South African assemblage

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13 October 2016 To underpin Tam’s laudatory report today on South African Chenin we are republishing as part of our free Throwback Thursday series this South African assemblage of 100 wines, in which we enthused about the quality and good value of a wide range of wines from the Cape. 

23 August 2016  See this guide to our assemblages

Thrill to the cluster of whites that we have scored either 16.5 or 17 in this collection of 100 tasting notes, of which 59 were for white wines. 

Many a Chenin Blanc is to be expected since it is the single most planted grape variety on the Cape, but there is also a plethora of interesting blends, of grapes often including Chenin, but also Grenache Blanc, the usefully fresh Clairette, the Rhône triumvirate of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier, Sémillon and occasionally Verdelho. These are wines that are distinctively South African and all the better for it. 

Not that there aren’t some excellent and distinctive Sauvignon Blancs, often more herbal than those found elsewhere. And, as usual, some particularly fine, racy, satisfying Chardonnays that I know from experience tend to age unusually well.

And how about the prices? South African wines are routinely underpriced in my view.

Then there are the reds. In the old days, too many South African reds were copies of European classics and/or plagued by strange aromas and/or the effects of leafroll virus which meant that the vines found it difficult to reach full ripeness. But again, look at those scores! We can choose from all sorts of exciting reds – albeit varying hugely from the old-vine Swartland marvels apparently heavily influenced by granite and schist to the offerings from the cool vineyards on the southern coast where the polar influence is so marked that increasingly fine (though not yet stunning among those I have so far tasted) Pinot Noirs.

You will see that David and Nadia Sadie’s wines have done particularly well in this assemblage. (They are unrelated, or at least not at all closely related, to the leader of the Swartland pack Eben Sadie.) They seem to have solved the in-built problem for all these ambitious but often poorly funded Swartland winemakers outlined in Young guns of Cape need ammunition whereby many of them have to depend utterly for their fruit on informal agreements with local farmers. The Sadies, who used to be based in a tiny winery of their own, are now installed on the Paardebosch farm with its considerable acreage and restored 220-year-old cellar which they describe as ‘our ultimate wine dream came true'.

Here they not only make wines under the Paardebosch label but also under their own labels described thus: ‘Our cellar and company is called David & Nadia which is our “umbrella" for the different projects we do. Underneath this we have the "David" project which in itself is a tribute project to my grandfather with the same name, and it includes four wines: Chenin Blanc, Aristargos, Grenache and Elpidios. Then we have two wines, a Pinotage and a Semillon from our home farm which falls under our "Siebritskloof Series" project. This refers to the valley where we are based in the Paardeberg. Some local critics referred to this project as the Contours series but we have not trademarked the name so can’t use it unfortunately.’

You can find out more at www.davidnadia.com and their admirable wines are imported into the UK by www.vincisive.co.uk, run part time by an airline pilot.

The big problem Cape vignerons are experiencing, like so many, is drought. Grape harvests keep getting earlier and earlier – although the 2015/16 growing season was so dry that the vines shut down so that the harvest was not as exceptionally early as in 2015. In 2015, wine regions that generally need and have in the past got 550 mm (22 in) of rain a year experienced only 280 mm precipitation. A bit like southern France this year.

The 98 wines below are grouped by colour and then listed in descending score order.


WHITES 

David & Nadia, David Chenin Blanc 2014 Swartland

A blend from six different vineyards, three of them farmed by David and Nadia Sadie, on granite and shale. Vines are 30 to 50 years old. Old wood, no skin contact. (The grapes are anyway very thick-skinned.)
Deep gold and with a notably rich nose. Very dense – this almost smells heavy. Intense and rich but with a 'green' fresh finish. This still has quite a way to go.

13.5%
Drink
2016
2022
£24.95 Vincisive, Vin Cognito
17

Dom des Dieux Chardonnay 2012 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Mid gold, toffee and caramel on the nose. Cream, banana, apricot and peach – it could only be oaked New World Chardonnay. If you're going to do it, you may as well do it like this: all-singing, all-dancing. Formidable! (RH)

13.5%
Drink
2014
2018
£12.95 Stone Vine & Sun
17

David & Nadia, Aristargos 2015 Swartland

35% Chenin Blanc, 23% Roussanne, 15% Clairette, 19% Viognier, 8% Sémillon (the Viognier being described as 'Viognier 1996' on the back label).
Intriguing, dense nose that suggests there is much more to come. Very rich start – almost Grasmere gingerbread (including the cut peel), a hint of saltiness – and then admirable freshness. (Is this the Paardebosch soil? The Clairette and Chenin?)  Very complex with real chew and layers. You could enjoy this already but I feel it will develop too. Great stuff!

13.5%
Drink
2016
2020
£24.95 Vin Cognito
17

Longridge, Clos du Ciel 2014 Stellenbosch

100% Chardonnay from a single, historic, one-hectare block originally planted by John Platter in 1987. Tightly planted with nine different clones, grown biodynamically without herbicides or pesticides. Matured in new French oak, fermented with native yeast, no enzymes, no fining, no filtering. 
Rich orange-peel and candied lemon-peel aromas. Lemon cream and coffee. Very pithy, with a rigorous but well-integrated bitterness that makes up for the soft acidity. Slight vanilla-rhubarb-yogurt element, bit of a celery/fennel streak through the creaminess. But not overtly oaky. Would be very interesting to see where this goes. (TC) 

12.5%
Drink
2017
2021
16.5 +

B Vintners, Haarlem to Hope 2014 Stellenbosch

Floral notes with a rich dairy flavour and ripe tropical fruit. Interesting cheese note on the finish. Attractively unconventional. (RH)

13%
Drink
2016
2019
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
16.5

Paul Cluver, Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2014 Elgin

RS 35.7 g/l.
Sweet but not cloying, chewy and fragrant with a long perfumed finish. Juicy, satisfying and finishes with an almost Muscat-style grapey scent. (RH)

11%
Drink
2016
2020
£15.50 RRP
16.5

David & Nadia, David Chenin Blanc 2015 Swartland

Open, rather floral nose. Good energy. Great acidity and texture. Real persistence. Lots to chew on. A million miles from supermarket Chenin. No hurry to drink this.

13.5%
Drink
2016
2018
£24.95 Vin Cognito
16.5

The Fledge & Co, Vagabond 2014 Western Cape

Wax, hay and oatmeal. Light body. Slightly musty character on the palate. Orange peel fruit. Salt and pepper too. Certainly out of the ordinary, and the originality is laudable – but it's slightly awkwardly balanced with a dilute touch. (RH)

12%
Drink
2015
2018
£14.50 Stone Vine & Sun
16.5

Ghost Corner David Nieuwoudt, The Bowline 2014 Elim

Very green indeed. Peapod and grass cuttings. Citric fruit too, with a dry finish but a certain sweetness on the palate. It is a bold, brassy style that cuts no corners. (RH)
12.5%
Drink
2015
2017
Imported into the UK by Bancroft Wines
16.5

The Liberator, Episode Six Dr Melck 2014 Stellenbosch

A Cape blend from fruit grown by Muratie and tweaked and bottled at De Morgenzon made up of 46% Chenin Blanc, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 19% Verdelho, 8% Viognier, 4% Sémillon – all overseen by Richard Kelley MW.
Complex, many-layered nose. Edge of saltiness and honey on the palate. Great Verdelho tang too. Very good stuff. Nowhere other than the Cape could produce a wine like this. Food wine. Shellfish?

14%
Drink
2015
2018
RRP £12
16.5

The Liberator, Special Edition A Motley Cru 2014 Coastal Region

A Rhône-inspired blend of 69% Roussanne, 23% Viognier, 6% Grenache Blanc and 2% Marsanne.
Fresh and tangy with the herbal quality of Roussanne and real lift. No heaviness and some rather attractive bitterness on the finish. Satin texture. Not totally unlike a baby Hermitage Blanc! Bravo. GV

13%
Drink
2016
2019
£10.95 The Wine Society
16.5

Sijnn 2014 Malgas

82% Chenin Blanc, 11% Viognier, 7% Roussanne grown in an isolated spot near the coast far east of Cape Agulhas. Barrel fermented by David (De) Trafford.
Deep honey gold. Super-tangy but with real breadth and richness. Extremely sophisticated wine with a beginning, middle and end. So long and reverberant. Limpid and savoury. Even slightly salty. Very smart indeed.

14%
Drink
2016
2019
£19.99 Red Squirrel Wine
16.5

Spice Route, Amos Block Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Swartland

This bush-vine vineyard of Sauvignon Blanc was planted in 1965 and it is the oldest existing block of the variety in South Africa. Farmed without irrigation, the wine is made only in more clement vintages. The single vineyard was hand-harvested over two days, at 21.5 degree balling, with a natural acidity of 7.74 g/l. The bunches were gently destalked and the juice was pressed off and settled for 48 hours, prior to fermentation. Cold fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks for about 14 days, after which the wine spent two months on its lees before bottling.
Intense green fig and capsicum aroma – ie both sweet and savoury green characters. Intense on the palate but not overly pungent, as if the old vines are reining it back from youthful excess. Dry, very fresh and very persistent with a more mineral core under the zesty fruit, showing just how well South Africa can do Sauvignon. GV (JH)

13%
Drink
2016
2020
£11.99 RRP
16.5

Spier, 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Coastal Region

Six hours' skin contact. Cool ferment in tank and 6 months on lees. pH 3.34, RS 3.7 g/l, TA 5.8 g/l.
Aroma of green figs in syrup, grassy and herbal. Tight and grassy on the palate too. Just balances sour freshness with the little bit of residual sugar. The alcohol is quite well hidden but it adds some weight on the palate. (JH)

14.3%
Drink
2016
2018
16.5

Spioenkop Riesling 2015 Elgin

Smells slightly more like Clare Valley than the Mosel but nothing wrong with that. Bone dry and very refreshing. Lime and explosive fruit. Well delineated and extremely thirst-quenching. A hint of spritz and nothing too tarty. A hint of natural passion fruit juice but nothing too technical. 

12.5%
Drink
2016
2020
16.5

Spioenkop Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Elgin

I wonder why this is as old as it is? Quite rich on the nose but then dry on the finish and very unlike Marlborough.  It does seem to have a hint of fynbos, the heady scent of the Cape's famously varied scrubland. A substantial, rather meaty wine that is much more substantial than the average southern hemisphere Sauvignon Blanc. Long and complex. And still very lively.

13.5%
Drink
2015
2018
16.5

Spioenkop, 1900 Chenin Blanc 2015 Elgin

Lighter, fresher, more elegant than the regular Chenin 2015 bottling. Polished texture and very direct. Pretty sophisticated.  Tastes brililant green somehow.

Drink
2016
2021
16.5

Testalonga, El Bandito Cortez 2014 Swartland

Very assertive wild flower character but much fresher and less aggressively 'natural' than the 2011. Crisp, dry, deep-flavoured. Chosen from the list at Fera, Claridge's posh restaurant, listed at a price that would surely raise a few eyebrows on the Cape.

Drink
2015
2018
16.5

Testalonga, El Bandito Cortez 2015 Swartland

45-year-old Chenin vines on granite and quartz. Fermented in foudres. No skins, no SO2 added.
Aroma of spiced honey, firm and dry in texture but not astringent. Honeyed yet bone dry on the palate. Fresh, deep and intense. (JH)

Drink
2016
2023
Imported into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrène
16.5

TMW, Chad 2014 Swartland

TMW stands for Tim Martin Wines. 100% Chenin Blanc from a 30-year-old, dry-farmed, bush-vine vineyard in the Paardeberg, Swartland. Shallow, sandy, decomposed granite soils. Grapes are hand harvested, whole-bunch pressed, must is lightly settled before spontaneous fermentation in an Austrian oak foudre. Spontaneous malolactic fermentation and ageing on primary lees for 11 months before bottling direct from foudre with a light (non sterile) sheet filtration. 2,600 bottles produced. Instead of a capsule over the cork it has a funny little short cap – not sure if it is wax or plastic but you can twist it off.
Not giving away much on the nose, just a slight creamy sweetness, almost honeyed, and a hint of spice but all very subtle. Then there's impressive intensity on the palate, rich and full-bodied without heaviness but the acidity is only just sufficient to balance the weight. Subtle but long and satisfying. Very easy to drink but it makes you want to sip slowly. Having never tasted this wine before, I don't know how it will age but I worry slightly that it doesn't have enough acidity for a very long life. (JH)

13%
Drink
2016
2020
£18.99 RRP
16.5

Vergelegen Chardonnay 2013 Stellenbosch

Only half was oak-matured and the wine, known as their Premium Chardonnay though the P-word is not on the label, is part of André van Rensburg's return to Nature drive.
Quite smoky, even a little reductive, on the nose though there is a mass of sweet, almost butterscotchy, fruit on the palate. But the oak is very much in the background. This should appeal as a massive bargain to those who miss old-fashioned 'buttery' Meursault. GV

14%
Drink
2015
2018
£12.50 RRP Majestic and many independents
16.5

Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Stellenbosch

Oyster shell character on the nose, ripe green citrus on the palate and a reasonably full body – nicely done, and with more stuffing than most Sauvignon Blancs. (RH)

14%
Drink
2016
2017
16.5

Carsten Migliarina Chenin Blanc 2015 Coastal Region

Carsten was sommelier at the Grand Roche in Paarl and is now making wine in Somerset West. This is a blend of 45% Swartland fruit and the rest from Bottelary Hills, from a source also used by Rall. Very clean, fruity, almost Germanic with masses of green apple acid. No hurry to drink this. 

13.5%
Drink
2016
2020
£14.95 Vincisive
16.5

Carsten Migliarina Chardonnay 2014 Elgin

Deep straw. Quite a funky nose and masses of acidity – just like the Chenin 2015. Very pure – really sends a tingle down the spine. Only 5% malolactic conversion, apparently. Whole bunch and some barrel fermentation (10% new). This spent 11 months in barrel. Unadorned, super-crisp fruit. 

13.5%
Drink
2016
2020
£14.50 Vincisive
16.5

David & Nadia, Aristargos 2014 Swartland

See Aristargos 2015 for the background to this wine. The name means 'to be best by serving others'. From 12 different vineyards on decomoposed granite and some of them iron-rich.
Not that much nose but an attractive satin texture. Round, polished on the palate with no single one of the many Rhôneish varieties dominating. The finish is slightly but not unattractively, bitter. David plans to plant some Grenache Blanc for this wine.

13.5%
Drink
2015
2020
£24.95 Vincisive
16.5

Esona, Handcrafted Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 Robertson

Salted caramel. Cinder toffee. Pumpkin pie. Oranges and a feather-brush of struck-match smokiness. Rich, hedonistic, complex and – against all expectations – beautifully balanced. In many ways an old-fashioned Chardonnay, but it really does work thanks to a spine of firm acidity. Dramatic contrast to Australia's modern, super-lean Chardonnays! The kind of wine that would be wonderful with baked butternut (soup?) or an extra-rich macaroni cheese. (TC)

14.5%
Drink
2016
2019
£15 The Real Wine Company
16.5

Esona, Handcrafted Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Robertson

Lime and guava on the nose, confident without being brash. Packed with passion fruit and mango and guava and kiwi fruit, although there is lots of juicy green bell pepper and sweet pea and asparagus as well. All the gutsy expression of Southern-hemisphere Sauvignon, but with a clean, dry, refreshing finish. Well played. (TC)

12.5%
Drink
2015
2017
£13 The Real Wine Company
16.5

Spioenkop Chenin Blanc 2015 Elgin

Very bright, cool-climate nose – big contrast to the richer Chenins grown further inland. None of that honey element. Quite distinctive, floral and concentrated. Very bright fruit. Haven't come across a wine quite like this before. Still quite chewy. Very interesting.

13.5%
Drink
2017
2020
16 +

Fable Mountain Vineyards, Jackal Bird 2012 Western Cape

45% Chenin Blanc, 20% Grenache Blanc, 17% Roussanne, 9% Chardonnay, 9% Viognier.
Smoky, mealy initial aroma. There’s lots going on but there is a lack of depth on the mid palate. A bit disappointing though it has very good freshness on the finish – and length. (JH)

13%
Drink
2016
2019
£20 The Wine Society
16

Vincent et Tania Carême, Terre Brûlée 2012 Swartland

Married to a South African, it was not too much of a leap for Vouvray’s young Vincent Carême to make Chenin Blanc his chosen grape in South Africa. The vines here are 40 years old on average, grown on granitic soils.
Pale gold. Smells creamy and mealy but still full of intensely fresh apple and citrus fruit. Chalky texture, great freshness and length, perhaps a little harsh on the finish but a GV food wine and has the potential to develop further in bottle. (JH)

13%
Drink
2016
2019
£10.95 The Wine Society
16

Nitida Riesling 2015 Durbanville

Juicy fruit nose – ripe yellow citrus and melon. Worlds apart from the steely lime style of the Mosel. Dry but honeyed. Very soft acid for Riesling. Very much a warmer climate style. (RH)

13.5%
Drink
2015
2018
£11.95 Stone Vine & Sun
16

Vergelegen Chardonnay 2013 Stellenbosch

Approximately 50% is aged in oak.
Succulent, unashamedly ripe tropical fruit. Simple palate but there's a pleasant cheese character in the background and semi-grippy phenolics to give it a bit of substance. (RH)

14%
Drink
2015
2016
16

Lemberg, Lady 2013 Tulbagh

59% Viognier, 33% Hárslevelü, 4% Sauvignon Blanc, 4% Sémillon. Aged on lees for 11 months in 500-litre French oak.
Richly spiced and buttered nose. Rounded and plump on the palate with lots of rich fruit and very low acidity, leaving a slight cloying feel to the finish. Plenty of pith and grip on the palate, and a sort of mushroom umami note lingering after the ripe orange fruit has faded. (RH)

14%
Drink
2015
2019
£12.95 Stone Vine & Sun
16

Iona Chardonnay 2014 Elgin

Neutral fruit, bright acidic backbone, suppressed fruit. Savoury, lean finish. (RH)

13.5%
Drink
2016
2018
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
16

Winery of Good Hope, Radford Dale Chardonnay 2013 Stellenbosch

Rather sweet and spicy on the nose. Very well done but it does seem to be a Chardonnay of the 1990s. You certainly couldn’t object to it though – unless one of us restless wine fashionistas...

13%
Drink
2015
2018
£13.95 The Wine Society
16

De Meye, Single Vineyard Block V Chenin Blanc 2015 Stellenbosch

Vineyards, Philip Myburgh. Winemaking, Marcus Milner.
Gold tinge. Chamomile and honey tea and sweet summer hay on the nose. Softly spiced, dried pears, and dried chamomile blossom coming through to the palate. Just a little hole in the fruit but it lifts right at the end with tight lime-cut acidity. (TC)

12%
Drink
2016
2018
£8.99 The Real Wine Company
16 -

B Vintners Muscat 2014 Stellenbosch

Enjoyable floral notes, then a dry, almost austere citrus fruit. Takes Muscat quite seriously. Simple, light finish. (RH)

11.5%
Drink
2016
2017
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
15.5

B Vintners, Strandwolf Chardonnay 2014 Stellenbosch

Leads with a creamy, vanilla scent and a very dairy-style palate too. Banana, cream, sweet spice. Slightly incongruous acid bite on the finish, considering all the lactic influence. Strange style – sort of stuck between fat and lean. (RH)

12.5%
Drink
2016
2017
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
15.5

Bruce Jack, Whispering Jack Chardonnay 2015 Western Cape

Screwcap. Racy and green fruited. Ticks the boxes for a commercial wine that delivers breadth on the palate. Not sure I would immediately get that it’s Chardonnay in a blind tasting.

13.5%
Drink
2016
2017
£9.49 Laithwaite's
15.5

Journey's End, Bee's Knees Viognier/Chenin Blanc 2015 Western Cape

80% Chenin Blanc, 20% Viognier. Leon Esterhuizen of Journey’s End makes this wine that is very popular with Laithwaite’s customers. Screwcap.
Light, off-dry nose. Mouth-filling in a very fruity way. Not sure I can see much Viognier. But it’s a modern Liebfraumilch.

14%
Drink
2016
2017
£9.49 Laithwaite's
15

Excelsior Viognier 2015 Robertson

Plenty of enthusiasm as this Viognier charges out the glass bedecked in flowers and ripe peaches and cantaloupe melon. Plenty of sweet fruit on the palate as well – it tastes as if there is even some residual sugar, but it could just be the effect of the rather hefty 14.5% alcohol. Ebullient Viognier, and although it's very full-bodied and warm, the acidity does balance things out and it's not oily or bitter. Great for those who want straightforward, voluptuous whites, although I'd be careful about quaffing more than a glass. (TC)

14.5%
Drink
2016
0
£8.75 The Real Wine Company
15

Bon Courage, The Gooseberry Bush 2015 Robertson

90% Colombard, 10% Sauvignon Blanc. Screwcap.
A bit watery on the nose. Like Côtes de Gascogne without the acid.

12%
Drink
2015
2015
£8.49 Laithwaite's (£6.99 July to September 2016)
14.5

Bloemendal, Suider Terras Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Durbanville

Ten months of barrel maturation.
Very strong pea pod nose and an acrid smoky character on the palate. Creamy and vanilla-scented, then zings off at the finish with a big bolt of acid. Subtle it ain't, and the flavour combination isn't quite working. There's a sweet and sour clash here which I find unpleasant. (RH)

12.5%
Drink
2015
2017
£20.81 Strictly Wine
14.5

REDS

David & Nadia, David Grenache 2015 Swartland

The 2012 vintage of this was my wine of the week in June 2014 – my introduction to the excellent and exceptional work of David and Nadia Sadie. Pale – very pale – ruby. Very sweet, almost strawberry jam, on the nose, yet with sufficient refreshment. Great liveliness, poise and real minerally chew – granite-derived?  Really distinguished – a southern hemisphere answer to Gredos Garnacha? Such a lovely take on this variety.

13.5%
Drink
2016
2021
£29 Vin Cognito
17.5

Testalonga, Baby Bandito Follow Your Dream 2015 Swartland

Carignan. Whole bunch. Fermented in wood and 10 months in foudre.
Bright cherry red. Fine peppery fruit. A lovely partnership between pure dark-red fruit and a dry, stony, tannic texture. Deep, deeply fresh and long. (JH)

12.5%
Drink
2016
2020
Imported into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrène
17

Fable Mountain Vineyards, Night Sky 2011 Coastal Region

15% Swartland Grenache added to 60% Syrah and 25% Mourvèdre from Fable Mountain's own vineyards.
Deep garnet. Seductively mature dark fruit and some dried-fruit complexity. Deep and complex on the palate. Spicy, dried fruits with just the beginning of leather. Utterly moreish. You could drink this now with powerful meat dishes but it will get even better. (JH)

14.5%
Drink
2016
2025
£19.50 The Wine Society
17

David & Nadia, Elpidios 2014 Swartland

30% Syrah, 28% Carignan, 17% Cinsaut, 14% Grenache, 11% Pinotage, on granite and schist. Aged in old oak for 22 months.
Pale to mid ruby. This really does smell like the cocktail promised on the back label. Very complex and composed. Still quite a bit of structure – a firm line through all that fruit – but the tannins seem well in balance with all that opulent yet reined-in-by-terroir fruit. Spice and masses of depth. Such a light touch! Long, toasty on the finish, and rich – but with great energy too. Well done! Really very smart indeed, but beautifully original and definitively Swartland.

13.5%
Drink
2017
2024
£29 Vin Cognito
17

Sijnn 2010 Malgas

42% Syrah, 27% Touriga Nacional, 27% Mourvedre, 10% Trincadeira, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon.
I wonder why this wine is a) such an unusual blend and b) so old? Wonderfully spiced with sweet polished leather notes. I'm looking forward to trying it with the lamb curry about to be served. Good stuff!  David Trafford and Simon Farr's adventure. Thoroughly complete and satisfying. Spreads itself most satisfactorily across the palate. Chapeau!

14.5%
Drink
2014
2020
17

B Vintners, Liberté Pinotage 2014 Stellenbosch

Black fruit nose, clean and well defined on the palate. Bravely tannic and firm. Serious and savoury. Crunchy fruit. Very respectable! (RH)

13.5%
Drink
2016
2019
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
16.5

Cape Rock, Capa Roca 2014 Olifants River

48% Touriga Nacional, 28% Souzao, 4% Tinta Barroca.
Baked blackcurrants – not jammy, but with a syrup quality. Sweet oak on the palate, ultra-soft tannin, pleasingly pert acidic finish. There's a granitic sort of tone to it too – very Douro! (RH)

14%
Drink
2016
2020
£13.95 Stone Vine & Sun
16.5

Esona, Handcrafted Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014 Robertson

Esona is the Xhosa (indigenous African tribe) word for 'the very one'. Made by Lourens van der Westhuizen.
Very meaty, bloody, red fruit on the nose. Sweet, ripe, damson fruit, heavily spiced with a confident streak of bacon and freshly brewed, strong black coffee. Everything is strong about this wine. It's unreserved and concentrated and unabashedly South African Shiraz. No wannabe-rhône about it. Lots of character and punch and grunt. Liquid Springbok rugby player? Bring on the braai; boerewors please. (TC)

14.5%
Drink
2016
2020
£16 The Real Wine Company
16.5

Spioenkop Pinotage 2015 Elgin

Pale to mid crimson. Dried herbs and real interest on the nose. Sweet fruit in abundance and good acidity. Nothing remotely heavy. More convincing than the Pinot Noir, and much, much more elegant than most Pinotages. Vines are relatively young apparently but the results in the glass are impressive. 

12.5%
Drink
2016
2019
16.5

David & Nadia, Elpidios 2013 Swartland

Blend of Syrah, old Carignan, young Grenache and Cinsault. From seven different vineyards. Some whole bunch.
Raspberry nose and real complex sweetness plus some 'mineral' influence – presumably the result of the decomposed granite, schist and shales of Swartland. But leaner than the 2015.

13.5%
Drink
2015
2020
£29.95 Vincisive, also OW Loeb in London
16.5

The Drift, There are Still Mysteries Pinot Noir 2013 Overberg

Smoke, bright red fruit with lovely clarity and juiciness. Finishes with a vanilla oak influence that is perhaps just a little too obvious. Lots of perfume and spicy lift. (RH)

14%
Drink
2016
2019
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
16.5

Keermont Syrah 2012 Stellenbosch

Chunky tannic grip follows a standard spicy nose. Quite cooked fruit. Heavy and old school, though perfectly pure and ripe. (RH)

14.5%
Drink
2015
2018
£29.95 The Vintner
16.5

The Liberator, Episode Five Old Breton Cabernet Franc 2013 Franschhoek

'From the best address in Franschhoek' selected by Richad Kelley MW.
Transparent crimson, verging on ruby. Pale rim. Pure, fragrant Cabernet Franc on the nose. Sweet start to the palate – more generous than a typical Loire Cabernet Franc. Just slight notes of rusty nail on the end but altogether a very satisfying, vibrant varietal expression. 

14%
Drink
2015
2018
16.5

Ataraxia Pinot Noir 2014 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Milk chocolate, a good amount of woodsmoke on the finish. Very delicate and floaty. Light chew, delicate finish. (RH)

13%
Drink
2015
2017
Imported into the UK by Bancroft Wines
16.5

Sijnn Syrah 2013 Malgas

Mid weight. The initial impact on the palate it quite savoury and then elements of milk chocolate and glacé cherries seep in. More transparent and fresher than the South African red norm with excellent depth on the finish. Serious wine.

14%
Drink
2015
2019
16.5

Longridge, Ekliptika 2013 Stellenbosch

Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon on decomposed granite soils. Biodynamic. No enzymes, fining or filtration. Matured in French oak barrels. 3,000 bottles made. Very heavy bottle, which seems oddly out of step with their biodynamic philosophy.
Slightly muddy, deep crimson. Autumnal leafiness and dried fruit on the nose. Very sweet, dark, sticky plums and an edge of treacle, firm stitches of oaked spice down the entire length of the palate. Tannins very smooth but very definite, the way that a confident person might guide you firmly but discretely by the elbow in the direction that he wants you to go. That lovely autumnal/hedgerow mulch flavour emerges again on the end and lingers all the way to the finish. (TC)

14%
Drink
2016
2020
17

Winery of Good Hope, Radford Dale Thirst Gamay 2015 Coastal Region

There are only 13 ha of Gamay in SA, apparently. These vines are on a steep slope facing the sea on quartz-rich granite. Carbonic maceration.
Light cherry red. Crunchy texture like brown sugar. Sweet strawberry flavour and very little tannin but utterly refreshing, juicy and delicious. (JH)

11.5%
Drink
2016
2017
Imported into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrène
16

Kanonkop, Paul Sauer 2009 Stellenbosch

Kanonkop's Bordeaux-style blend is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Aged for 24 months in new French oak.
Correct and nicely balanced though it does taste as though it needs to be aerated a little more? Still pretty tough! 

14%
Drink
2019
2029
£27 The Wine Society
16

Oldenburg Syrah 2012 Stellenbosch

100% Syrah, in French and American oak barrels for 19 months. RS 2 g/l, TA 5.8 g/l.
Dark crimson. American oak is far too obvious. Mellow on the palate but not very sophisticated. Old! 

14.5%
Drink
2017
2020
£21.99 Wine Rack
16

The Drift, Moveable Feast 2014 Overberg

Syrah, Malbec, Touriga National, Tannat, Pinot Noir.
Rich, sweet, smoky and perfumed. Juicy palate and an interesting fruit mix – some bramble fruit plus a raspberry sort of flavour. Enjoyably experimental. (RH)

14%
Drink
2016
2018
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
16

Carsten Migliarina Grenache 2015 Wellington

Trellised 15-year-old vines on heavy clay. No stems. Aged for seven months in shaved barrels.
Carsten assured me the fruit comes from one of Wellington's cooler corners. This he regards as his '2015 experiment'. Pale crimson. Very fruity and sweet but just a bit simple.

14.2%
Drink
2016
2018
£16.50 Vincisive
16

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2014 Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley

Mid crimson with sweet raspberry fruit with a hint of beetroot and something else vegetal about it. Very flattering with its attractive sweetness but not that sophisticated – but I'm sure each vintage will only get better.

Drink
2016
2019
£29.50 Vincisive
16

Intellego Syrah 2013 Swartland

Made by Jurgen Gouws, right hand man of Craig Hawkins of Testalonga.
Very pretty, pure and fruity when first poured but it shrank rather than grew in the glass, which seems a shortcoming in such a young wine. Perhaps just too naked and unadorned?

Drink
2015
2017
16

De Meye Merlot 2012 Stellenbosch

Vineyards, Philip Myburgh. Winemaking, Marcus Milner.
Reticent and softly spoken, Victoria plum fruit laced in by dark spice and dusty tannins. Quite composed and very savoury with an attractive tang on the mid palate. Rosemary through the finish. Perhaps the oak could be reined in a little, but on the whole it's balanced and will probably do very nicely with roast beef. (TC)

14.5%
Drink
2015
2017
£13 The Real Wine Company
16 -

Carmen Stevens, Catoria 2014 Coastal Region

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot.
Black cherry, smooth and smoky – lots of Cape character coming through, but it's nicely made and technically well balanced. (RH)

13.5%
Drink
2016
2018
15.5

Carsten Migliarina Syrah 2014 Coastal Region

A blend of fruit from Franschhoek and Stellenbosch – hence the appellation. He usually bottles a Stellenbosch Syrah but 2014 was difficult and he had to blend in the Franschhoek ingredient. This was kept on the skins for all of 12 weeks! It was aged for 14 months in a mix of old oaks.
Fresh, sinewy, but not quite the purity of a tip-top Syrah.

14%
Drink
2016
2019
£15.95 Vincisive
15.5

Ataraxia, Serenity 2010 Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge

Earthy, rubbery, medicinal. Old school smoky South Africa here, though there is plenty of primary fruit too. (RH)

14%
Drink
2015
2017
Imported into the UK by Bancroft Wines
15.5

The Fledge & Co, Katvis Pinot Noir 2015 Elgin

Light and restrained nose. Plenty of acid and tannic grip, quite lean fruit. Attractive savoury structure but there is a paucity of fruit here that leaves the palate seeming dry and parched. (RH)

14%
Drink
2016
2018
£14.95 Stone Vine & Sun
15.5

Billy Bosch Shiraz/Pinotage 2015 Swartland

70% Pinotage, 30% Shiraz. Bottled in France by Boutinot.
Light and fruity. Quintessential summer wine. Chill it and sip by the barbecue (braai). QGV

14.5%
Drink
2016
2017
£8.99 Virgin Wines
15.5

Sijnn Touriga Nacional 2013 Malgas

Mid blackish ruby. Sweet and not nearly as concentrated as a typical Douro example. Spice, leather but not quite enough focus. Tannins dominate fruit. 

14%
Drink
2015
2019
15.5

Iona Pinot Noir 2013 Elgin

Ripe cherry and marzipan flavour, sweet and smoky palate. Lots of bright acid to finish. Classic New World Pinot, fruit-driven and briskly acidic. (RH)

13%
Drink
2016
2019
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
15.5

Spioenkop Pinot Noir 2015 Elgin

Pale rusty ruby colour. Fairly simple exuberant fruit on the nose. Lightweight jujube flavours and marked acidity. A little damp hay character. Not quite enough fruit concentration on the mid palate. It's Pinot-like in build but I'm not sure it's that Pinot-like in terms of flavour.

Drink
2016
2018
15

Iona, Mr P Pinot Noir 2015 Cape South Coast

Ripe redcurrant fruit and a big smoky character on the palate with something a bit like smoked cheese. (RH)

13%
Drink
2016
2017
Imported into the UK by Alliance Wine
15

Warwick, The First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Western Cape

Green, blackcurrant-bush aromas don't start things off in a particularly inviting fashion, but there is fruit on the palate, albeit slightly tart. It tastes a bit like unripe blackcurrants and raw meat, although the tannins are soft. Sour on the aftertaste. (TC)

13.5%
Drink
2016
0
£10 Sainsbury's
14.5