Tag Archives: South Africa

A different Cabernet Franc

I was tempted to reuse the title of the last post as this was a very different cabernet franc to those encountered in the Loire. So much so that I thought it was a claret blend since the typical green herbaceous nose was quite muted. A deep colour, cherry red, some vanilla on the nose, quite dry with lots of fruit, good mouth feel and well balanced. A very drinkable wine which I look forward to retasting as has Geoff sold me one of his bottles.

[Geoff: This wine offer was spotted by Richard, and being Cabernet Francophile, I couldn’t resist. My only concern was whether its SA origin would move it away from the Loire style that I love. My fears were unfounded. It had just enough tannic rasp for me whilst the forward raspberry fruit flavours did not diasppoint. Although quite light in style there was bags of flavour and room for development – which is good news as I’ve another four.]

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Miles Mossop’s Max 2008 (and Malbec)

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Following the two Italian reds last week we tried another duo on Friday, this time from the New World – an Argentinian Malbec and a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ from Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Miles Mossop is a noted wine maker in South Africa; this wine was his Max 2008. He brings in grapes to the Tokara winery and vinifies them under his own label – an arrangement he has with the owners of the winery. His grapes can be drawn from good sites in the Western Cape but the wine we tried was from grapes solely from the Stellenbosch region. Cabernet Sauvignon made up half of the blend, the other two grapes were Petit Verdot (27%) and Merlot (23%). Richard’s comment “everything you hope for in a claret” pretty well summed the wine up.

Ruby red with some ageing evident, this had slight menthol notes but the dominant aromas were of non-specific dark fruits, but a well-balanced blend of plums, blackcurrant and blackberry. The ageing had introduced a cooked, concentrated quality which was really attractive. There was also a “hint of volatility” (Richard) which was beguiling. The tannins were just right, providing enough drying ‘grip’ to prevent the jamminess. This had big, rich flavours and a good mouthfeel; I detected slight heat at the finish (14% ABV).

This was a quality wine which was drinking well just now; ideal for the steak which was to accompany it.

[Richard: Geoff has encapsulated how we felt about this wine. A very nice drink which did, indeed, go well with steak and chips. We blogged another vintage of this wine (the 2006), 18 months ago and weren’t quite so impressed, perhaps because I didn’t decant for three hours, as here. From the WS, now out of stock, about £20 and certainly as good as a similarly priced claret.]

From Max to Malbec. We don’t try Malbec on this blog and those we have tried – all comparatively upmarket – have not impressed.

I tasted this one (Vinalba Gran Reservado 2014) blind and was unable to recognise the grape. A very different appearance to the Max with the colour a glass-stain purple. A green nose with some fruit, leading into a supple, rich, smooth taste and good mouthfeel, albeit one with no real defining characteristics. I’m not sure what ‘Gran Reservado’ means in an Argentinian context – the Vinalba website has no information.

[Geoff: I believe (but can’t confirm) that Gran Reservado entails a minimum of two years ageing but agree that the terms ‘reserve’ and ‘grand reserve’ seem to be used with no actual legal definition of ageing, yield, alcohol levels etc.

I find Malbecs a little uninspiring unless they have a whack of acidity and freshness (which means high altitude vineyards) to balance their full and leathery qualities. This was a better one, and reasonably priced at about £12. The usual blueberry notes came through as it developed.]

 

 

 

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Stumped

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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

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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

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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…]

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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

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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)

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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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