the world. Unfortunately South Africans, like New Zealanders and many Australians, are currently in the grip of a malaise that values Sauvignon Blanc above Chardonnay, but to my mind Cape Chardonnay can be some of the finest in the southern hemisphere (my friend and colleague Michael Fridjhon seems to agree according to this article published today). Although I should point out that Iona Sauvignon Blanc, also from Elgin, can be very fine - as you can see from our tasting notes collection. Average summer temperatures are under 20 deg C and the harvest is one of the latest in Africa.
This Paul Cluver, Ferricrete Riesling 2012 Elgin is a pretty dry-tasting wine despite its residual sugar of almost 20 g/l, thanks not least to a total acidity of 8 g/l and pH below 3. Alcohol is just 10%. The overall effect is of an off-dry wine with very strong lime and herbal overtones and this particular bottling is named after the iron-rich soils in which it is grown.
It seems from winesearcher that you can get this wine in South Africa for less than half the price it costs in the UK, where M&S seem to be the sole retailer - but with good stocks currently. You can buy it online here.
This is the second vintage of Paul Cluver's second-driest Riesling style.