After my brief sojourn in the mountains of Kwa-Zulu, I arrived back in Cape Town to find a pile of new release wines to sample. I never end up having a pile, as I drink them almost before the bubble wrap hits the floor. Other local wine writers have got into the habit of hosting little get togethers with their sample bottles. Each, I suppose, bringing along what has been sent to them by this or that producer.
This assists the producers, who cannot seem to keep track of the handful of people in South Africa who write regularly about wine. These wine writers then have a jolly time of it sipping on the wines before dismissing or congratulating them on their various blogs, newspaper columns, bathroom graffiti, or wherever bits of wine writing are read these days. In that spirit, I thought I would share with you my thoughts on the six bottles that found their way into my home while I was sipping G&T’s under the shadow of the Rhino Horn.
As I hate scoring wines and only do so when I am being paid – my most cynical vinous moment – I will offer you the rating on my personal scale: Harry’s Kak en Lekker Scale of Wine.
Just in case you are having a slow week, let me remind you that I am taking the piss. The whole thing is a send up. I think wine scores are somewhat ludicrous.
The first wine to be uncorked and glugged with rather feverish delight – remember I had just returned from a week drinking only box wine – was the new vintage of Chakalaka from Fairview. I think this is my favourite wine from Fairview; big and ripe, but always fun to drink. The wine is a blend of Syrah, Mouvedre, Carignan, Tannat, Durif, and Grenache, all sourced from the Swartland. As would suggest by these varieties the wine is all spice and dark fruit. It’s a wine that’s more chunky than elegant, with lashings of tannic force, and a final balancing dose of acidity to keep things drinkable. And though it has a typically frustrating back label with bizarre punctuation use, and the now almost universal promise that this wine will “do well with your favourite foods” (What, all of them?) I think for R110, it will prove to be popular with most red wine drinkers.
This wine was followed up by two new wines from Roodeberg: the Roodeberg White, and Roodeberg Rose. Roodeberg is going through something of a ‘rebranding’ with a new tasting room, exclusive members club, and all the ridiculous PR guff that comes with it.
For example: “In an era where the artisanal and the handmade are cherished, the unique red blend of Roodeberg celebrates the artistic spirit of the winemakers who are devoted to creating the perfect union of palate and aroma.” Utterly vom-worthy. A champion red wine producer of the past, it now occupies a rather sad spot on the supermarket shelf. Like the star rugby player at school who now, languishing somewhere in middle-management, still can’t move past the try he scored 15 years earlier against his school’s closest rivals.
The 2012 white blend was tropically fruity enough to be enjoyed by most. A harmless sort of wine you wouldn’t look twice at if it jogged passed you on the Sea Point promenade, if you know what I mean. If you don’t, then I am sure you would look twice at a bottle of wine jogging by the sea. As there were no fact sheets sent with the wine, and the website is two vintages out of date, I am going to guess that this wine is a Sauvignon Blanc blend with some Chenin and possibly Chardonnay in support. I am not sure of availability, or if only the exclusive “member’s club” will have acess to it, but if it costs anything over R80 I reckon it’s not good value.
Rating: Lekker Kak
The Rose was another rose. I am in the camp – if one even exists – who look down on most roses. Too many are insipid, slightly sweet drinks, so lacking in character, nuance, or interest I imagine them going to bed at night crying monosyllabic tales of misery and injustice into their pillows after the task of a diary entry was just too much. This rose was more of the same. Pink, plain, and paltry. (If you want proper roses, look to Sijnn Wines and Mount Abora)
Thankfully the next two wines – new releases from Tobias – provided more than enough joy to make up for the others. I have written about the Tobias Red in the past, and how much I enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to sipping on these new versions. The white is 100% Swartland Chenin. The 2012 has a touch of oxidative character, but also lots of stone-fruit aromas and flavours. It has a character that I am finding common in delicately handled Swartland Chenin. There is a depth and richness of flavour that never feels heavy, or something to be waded through. The acidity was fresh, cleansing, and urged me to take another sip. This is a fantastic example of Chenin Blanc. Proudly South African, and, at around R90 a bottle, good value. (Available at Wine Cellar.)
Rating: Fokken Lekker
The red, a 2011 blend of co-fermented Syrah, Mouvedre and Cinsault, was just as satisfying as the previous vintages. I like wines like this young. I am sure it will be able to age for a while, but there is so much pure-fruited joy right now, I am not sure I would be able to leave it on the rack for very long. Red, peppery fruit, with dusty savoury notes, and gentle fruit tannins backed by a structure enhancing acidity, it’s a red wine that gives interest, a little complexity, and a whole bunch of drinkability right from the start. Seriously, a favourite of mine, and it passes the “can I drink two bottles easily” test with distinction. It will also be sold at Wine Cellar for around R90 a bottle.
Rating: Fokken Lekker
Finally, to finish it all off, I received a bottle of Red Jerepigo from Badsberg cellars. A Jeripgio is wine made from unfermented, sweet, very ripe grape juice to which alcohol is added. The alcohol stops the fermentation from taking place and you are left with a very sweet drink with an alcohol of around 17%. This version was made with 100% Pinotage, and was jam packed with sweet cherry, porty, fruitcake aromas. It’s pleasant enough to drink now, although rather basic and primary. I reckon three to five years would do this wine a lot of good. The acidity from the grape juice just hangs on, I would have preferred it to have a little more zing in the tail. A good winter drink, and for around R48 a bottle, a total bargain.
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