Tag Archives: South Africa



To continue the cricketing references, I was caught out by Richard on Friday evening. (We must get back to Sunday, it’s obviously a better day for me.) I was served a white wine – blind – which contained a fair whack (14%) of Semillon in the blend. The balance was Chenin Blanc. Richard mentioned the lanolin nose, I noticed the viscosity in the glass but I still didn’t pick my one of my favourite grapes. Shame on me.

Cartology 2015 by Chris and Susan Alheit is a very well regarded (and much sought after) wine drawn from vineyards over the Western Cape of South Africa with the Semillon element more specifically coming from Franschoek. As expected it has a high ABV (14%) but wears it well.

A clear and very pale yellow (no green), the wine looked viscous in the glass and this weight was confirmed when tasted. The smells were complex – lanolin, spice, smokiness all present – but few citrus notes. The palate was initially sweet but with a dry, long finish and definitely robust. I thought I tasted a subtle hardness on the back palate (not unpleasantly so). All these elements pointed to a hot climate but as to where – and what – I was bamboozled.

I can see why this is in great demand – a lovely wine of which I had great difficulty in refusing more. Hope you enjoyed the rest, Richard.

[Richard: not the sort of wine I usually drink but it was highly praised and seemed to be a benchmark for the chenin grape so I thought I’d give a try (from Vin Cognito). Not cheap but of obvious quality and equally delicious the following day. One of those rare wines which induces sip after sip and leaves you wanting more when the bottle is finally empty.]


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The naked truth


An interesting name for a wine. Radford Dale Nudity 2014, from the Voor-Paardeberg region in South Africa. Why Nudity? Because it hasn’t any added sulphur and just the bare wine, I presume. The grape is Syrah and it has 12% ABV.

To look at it appeared right where it should be, i.e. no brown or purple rim – just red and an intense red at that. There was some viscosity. The aromas were pleasantly complex; fragrant, perfumed and very much cooked strawberries, suggesting some ageing. It had a thin mouth feel with both acidity and tannins. The dominant notes were strawberries (prompting my Grenache guess) and lighter cherries but there was bags of flavour. It had slightly sweet notes which tended to pall after a couple of mouthfuls. For me, it lacked a bit of bottom (nothing to do with its name, you understand) and gravity.

It wasn’t cheap and, although good, I question its VFM.

[Richard: yes, £18 (TWS) and not really worth it. A decent wine with some interesting nuances, which drunk very easily – amazing how much difference a reduction in alcohol from, say, 14% to 12% makes. However if you very looking forward to some typical syrah tastes and flavours, I’m afraid they’d been stripped away and the result was a bit Emperor’s new clothes, a phrase used on TWS website, where it has three bad reviews.]

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Two oldies – no, not us – the wines


The Wine Society had recently made available some 1994 Argentinian Malbecs from Weinart, a traditional producer based in Mendoza.  Richard and I tasted some on Friday evening. The wine had been decanted.

The colour was an intense ruby with a brick-tinged rim and some viscosity. The dominant aromas were plum, vanilla and tertiary notes of licquorice. There was both acidity and a slight spirit smell. The palate was repeat of the above with the addition of spiciness and some alcohol heat.

WS’s claim of complexity was interesting – we must have been missing something. To be fair, the sellers did claim the drinking window to be in 2019 so it might be still too young which may account for the presence of alcohol. In other words the wine may not have ‘settled down’ yet. However, 23 years is a long time and I would have thought that some more interesting notes might be beginning to show.

I’m wary of old red wines that have been ‘unearthed’ by buyers. Some of them taste just what they are – old red wines. Not all wines age graciously – or indeed gain more layers of flavour – we both hope this isn’t one of those.

[Richard: I bought 6 of these, en primeur, on a whim having failed to spot the 15.1% alcohol. The WS say ‘can be drunk soon after bottling’ and also ‘drink from 2019’ which is rather contradictory since the wine must have been bottled about three months ago. As Geoff says, the WS claim ‘remarkable complexity’ which passed me by. Nor can I see that holding it for another 15 months will make much difference. Come back next year…]


Talking of older wines improving – or not, as the case may be – I grabbed two bottles of Cluver Elgin chardonnay 2011 from a basket of discontinued wines at Vin Neuf in Stratford. These were a bargain and had improved.

Very bright, intense, deep lemon in colour, the aromas of lime, sweet melon and pineapple were fabulous. This was New World chardonnay at its best – rich tropical fruits balanced by acidity for the freshness with a little vanilla cream providing the bass notes.

I’ve the other bottle left, I don’t think there’ll be any more. What a pity.

[Richard: quite a while since I’ve tried a non-French chardonnay and this was a good one. Tropical but not too tropical.]

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Maxed out


The origins of this wine completely fooled me in the blind tasting. The reason being, on reflection, was that it had no particularly strong characteristics apart from being well-made and completely in balance. The Max made by Miles Mossop is a South African wine from Stellenbosch and is a Bordeaux blend (CS 54%, Merlot and Petit Verdot equally making up the remaining 46%). There were no strong indications of its 11 year age either on the nose or on the palate, rather it was remarkably fresh and gave off all the primary fruit notes of cherries, strawberries and cranberries with the accompanying acidity. These were repeated in the taste along with a pleasing tannic grip. The colour was a mid-red – neither purple or brown rimmed – with no particular indications of viscosity.

It would be interesting to see how this wine develops. Personally, I would have liked to see a little more distinguishing features but there is no doubting its quality as a dry, fresh tasting, well-balanced wine of medium length.

[Richard: I don’t often buy wine from South Africa but was intrigued by a WS offering of mature wines from Miles Mossop (about £22, now sold out), really because they didn’t seem to be South African in style and the absence of the dreaded pinotage grape is always welcome. This was a very smooth, very drinkable, well-made, claret-style wine that opened up well over the evening, albeit, as Geoff says, rather lacking in character. To me the nose was clearly CS but, as we know, it’s easy to guess the grape when you’ve seen the label. Talking of which, we don’t often mention back labels – traditionally a place for a little information and a lot of hyperbole but this one was special. Apparently the wine offers an ‘older soul juxtaposed with youthful ardour and a fearless strength’. I didn’t quite pick up on this. Two more bottle of other vintages left, though, so perhaps all will become clear.]

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Co-op wines (part 2)


One of my selections from the Co-op Fine Wine rack was from the Thelema Vineyard. These vineyards are just to the north-east of Stellenbosch, under the Simonsberg mountain in South Africa’s most well-established wine region. Previously noted for Chenin Blanc, there is now greater diversity into Cab. Savs, Merlots, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc – and this Chardonnay. The area is described as being cooler with well-drained soils.

The colour was an attractive very pale lemon with green hints. There was a lime/lemon bouquet balanced by a slight oakiness – both delicate and well-defined. This balance was continued in a palate of medium-weight, refreshing acidity and slight creaminess. The finish was long and dry but, as Richard noted, there was a final sweet touch. It was definitely Burgundian in style, the Cote de Beaune Burgundies rather than the riper flavours of further south. It hadn’t got the hard edge I can sometimes detect in south African wines

At a shade over £9 this was excellent value. It would match lighter flavoured white meat dishes, fish and cheese very well.

[Richard: I’ve always liked Thelma reds and this was equally nice, with a touch of distinctiveness  – something my choices lacked.]



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That’s your Lot


The New World has established – and developed – some grape/country or area links that have become standards. This has not been the case in Europe as the grape variety often plays an anonymous role vis-a-vis the region. Hence, we know a New Zealand Sauvignon but do the public link Pouilly Fume with Sauvignon? The wine enthusiast might link Savannieres or Montlouis with Chenin Blanc but the ‘normal’ punter is more likely to know the style of South African Chenins. Well done to the New World. And this link is what makes it easier for the supermarkets to sell product. Hence Aldi’s Lot series.

We tried Aldi’s South African Chenin, made by Bellingham, which retails at £9.99.

The colour was a distinct lemon yellow with no hint of green, suggesting full ripeness and a warm climate. There was some citrus on the nose but the abiding impression was one of neutrality, with no particular significant varietal notes.

On the palate, there was a pleasing richness which went with the acidity, slight fruit sweetness which preceded an almond finish and a slightly hard edge. It was medium in length. It was a pleasant wine which maintained its dryness rather than a Loire Chenin, which can be fuller and slightly sweeter. We felt, at £9.99, it was a little over-priced but a well-made wine.

[Richard: some astute marketing by Aldi because once you’ve tried a few of the Lot series you want to try the rest. I rarely drink either chenin or South African wines so can’t offer any great insight. Geoff’s notes mirror my own. The wine was just as good on day 2 – a little more mellow as you might expect. Nice drink but something I won’t be repurchasing.

I also tried Lot 10 and Lot 06. The former is a Clare Valley Cabernet made by Taylors, not a maker I know. We don’t usually feature the back label but as I was trying the wine I was struck by the varied description of the aromas. Why? Because I couldn’t smell a thing apart from ‘generic red wine’. Add in a boring one-dimensional taste and you end up with the worst bottle in the series so far. And the phrase ‘wonder at its development through to 2022’ is misconceived ad-speak at its worst. I can’t see the wine going anywhere.

Lot 06 was much better, a priorat 2014 from Escaladel, 100% Garnacha. This is another region I rarely taste – the Wine Society don’t stock any, for example – but it was pretty good, especially on day 2 when the lively fruit had mellowed into something more savoury. Recommended if only to try something unusual.]

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