By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 22 Augusut 2015
I visited South Africa last year and was really impressed with the progress being made with certain grapes. I particularly liked the Chenin Blancs and the white Mediterranean blends using Rhone grapes like Viognier and Clairette Blanc – which the new young winemakers in Stellenbosch and Swartland seem to be taking to heart.
With the reds, I found some new Cabernet blends from Stellenbosch, new estate Pinot Noirs coming on stream from Hemel en Aarde, Franschhoek and Elgin – and the Syrahs from Swartland and Stellenbosch are improving too.
Here is my current top favourite South Africa white and red wines priced under £25:
Western Cape: THE RUSTLER CHENIN BLANC 2014 (£8.99 Laithwaites www.laithwaites.co.uk)
Named after Angus McLean, the legendary sheep rustler. Made by Bruce Jack. Rich melon aromas, citric fruit flavours with underlying honeycomb notes, tasters loved the creamy palate and a very decent long finish for the price. STAR VALUE BUY
Paarl: GLEN CARLOU ‘QUARTZ STONE’ CHARDONNAY 2013 (£18.49-£19.99 Valvona & Crolla; The Beerhive; Henderson Wines; The Fine Wine Company, Edinburgh; Exel Wines, Perth; www.sawinesonline.co.uk)
I often used to find Glen Carlu wines just a little too ripe and clumsy, but this single vineyard Chardonnay is a gem. 23 year old Chardonnay vines are grown on quartz stone shards in the foothills of the Simonsberg mountains; the grapes are made partly in French oak barrels and a proportion in cement egg-shaped tanks. The result is very luscious with a tangerine citrus fruit flavour, nutty undertones, intense oak notes and long length.
Elgin: PAUL CLUVER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 (£12 Marks & Spencer)
Elgin is one of the best regions for Sauvignon Blanc today in the Cape. This old apple growing region has a vintage several weeks later than Constantia, the original white wine region. One of my favourite producers in Elgin is Paul Cluver with winemaker Andries Burger making really classy elegant Sauvignon with delicious passionfruit and elderflower notes.
Stellenbosch: DE MORGENZON RESERVE CHENIN BLANC 2014 (£17.49 www.sawinesonline.co.uk)
This top Cape estate make excellent Chenin Blanc (and their Syrah 2012 is also superb). Maybe it is the music they play to their vines on the high Ribbokkop slopes – and in the barrel cellars, as owner Hylton Applebaum was founder of Classic FM in South Africa. His winemaker Carl van der Merwe has a great talent with this grape – this is his oaked reserve example which is superbly opulent with pear, spice and caramel flavours. Oak fermented with 25% new barrels and 11 months on its lees gives it a rich complexity. A 5 star Platter wine.
Western Cape: SASKIA 2012 Miles Mossop (£18-£20 Oddbins; www.swig.co.uk; www.sawinesonline.co.uk; De Burgh Wines, Dalkeith 01875 595100 www.de-burgh.com)
I am a huge fan of Miles Mossop’s wines (Miles pictured right). This beauty is named after Miles' daughter Saskia-Jo made from four ‘Mediterranean’ grapes: 66% Chenin Blanc, 26% Viognier, 5% Verdelho and 3% Clairette grown in Stellenbosch and Paarl. Grapes are whole bunch pressed and fermented in 400 litre barrels with 10 months in barrel on lees. The result is a divinely rich honeysuckle, peach scented white blend with grilled pineapple notes, toasty, creamy textural on the palate.
Hemel en Aarde: NEWTON JOHNSON FAMILY VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR 2013 (£21.99 www.sawinesonline.co.uk for 2014 vintage; £25 www.thesecretcellar.co.uk)
A five star Platter wine – and what a lovely Pinot Noir. So elegant, brimming with red fruits and beautifully balanced. Proof that this corner of the Cape near Hermanus is the hot spot for Pinot, although other higher altitude areas like Elgin and Franschhoek are making interesting efforts. This hails from a small 18 hectare family wine estate in Walker Bay, set up by Dave Johnson, now run by his very capable sons Gordon and Bevan. STAR BUY
Stellenbosch: JOURNEY’S END KENDAL LODGE MERLOT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 (£8 reduced from £10 until 7 September at Marks & Spencer)
The English Gabb family who own Journey’s End made their money with the Kumala brand – and now make a consistently good range from their Stellenbosch winery run by son Rollo. This is made in a very ripe forward New World style with voluptuous plummy fruits, well-structured palate and good length.
Robertson: SPRINGFIELD ESTATE ‘WORK OF TIME’ 2008 (£17.99 www.sawinesonline.co.uk)
This delicious mature four grape blend (30% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Petit Verdot) shows similarities to a mature St Emilion from Bordeaux in its cedary aromas, smoky liquorice palate, juicy red fruits and smooth silky tannins. Springfield estate run by the charming Bruwer family, brother Abrie and sister Jeanette, make a fantastically consistent range of whites and reds in their Robertson outpost one and a half hour’s drive east of Cape Town.
Stellenbosch: GLENELLY LADY MAY 2010 (£26.99 www.sawinesonline.co.uk; £23 Marks & Spencer)
Newcomer on the South African scene right in the heart of the traditional estates of Stellenbosch. May de Lencquesaing sold her prestigious classed growth Chateau Pichon Lalande in Bordeaux, and headed to South Africa in 2003 to start anew. With 30 years experience of making top class claret in France she is now making very interesting Bordeaux style reds in the Cape. Most impressive of her range is her flagship red, a very elegant Cabernet Sauvignon with 24 months in new French oak.
Franschhoek: CAPE CHAMONIX PINOT NOIR RESERVE 2012 (£19.99-£24 Raeburn Wines, Edinburgh; Swig, London; Woodwinters, Edinburgh & Bridge of Allan; Luvians, Cupar & St Andrews; Berry Bros & Rudd; www.stonevine.co.uk)
Winemaker Gottfried Mocke (pictured right) uses high grown Franschhoek fruit, planted on cool south west facing slopes at 500-600 metres – and matures it for 16 months in 50% new oak. This is a charming Pinot Noir, one of the best in the Cape, with a very forward fruit style, cherry fruits, hint of pepper, elegant soft finish with ageing potential. Mocke makes several Pinot Noirs, but make sure you buy the Reserve – his best.
Join Rose’s wine tastings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews www.rosemurraybrown.com