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Posts Tagged ‘South Africa

Paarl jam

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Paarl 2015, Pinotage, Fairview ($17.55, 10678481)
100% Pinotage from older dryland bush vines and trellised vineyards on the Fairview farm in Paarl. The soils are mainly decomposed granite. Destemmed and lightly crushed. Fermented in stainless steel tanks and open top foudres. After malolactic fermentation was completed, the wine was transferred to new French and American oak barrels for 10 months’ maturation, then blended and bottled. Reducing sugar: 3.5 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinicolor.
Plum, cherry, stale chocolate and scorched earth on the nose. Medium- to full-bodied. Integrated acidity keeps the forward, ripe fruit in check. Rustic tannins provide a welcome rasp, the earthy/leathery substrate a modicum of depth. Vanilla and chocolate are thankfully relegated to the background. The fair finish leaves a tarry aftertaste. Devoid of nuance and finesse so not very interesting on its own though downable with food, in this instance Lebanese takeout. Not opened for its original purpose – to accompany Latucca‘s most excellent barbecue – which I suspect it would have done passably well if not so well as, say, Leeuwenkuil’s Cinsault or Badenhorst’s Secateurs Red Blend. (Buy again? Only in the absence of more appealing alternatives.)

Written by carswell

December 8, 2017 at 11:43

Below the veldt

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Swartland 2015, Grenache Noir, Leeuwenkuil ($20.00, 13124571)
100% Grenache from old, dry-farmed, bush-trained vines. Yield was limited by reducing the crop to one bunch per shoot. Manually harvested. Alcoholic fermentation on the skins and with indigenous yeasts involved punch-downs and pump-overs. Macerated 20 days on the skins post fermentation. Transferred to 5,000-litre French oak foudres for 14 months for malolactic fermentation and maturation. Reducing sugar: 1.8 g/l. 14% ABV. Screwtop (not cork as per Quebec agent: Univins.
Likeable nose of red and black raspberry (fresh and jam) dusted with black pepper. Medium-bodied (alcohol notwithstanding). Full of ripe but not heavy fruit. Soft-glow acidity and supple tannins provide just enough structure. Finishes clean and on a peppery note. Not as deep, savoury or flaring as some Rhone Grenaches but not devoid of Grenache character either. A fruit-forward crowd pleaser. I bought this bottle by mistake, thinking it was the same producer’s Cinsault, which I wanted to try with Lattucca‘s most excellent Texas-style barbecue beef brisket and ribs. While the wine was OK with the ‘cue, it’d make a better pairing with less substantial fare, like charcuterie or the winery’s suggestion of venison carpaccio. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Written by carswell

September 6, 2017 at 10:37

So similar, so different

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Stellenbosch 2014, Chenin Blanc, Organic, Reyneke ($26.60, 13123608)
100% Chenin Blanc from biodyanmically farmed vines around 45 years old and rooted in granitic loam over clay. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. The must was allowed to settle then fermented with indigenous yeasts in 300-litre second-fill French oak barrels and a 2,500-litre foudre. Matured on its lees for 10 months then racked into a stainless steel tank for another month. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
Intriguing, even mysterious nose of white spice, chalk, lemon, roasted white meat and “garum.” In the mouth, it’s round from start to finish, honeyed yet dry, packed with ripe fruit and minerals. A stream of acidity adds backbone and life. Faint bitter saline notes mark the nicely sustained finish. One of those wines that seems as Old World as New, this had several fans around the table. While I found it a little two-dimensional, especially in comparison to its flightmate, I’ll readily admit those dimensions are lovely. (Buy again? Sure.)

Jasnières 2015, Sec, Domaine de la Roche Bleue ($27.90, 12856228)
100% Chenin Blanc from organically farmed 10- to 25-year-old vines planted in clayey, flinty topsoil over a limestone base. Manually harvested. Whole-cluster pressed. The must was allowed to settle, then fermented (slowly due to the cool cellar temperatures) with indigenous yeasts, 60% in fourth- to sixth-fill barrels (wine from older vines) and 40% in stainless steel tanks (wine from younger vines). Matured four months in sixth-fill barrels. Reducing sugar: 3.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Boires.
Complex, winey nose of linden flowers, “sake,” quince, lime and, eventually honey. Sleek and spicy on the palate, alive with acidity. The tart fruit (citrus and stone mainly) is dusted with chalk and gunflint. Sugar levels notwithstanding, this seems significantly drier – not to mention leaner, more crystalline and better delineated – than the Reyneke. Pure, long and delicious. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG May 18th tasting: flight 3 of 6

Written by carswell

June 20, 2017 at 12:12

Beach wine

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Swartland 2015, Kedungu, Intellego ($27.82, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Owned and operated by Jurgen Gouws, Intellego Wines sources its grapes from its own vineyards and from growers with whom it works in close collaboration. All the fruit is certified organic and the wine-making is as close as possible to non-interventionist, small amounts of sulphur dioxide being the only additive. The wines are made in a small rented facility in the Paardeberg region. Named after a Bali beach where Gouws enjoyed himself surfing, the easy-drinking Kedungu is a 66-28-6 blend of Syrah (from vines planted in the 1980s) and Cinsault and Mourvèdre (from vines planted between 2000 and 2004). The varieties were separately whole-bunch fermented in closed tanks, with the Syrah spending 14 days on the skins and the other varieties about a week. The lots were then blended and directly pressed together into old French oak barrels for nine months’ maturation. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Glou.

Plum, burnt sugar, “blond tobacco and butterscotch” on the nose. On the fuller side of medium-bodied but fundamentally fluid. Red and black fruit are the dominant flavours, though the wine is more terroir- than fruit-driven. Bright acidity lends a welcome sour edge, while the tannins are just firm enough. The finish is long and savoury. Wines like this and the Leeuwenkuil Cinsault are convincing me that South Africa and more specifically Swartland are worth keeping an eye on. (Buy again? Sure.)

MWG April 21st tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

June 5, 2017 at 13:52

A couple of South African Cinsaults

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Swartland 2016, Cinsault, The Drifter, A.A. Badenhorst ($18.00, 13057997)
No technical info on this wine is to be found online, not even on the producer’s or Quebec agent’s websites. I suspect it may be the first vintage and may be sold only in Quebec. 100% Cinsault possibly from organically farmed old vines. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 2.5 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
Engaging nose of slightly candied red berries, “campfire,” “violets” and “clove” (quoting other tasters). In the piehole, it’s medium-bodied and supple. The fruit has a “raspberry jam” side to it as well as a lactic edge. The tannins are soft and the bright acidity goes a long way toward balancing the ripe fruit’s inherent sweetness. A tarry undertow and minerally finish add some welcome depth. A hit with most around the table though a little too fruit-driven and one-note for my palate. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Swartland 2015, Cinsault, Leeuwenkuil ($19.95, 12976895)
100% Cinsault from dry-farmed old bush vines. Harvested at various stages of ripeness with the fruit’s acidity being a determining factor. Part of the harvest is fermented on the skins in open tanks with punch-downs and pump-overs, part is left in whole clusters to undergo carbonic maceration. Matured in 500- and 5,000-litre French oak barrels for six months. Screwcapped. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
Nose similar to the Badenhorst’s though savourier, with notes of dried herbs, “jamón” and a faint smokiness. A lovely, balanced, medium-bodied mouthful of ripe fruit, sleek acidity and light rustic tannins that add a touch of astringency to the clean finish. The raspberry, cherry and blackberry flavours are overtoned with spice and deepened with black olive and slate. New Worldish but in the best possible way. A favourite of just about everyone present. (Buy again? A bottle or two for grilling season or to pair with Latucca Barbecue’s most excellent beef brisket and ribs.)

MWG February 17, 2017, tasting: flight 5 of 6

Written by carswell

March 8, 2017 at 12:53

Odd flightfellows

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Colline Lucchesi 2013, Palistorti, Tenuta di Valgiano ($29.80, 12767840)
Sangiovese (70%), Merlot (15%) and Syrah (15%) from organically and biodynamically farmed vines around 20 years old. Manually harvested. The sorted grapes are gravity-fed into open wooden vats and crushed by hand or foot. Fermented (with indigenous yeasts, one supposes) and macerated for around two weeks with occasional punch-downs and pump-overs. Racked, settled and gravity-fed into lightly toasted French oak barrels (5% new) for malolactic fermentation and 12 months’ maturation. Blended and transferred into concrete vats for six months’ additional maturation. Unfiltered and unfined. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Balthazard.
Appealing nose of cherry, tar, turned earth, Asian spices and a fresh, almost ferny note. A medium- to full-bodied mouthful of ripe fruit, bright acidity and firm but not rigid tannins. Despite the superficial sleekness, broad, deep and long. Beautifully balanced and complete, modern yet also terroirtorial. I’m usually unenthusiastic about blends of Sangiovese with international varieties but this is exceptional. It was also the only wine in the tasting that absolutely everyone around the table liked. The price seems more than fair. (Buy again? Yes.)

Swartland 2014, Family Red Blend, A.A. Badenhorst ($40.00, 12275298)
An unorthodox blend – around two-thirds Syrah with Tinta Barroca, Cinsault and Grenache – from estate-grown and purchased grapes. Farming practices are organic or nearly so. Manually harvested. The whole clusters, including stems, are crushed by foot and fermented with indigenous yeasts in concrete and wood tanks with twice-daily punch-downs. Given extended maceration (up to six months) before pressing. Transferred to 4,000-litre barrels for 16 months’ maturation. Blended just before bottling. Sulphur (pre- and post-fermentation) is the only addition. Reducing sugar: 1.4 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
Complex, warm-climate nose of prune, plum, eucalyptus, black olive, dark minerals and eventually dried herbs. Full-bodied, rich and dense, balanced and savoury. Round tannins and smooth acidity provide sufficient structure. The flavours linger long and tend to the darker side of the spectrum: black fruit, slatey minerals, smoke, leather, compost, animale and a volatile note that puts me in mind of charred eucalyptus but that one taster describes as “electrical tape.” Not quite my style but definitely drinkable and as Old Worldish as New. (Buy again? Would gladly drink if offered but doubt I’d buy a bottle.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

February 9, 2017 at 14:04

Cookin’ Chenin

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A couple of years ago, I asked an SAQ wine advisor to recommend the cheapest drinkable white wine for cooking. This was her suggestion and it’s been a staple in my fridge ever since. If I’m not mistaken, the 2014 is just off the boat.

Robertson (Western Cape) 2014, Chenin Blanc, Robertson Winery ($10.55, 10754228)
100% Chenin Blanc from over 30 irrigated vineyards. After (mechanical?) harvesting, the grapes were gently pressed using a pneumatic bag press. Fermentation in temperature-controlled (13°C) stainless steel tanks lasted 18 days. Probably filtered and fined though I’ve not been able to confirm that. Screwcapped. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Univins.
Low-key nose of green grapes, peach, citrus, chalk, honeycomb. Medium-bodied. Clean attack. The slightly waxy texture speaks of a certain level of extract, though this isn’t an exuberantly fruity wine. There’s tangy acidity, a mineral-hinting-at-bitter note and a touch of residual sugar to round the edges. Little depth or length but it’s fresh, affable and easy to drink: think New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on Valium. A wine almost no one could object to, which is both its strong point and its weak point. (Buy again? As a cooking wine I might sip while working in the kitchen, yes. As a white to pour at a low-budget reception, sure. As something to serve to wine-geek friends, probably not.)

Written by carswell

October 8, 2014 at 14:08

MWG May 24th tasting: report (2/4)

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Chablis Premier cru Montmain 2009, Domaine de Bois d’Yver ($31.00, 11635108)
100% organically farmed Chardonnay from 30-year-old vines. Fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks using native yeasts. Undergoes full malolactic fermentation. Aged in stainless steel.
Discreet nose of lemon and quartz with hints of flowers, butter and oats. Pure and balanced on the palate, the flavours rainwatery/minerally and lightly fruity (lemon with a bit of pith). Bright acid is blunted by the winey texture, an artifact of this hot vintage. Long, faintly astringent finish.  An elegant if, for now, reticent Chablis that will only benefit from another year or two’s aging. Am looking forward to tasting the estate’s wines from the less atypical 2010 vintage. (Buy again? Yes.)

Vouvray sec 2010, Vincent Carême ($24.40, 11633612)
100% organically farmed Chenin Blanc from vines averaging 45 years in age. Fermented in neutral oak barrels using native yeasts. Undergoes partial malolactic fermentation.
Tropical blossoms, red apple and mangosteen give way to honeycomb. On the palate, lemon, clover honey and noticeable residual sugar. Quite rich, though there’s also lots of acid to cut the fat. Very long. Became a bit cloying and honeycomb-dominated as it warmed. Needs time? (Buy again? Maybe.)

Chenin Blanc 2010, Reserve, Stellenbosch, De Morgenzon ($25.25, 11631895)
100% Chenin Blanc from 40-year-old vines. Throughout the growing season, Baroque music is piped into the vineyard around the clock <rolls eyes>. Fermented in French oak barrels using native yeasts. Aged on the lees for eight months before being racked, lightly filtered and bottled.
Closed nose of minerals gaining floral, spice and eventually ash and wax notes. Rich and honeyed on the palate, with lots of minerals and eventually lemon. Dry on the attack though a hint of residual sugar – and oak – emerge on the mid-palate. The strong acidity is somewhat masked by the rich fruit. Good length. One of the better South African Chenins I’ve encountered. (Buy again? Probably not, given the superiority of more affordable Loire Chenins.)

Semillon 2011, Luján de Cuyo, Mendel ($21.70, 11634818)
100% Sémillon from 70-year-old vines. Fermented and aged in French oak barrels.
Smells dry somehow: little fruit but some flowers, quartz and a hint of very ripe cheese. Weighty but not very fruity in the mouth. Lots of minerals, though. Bitterness kicks in on the mid-palate along with some honey and a coconut husk note. Long, dry, puckery finish. Not a wine to love but civilized, balanced and true to the variety all the same. (Buy again? Only if in the market for a Sémillon.)

Written by carswell

May 27, 2012 at 09:47

September 30th MWG tasting: report

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Most of the wines in this tasting came from the September 30th Cellier release, though not the first flight (the release was whiteless) and not the Pauillac. Prices are in Canadian dollars and include 13% sales tax.


Grüner Veltliner 2009, Kamptal, Domæne Gobelsburg ($15.30, 10790317)
Chalk, sand and white grapefruit peel with whiffs of white pepper. Clean and bright. Zesty, even tingly attack. Good balance between acidity and substance. Fast-fade finish. (Buy again? Yes.)

Grüner Veltliner 2009, Terrassen, Federspiel, Domäne Wachau ($19.50, 10769420)
Lemon peel (a bit candied), wet quartz and a not unpleasant hint of soap or vinyl. Richer than the Gobelsburg and, initially, a bit flatter. Gained dimension as it breathed. Long, with an acid bite on the finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Grüner Veltliner 2009, Kamptaler Terrassen, Bründlmayer ($21.25, 10707069)
Still rounder and smoother. The acidity is there but more like a slow-moving underground river than a gurgling surface stream. Rainwatery at first but becoming white-fruity and layered over the course of an hour. Long. (Buy again? Sure.)

Grüner Veltliner 1999, Schenkenbichl, Jurtschitsch ($38 in 2002)
Richer looking: golden (in contrast to the other wines’ silver) and oilier. Complex nose dominated by honey, quince, mineral and subtle white pepper aromas. Off-dry and unctuous but enlivened by acidity. Initially shallow-seeming – I wondered whether it wasn’t a little over the hill – but gaining presence, amplitude and depth through the end of the tasting (nearly three hours). Very long. While Jancis Robinson notes that, with time in the bottle, GV “can start to taste positively Burgundian,” in this case I’d say the French analogue is more a late-harvest Pinot Gris or a sec-tendre Chenin Blanc. Not everyone was a fan but I found it  gorgeous. (Buy again? Wish I could.)


Morgon 2009, La Voûte Saint-Vincent, Louis-Claude Desvignes ($19.45, 11299415)
Red berries, vine sap, spice and hints of alcohol and, quoting another taster, “night soil.” Noticeable tannins, bright acid, lots of stuffing, somewhat muted fruit. A little introverted and disjointed though improving with time in the glass. (Buy again? Maybe a bottle or two to revisit in a couple of years.)

Moulin-à-Vent 2009, Domaine des Vignes du Tremblay, Paul Janin et Fils ($19.90, 11305141)
Red berries and vine sap, a little footy. Smoother, rounder, suaver than the Morgon but with a similar concentration and richness. Inky finish. Shut down as it breathed. (Buy again? Sure – a bottle or two to revisit in a couple of years.)

Chénas 2009, Vieilles vignes, Hubert Lapierre ($19.90, 11299239)
Appealing nose of red fruit, graphite and dried wood. Rich and balanced, structured with fruit-cloaked tannins. Kirschy finish. (Buy again? Maybe.)

Côte-de-Brouilly 2009, Cuvée Les Griottes, Château Thivin ($21, 11305088)
The least expressive nose of the bunch: cherry, spice and funk. Rich and fruity on the palate. Silkier, brighter and somehow purer than the others but also less tannic and deep. Good length. Probably not an ager. (Buy again? Sure.)


Buzet 2006, La Tuque de Gueyze, Les Vignerons de Buzet ($16.80, 11305563)
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Dusty cassis, green pepper and a whiff of alcohol. Cedary and plummy on the palate, fluid and balanced but lacking depth – a bit one-dimensional in fact. Still, not bad for a sub-$17 Bordeaux clone. (Buy again? Probably not, when $3-5 more can get you a genuinely appealing Bordeaux blend.)

Don Reca 2007, Valle del Cachapoal, Viña La Rosa ($21.75, 11305619)
Merlot (52%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%), Syrah (18%) and Carmenère (5%). Screaming green pepper along with green tobacco, earth and ink. Big, tannic, coarse. Green pepper and cassis flavours dominate with rubber droning in the background. Sawdusty finish. Unevolving even after vigorous aeration. How could anyone (looking at you, Wine Advocate) award this clunker 90+ points? (Buy again? Nope.)

Lagone 2007, IGT Toscana, Aia Vecchia ($20.45, 11305635)
Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Cassis syrup and sandalwood. Suaver than the Don Reca though initially quite tannic and a little disjointed. Smoothed out with exposure to air, showing good balance and length. Well made and true to type but also anonymous, with little sense of place. (Buy again? If looking for a $20 internationalized Bordeaux blend, maybe.)

Finca Libertad 2006, Mendoza, Bodega Benegas ($24.95, 11305934)
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Spent 18 months in new French oak casks. Smokey, peppery, meaty nose: grilled sausage, pimentón, raw beef with hints of cassis and mint. Mouth-filling but not heavy, fruit-forward but not fatiguing. Tannins and oak kept in check. Velvety texture. Long, fragrant finish. Cries out for a charcoal-grilled steak. (Buy again? If charcoal-grilling steaks, maybe.)


Capaia 2007, Philadelphia (Western Cape), Capaia Estate ($33.25, 11307825)
Cabernet Sauvignon (37%), Merlot (26%), Petit Verdot (18%) and Cabernet Franc (19%). Spent 15 months in new French oak barriques. Leather, cassis, ink and menthol. A wine of considerable heft, though nimble and fluid. Structuring tannins and acid are clad in fleshy fruit. Long savoury finish. (Buy again? Maybe, if in the mood for a New World Bordeaux blend.)

Sophia 2007, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay, Craggy Range Winery ($58, 11305491)
Merlot (81%), Cabernet Franc (10%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%) and Malbec (2%). Spent 18 months in 50% new French oak casks. Pomegranate juice, vanilla and chocolate with hints of humus and ground coffee. The proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove: a mass of tannins wrapped in a mass of pure fruit. Big but poised and finely balanced. Plush, layered and long. Needs at least a couple more years in the bottle. Internationally styled but with undeniable class: would make a excellent ringer in a flight of new wave St-Émilions and Pomerols. (Buy again? Probably not, but then I’m not a Merlot fan.)

Don Melchor 1995, Valle del Maipo, Concha y Toro ($87.95, 10755941)
100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak casks. To the eye, nose and palate, obviously an aged wine. Pale rimmed, muted red-brown. Tertiary aromas and flavours: leather, sweat, dried wood, aged tobacco, old tomato plants, compost, earth (you have to dig to find the core of sweet fruit). Tannins fully resolved, the tightly wound velvet of youth now an unfurling skein of silk. Our bottle was uncorked two hours before the flight and decanted just before serving. As the wine only improved in the glass, decanting earlier might have been advisable. Interesting and impressive in its way, but not a wine that knocked anyone’s socks off. Probably done a disservice by being served after so many vibrant young wines and just before a fine old Bordeaux. Alone in the spotlight, it would likely show better. (Buy again? Not at that price.)

Pauillac 1994, Château Pontet-Canet ($33 in 1996)
Cabernet Sauvignon (63%), Merlot (32%) and Cabernet Franc (5%). Some fading at the rim but very little bricking. Complex only-in-Médoc bouquet that doesn’t need to yell to get your attention: cigar box, graphite, cassis, plum, tar, smoke, a hint of caramel. Austere but graceful and lithe, the tannins mostly resolved. In contrast to the preceding wines, the fruit is lean, dry, less dominating, more a unifying element in a spectrum of savoury flavours. The fruit fades on the long finish as cedar and minerals intertwine over a faint tannic astringency. Not particularly deep yet a wine that doesn’t reveal itself fully with the first sip or even – to judge by how it evolved in the few minutes after opening – the first glass. This is in a good place now and probably won’t get better; drink up in the next two or three years. (Buy again? Sure would if I didn’t already have a few bottles stashed away.)

Written by carswell

October 4, 2010 at 11:16