As seen in our previous article, South Africa has a rich and varied winemaking history. This diversity and richness also shows in the wines, as examples from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Swartland, Elgin and Constantia confirm. These are the result of committed, dynamic, quality-conscious winemakers and owners who all share the will to make unique wines, with a sense of place expressing the best South Africa has to offer.
Stellenbosch is the traditional hot climate region in the Western Cape vine growing area. Examples of wines with typicity and sense of place abound.
Small winery, producing 25.000 bottles of Merlot exclusively, with different top quality cuvees. The particularity of this winery is that the vineyard is planted on a south facing slope – which is the equivalent of a North facing slope in the Northern hemisphere. This is made to counter-balance the hot conditions of Stellenbosch, a choice which shines in the wines.
Rose 2016. 13,5%. Merlot 95% with 5% Muscat
This is the first wine made, with early picked grapes in order to preserve the freshness of the fruit in the wine. It is an easy-drinking wine with strawberry and raspberry notes, completed by a fresh hay character, giving the wine an extra depth.
Merlot 2015. 14,5%
Some Malbec and Petit Verdot are present in the blend. With 30% new Franc oak, very elegant and well-integrated, the tannins are elegant and the acidity gives a crisp feel to the wine in the palate, offering a pleasant balance overall.
More evolved and with rounder tannins than the 2015, this 2014 vintage shows how well a year in bottle can suit these wines. Long, elegant finish.
Reserve 2015. 14,5%
100% new oak used in this wine, with a small proportion of Malbec and Petit Verdot. Again, the powerful structure of this wine is nicely balanced and the acidity will give it a long ageing potential.
Merlot forte 2014. 17,5%
Amarone like wine, with intense dried plum and dark fruit aromas. Long finish and vibrant mid-palate. A tiny production worth tasting it. A perfect dessert wine.
Total production of this mid-size winery is around 800 to 850.000 bottles every year. Complete range of well-crafted wines.
Sauvignon blanc 2016. 13,5%
Made 100% in stainless steel, this wines comes from a high altitude vineyard (410 m), receiving the breezes of the Indian and Atlantic Ocean. Medium body, with a crisp refreshing acid and a long finish. Dominated by fresh gooseberry aromas. Compared to its New Zealand counterpart, alcohol level is typically a little higher, due to an overall warmer climate than in Marlborough.
Chardonnay 2015. 13%
Made 100% in stainless steel tanks with no bâtonnage, this Chardonnay shows tropical fruit, a full body with a waxy texture and a medium finish. Coming from a 300 m altitude vineyard, it offers a great freshness along with an incomparable zestiness.
Chardonnay 2006, barrel fermented. 13,5%
For those that did not believe that white wines in South Africa cannot age well, this is the proof that they actually can. Old gold color, with nutty flavors and dried fruit aromas, along with honey, beeswax and some pepperiness. Full body, lively acid, complex and long finish. After a few minutes, a discrete orange peel note appears. A perfect wine for a night of quiet reading!
Inspector Peringuey Chenin Blanc 2015. 13,5%
This wine comes from the oldest block of Chenin blanc in the property, with 33-34 years of age. Grapes are small, the skin to pulp ratio perfect. 7 months in seasoned oak barrels of 300 and 225 liters and 50% in stainless steel tanks. Both wines are then blended together. Creamy, buttery notes dominate along with citrus ones in the nose. Full body, lively acid in the palate with a slight touch of vanilla completed by discrete nutty flavors. Long finish.
The Prospector Syrah 2015. 14%
16 months in a mix of seasoned French and American oak barrels of 225 l. Vanilla, licorice, ripe black fruit and peppery notes come through in the nose. Full body, with medium ripe tannins. Medium finish and a slight well-integrated final bitterness, giving an extra depth to the wine. Good acidity given by a West facing slope cooled by the Atlantic breezes.
Black Magic Merlot 2013. 14%
Made with grapes coming from clay soils. 16 months in French oak (first and second fill). South and west facing vineyards. Black pepper and coconut, spices, graphite aromas in both nose and palate. Quite complex. Lively acid, smooth round tannins, fleshy texture and medium finish. Very pleasant. Ready to drink.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. 14%
18 months in oak, with a higher tannic structure than the Merlot wine. French oak barrels used, first and second fill. Black currant, graphite, lively acid. Ripe black fruit. The typical expression of a Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch.
Stellenbosch and Elgin
Radford Dale winery
Radford Dale both in Stellenbosch and Elgin makes among the most refined and surprising wines in the country. A few examples show this elegance and style.
Thirst Gamay 2016. 11%. Stellenbosch
A light easy drinking wine made in a Beaujolais Nouveau style. Fruity and floral at the same time, with a fresh palate.
Radford Dale Syrah 2014. 13,5%. Stellenbosch.
This wine has two particularities: it comes from an organic vineyard and no sulfur has been added to the wine. It combines the sheer elegance of the best Cote Rotie in Northern Rhone with a fine ripe fruit and an overall fine structure. The wine shows a nose with oriental spice notes and dark fruit complexity. Fine black pepper and savory notes over a dark fruit core form the focal point of the palate while the grainy texture adds grip before to a lovely fresh finish.
Frankenstein Pinotage 2015. 13,5%. Stellenbosch
Made with grapes that were refrigerated before handling in the cellar, a partial carbonic maceration gives this wine its fruitiness and freshness. The final result is an easy drinking style of Pinotage, with purity of fruit, tamed soft tannins, a vibrant mid-palate and a long finish.
Freedom Pinot Noir 2015. 13,5%. Elgin
Fermented in demi-muids (between 500 and 650 liters) without any cold maceration before fermentation and a small percentage of whole bunches. The wine has a fresh and perfumed berry fruits mingle with earthy tones in a complex and compelling nose. The palate shows restraint through the satin texture and perfumed, light berry tones. Refined tannins and fruit concentration round out the mid palate before a clean mineral lift towards the long finish.
Elgin is a cool climate region, within the context of South Africa. Examples of very good Pinot Noir wines can be found here.
Paul Cluver winery
Pinot Noir 2014. 13,5%
The aim of the winery is to make elegant, balanced wine, with finesse, purity of fruit, a well-integrated acidity and no over-extraction. And this is exactly what this wine is all about. Probably one of the best examples of Pinot Noir in South Africa. Smoky aromas, graphite notes with a savory character and a lively acid: all point to careful winemaking, giving purity of fruit a loads of seduction.
Sauvignon Blanc 2016. 13%. 8% Semillon
Fermented in 2500 liter foudres. This sauvignon blanc has a clear and bright color, with a hint of green. The nose is clean and fresh with expressive granadilla, grape fruit, gooseberry and black currant characteristics. These flavours follow through onto the palate which has a lovely creamy texture – the result of extended lees contact.
A region with cooler nights and warmer days than Stellenbosch. The temperature shifts are more pronounced than in the latter region. Recognized for cabernet sauvignon and semillon.
Semillon 2014. 13%
Coming from the oldest vineyard in South Africa, planted in 1902, grapes from this vineyard are blended with other grapes harvested in very low yielding planted in 1936 and 1942. The resulting wine is concentrated, complex and long. The 2014 was blended with 4% sauvignon blanc. The nose shows a mix of freshly squeezed citrus, pear, orange blossom, lemon curd and honeysuckle. The bright yellow fruit follows through onto a vibrant yet elegant palate with a richly textured mineral core, a firm structure and soft, balanced acidity. The use of French brings hints of vanilla and almonds. The wine has a long, dry, nutty, spicy finish with peach blossoms and hints of marzipan lingering in the mouth.
Arid, dry region, with schist and slate soils. Traditionally associated with full-bodied reds, but latterly also with chenin and Mediterrabean-style red and white blends.
Chocolate Block 2015. 14%
Produced at 550.000 bottles, this is a complex, intriguing wine. The 2015 Chocolate Block is a blend of Syrah (71%), Grenache Noir (15%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%), Cinsault (5%) and Viognier (1%). The nose shows red and black berry fruit, brooding fruit compote and Swartland violets. The nose exudes aromas of raspberry, mulberry, blackberry, damson, dark chocolate and liquorice with whiffs of cloves, nutmeg and orange rind. The wine has a soft, smooth entry, a rich mid-palate and the abundance of red and black berry fruit on the nose follows through with balanced acidity and svelte cocoa powdery tannins. The wine has a long, lingering finish reminiscent of Swiss dark hazelnut chocolate.
Located in the eastern flak of the Cape Peninsula, the area is cooled by south-easterly sea breezes. Recognized for whites generally, notably sauvignon, semillon and muscat.
Klein Constantia winery
Specialized in Sauvignon blanc wines, this historic winery also makes deep, elegant Vin de Constance wines.
Vin de Constance 2013. 13,5%
This Vin de Constance is probably one of the most fascinating wines on the planet. First picking began mid-February. Then 26 more picking followed. What was harvested were individual berries, not grapes. Throughout the season we harvest in batches, from the riper berries that have great acidity to the raisins for sugar concentration. These batches form the perfect ratio between sugar, alcohol and acidity, which allows the wine to stop fermentation naturally and without intervention. The wine was aged in a combination of 60 % new French oak, Hungarian oak and French Acacia. It was left for a period of 3 years in barrel on the gross lees before racking out and blending. It spent a further 6 months in tank before bottling.
The result is a bright and gold in wine with aromas of citrus marmalade and frangi pani abundant on the nose. The palate is full bodied and complex. A good sugar to fruit ratio combined with a great acidity ensures the wine is in balance. The wine concludes with a long, spicy and grippy finish.
Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blanc 2014. 13,5%
The name Perdeblokke, refers to the horses that tilled the soils of the steep slopes that lie 200-220 meters above sea level on the slopes of the Constantiaberg mountain. Leading with subtle aromas of blackcurrant and gooseberries, both the nose and palate are immediately engaged and enticed by complex layers of rich floral, citrus and berry flavours. The vibrant acidity adds poise and enhances the length and mineral finish of this wine. An exceptional expression of Klein Constantia terroir.