Showing posts with label South Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Africa. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Lesser-known Grapes. Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

Three Lesser-known Grapes
Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

You won't find any of this trio in the comfort zone of “international” grapes. And, aside from Pinotage, you’ll not often find them in a bottle on their own. But I have and I’m very glad I did.

Petit Verdot is highly valued in Bordeaux but generally only as a small contributor to the red blend there. It ripens late and is therefore well suited to the Languedoc where our delicious example comes from.

Pinotage, according to Grapes and Vines, “is potentially South Africa’s greatest treasure…. and yet South Africans are some of its fiercest critics”. The varietal was created in Stellenbosch (it is a university town) in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Our bottle is one of the more modern lighter types, bright and juicy.

And that same Cinsault (Samsó in Spain, Cinsaut in most other countries) is found in our other bottle, all sourced by the way by Le Caveau in Kilkenny. The producer in Chile, a Frenchman, has made a natural aromatic wine and spells it Cinsault.

At a tasting last year in L’Atitude, Francesca Jara said of it: “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdot, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 13%, €13.95  Le Caveau

These Petit Verdot grapes are grown on the slopes of a volcano in the Languedoc (between Béziers and the sea). Winemaker Aurélie Trebuchon-Vic advises there may be a slight deposit - “a sign of traditional wine-making that respects the natural qualities of the fruit". No chemicals and no pesticides are used.

Colour is a deep enough red, a glossy one. Aromas are pretty intense, dark fruits and herby notes too. And there is a super balance of fruit (mainly cherry), spice and acidity in the medium body. It is harmonious, fresh and delicious, with good length, a lovely surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Aurélie recommends enjoying it “with some friends and grilled meat”. More at

Inkawu Pinotage 2013, Laibach Vineyards, Stellenbosch (South Africa), 14.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau

Laibach Vineyards, who specialise in natural and organic wine,  is situated in one of the prime red wine growing areas of South Africa. Early morning picking means no warm fruit reaches the cellar. This particular wine was aged in French oak (75% new) for 15 months. An entirely natural sediment may form, so decant. By the way, no deposit at all in my bottle.

It has a ruby red colour and you’ll find dark fruit and vanilla in the aromas. It is rich and spicy, complex, lots of flavours (including red cherry, toast). The balance is spot-on and there is a long dry finish. 

Inkawu is the Xhosa name for fun monkeys, a hint that the wine is “a playful, high-spirited expression” of the new South Africa. Maybe so. In any event, the care and hard work, the respect for the land and the fruit, has been rewarded and you may share by enjoying this Very Highly Recommended wine.

Louis-Antoine Luyt Cinsault 2013, Maule Valley (Chile), 14%, €23.50 Le Caveau

Louis-Antoine Luyt, trained by the renowned Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, is renowned for the character of his Chilean wines which are organic and natural, some made from very old vines indeed. Quite a character himself - some more detail here.  

This full-bodied ruby red, with no added sulphites and no oak, has inviting aromas of cherry fruit. Lots of fruit flavour, some spice, notes of aniseed follow along with a refreshing acidity and then comes the long dry finalé. Tannins are a little rustic but less so than when I tasted it a year ago. Easy drinking and, as importer Pascal Rossignol might say, easy to digest, this Cinsault is Highly Recommended. Be sure to decant this one!

At last year’s tasting, Francisca said Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. “Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.” You won’t find this in supermarkets either so major thanks to Le Caveau for giving us the chance to get out of the comfort zone.

* The striking label is based on old Chilean bus signage.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Exciting White Trio. Albarino, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling

Terras Gauda Abadío de San Campio Albarino, Rías Baixas (DO) 2014, 12%, €20.35 Le Caveau

Thought to be related to Riesling and presumably brought by Cluny monks to 12th century Iberia, via France, the recently fashionable Albarino grape is now mainly associated with Rías Baixas in north western Spain. It is also grown in neighbouring areas in Portugal where it is known as Alvarinho.

I was expecting good things in this bottle and I got them, even better than anticipated. Colour is mid-gold, bright and clean and there is no shortage of white fruits in the aromas. On the palate, it is bright and fruity, citrus in the tingle, minerality to the fore, a superb combination overall and that includes the long finish. Ticks all the boxes for a classy Albarino and is Very Highly Recommended.

The producers say it is ideal with seafood, shellfish and fish and especially with Tuna steaks.

Elgin Ridge 282 Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa 2014, 14%, €19.95 Le Caveau
At 282 metres above sea-level, we are at the ideal height to create cool climate Sauvignon Blanc in the Elgin Valley. The organic farming methods give the wine its elegance and unique flavour.

So says Marion Smith, ex Ballyjamesduff, who now runs the winery with her husband Brian. By the way, Dexter cattle, a native Irish breed, figure in the organic farming, grazing between the rows of vines and indeed Marion has the biggest herd of Dexter in the Western Cape.

Dexters aren’t the only “helpers” for Marion and Brian, who planted their first vines here in 2007. They also use Dorper sheep, chickens and Peking ducks to control the weeds and pests. Looks like the combination is working very well indeed.

Colour is a medium-gold with green tints. The aromas are fresh and cool. That freshness extends to the palate, tingly with concentrated white fruit, including gooseberry, citrus also prominent, pepper and spice too and then an excellent finish. Highly Recommended.

Carl Ehrhard Rüdesheim Riesling trocken, Rheingau 2015, 12%, €17.80 Karwig Wines

Grapes are hand-picked and indeed the vinification is focussed on “preserving the natural fruit”. This is facilitated by natural and gentle fining and slow cool fermentation. As usual Carl Ehrhard gets it right.

Colour is pale gold with greenish tints and you'll note micro bubbles clinging to the glass. Aromas are a gentle mix of apple and citrus. It tingles the palate; the intense fruit, now with more than a hint of grapefruit, and a super refreshing acidity combine well all the way to a long finish. This dry wine is Very Highly Recommended. Perfect for aperitif and with seafood and Riesling is regularly recommended for Asian.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Out of Africa. A Pair of Impressive Reds

Out of Africa. A Pair of Impressive Reds

Percheron Shiraz Mourvèdre, Western Cape (South Africa) 2014, 14.5%, €11.95 Le Caveau

The Percheron horse owes his place on the label to the fact that these draft horses (now a rare breed), once worked the land here; the ancient vines, another national treasure, survive also. 

This medium red comes with dark fruit aromas, some savoury notes too. It is warm and rich, spice, vanilla notes too, savoury elements also, tannins more or less fine, and a long and warm finish. Well balanced, well made, great value and Highly Recommended.

The producers recommend matching it with smoked meat, red meat and cheeses. I found it superb with the Macroom Buffalo burgers from Eoin O’Mahony in the English Market, Cork.

Chateau Ksara Reserve du Couvent, Bekaa Valley (Lebanon) 2013, 13.5%, €19.75 Karwig Wines
A dark ruby red is the colour here; it is a little lighter at the rim. There are intense aromas. Delicious fruit too on the complex palate, a drift of pepper also, and fine tannins. Superb balance of fruit and wood and those dark fruits stay with you through the persistent finish. Very Highly Recommended.

Though the old cellars, situated underground in the limestone bedrock, most probably date from Roman times, the winery was founded by the Jesuits in 1857. Must have been some nuns there too - there usually were - as couvent is French for convent. The estate is no longer in Jesuit hands but the French influence is strong. Next parish by the way is unhappy Syria. Amazingly, Ksara produces some 3 million bottles per annum.

It is a blend, 40% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. Red meat and small game are the suggested matches for this delicious and complex wine.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Que Syrah, Shiraz. Southern Style.

Que Syrah, Shiraz
Southern Style

Bilancia Syrah 2004 (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand), 13.5%, €25.18 (was 31.50) Karwig Wines.
Before we even get to the contents, there are two things to note here. The grape is called Syrah and the closure is screw-cap. Don't think I’ve ever twisted a cap off a wine as old. In France, the grape is called Syrah. Elsewhere this ever popular grape is known as Shiraz unless the winemaker, as here, is aiming for the more restrained French style.

A small amount of Viognier (c. 2%) has been used here. The term for this, according to Grapes and Wines, is co-fermentation and says it “gives not just perfume but some extra silkiness of texture”. Syrah itself is, of course, a great blender, most famously in the Rhone where it mixes so well with Grenache and Mourvèdre (shorthand: GSM).

This Bilancia (balance) has a purple colour, aromas of ripe fruit, a little pepper. There is a gorgeous elegant mouthfeel, flavours (mainly plum) and spice; lives up to its name with perfect balance and harmony, good finish too. Highly Recommended. 

The Leheny Gibson mentioned on the front label refers to two people, winemakers Lorraine Leheny and Warren Gibson who first released their wines in 1998.

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2012 (Padthaway, Australia), 14.5%, €16.75 Karwig Wines

This juicy vibrant wine is Shiraz rather than Syrah. Purple is the colour and there in the aromas you'll find ripe red fruits and some spice too. Juicy and vibrant on the palate, fine tannins, oak well integrated, well balanced and easy drinking. Excellent on its own, great too, they suggest, “with food and friends”. Highly Recommended.

Jip Jip Rocks is one of three Bryson family vineyards in the area; the others are Morambro Creek and Mt Monster, who also produce Shiraz. By the way, Jip Jip is well known too for its sparkling shiraz. Quite a few Australian vineyards produce a sparkling shiraz.

David Bryson told me in Cork a few years back that this still Shiraz is their main seller. It is a 100% Shiraz, 100% Padthaway wine with “a lot of vineyard character..a bottle of serious fun…,approachable”.

The Jip Jip rocks have existed for 350 million years and the striking outcrop is sacred to Aboriginal beliefs.

Pielow’s Shiraz 2012, (Tulbagh, Western Cape, South Africa), 14.5%, €17.95 Karwig Wines

Colour is a deep purple, dark fruit aromas plus oak. Quite a lively palate of dark berry fruit flavours, and vanilla; tannins well rounded. No shortage of power here yet it is well balanced with a decent finish. Juicy steaks, barbecued meats and spare ribs are suggested as matches. This is very much a New World Shiraz and is Recommended!

Colin and Teresa Pielow, formerly chef proprietors of two Irish restaurants (including one in Cobh), came to to South Africa a few years back and settled in the beautiful Tulbagh valley in the Cape Winelands. The property where they established and planted their own vineyard has produced this Pielow's Shiraz which is still in their ownership. They have returned to Ireland and opened Pielows Restaurant in Cabinteely where, of course, you may enjoy this fruit-driven Shiraz!

Pielow’s wines are available from:
Pielow's Restaurant, 2 Main Street, Cabinteely, Dublin 18, Ireland
Tel: 01 284 0914 Email:
Karwig Wines, Carrigaline, Co.Cork.
Tel: 021 437 4159 Email:
Mitchell & Son, Glasthule, 54 Glasthule Road, Glasthule Co. Dublin
Tel: 01 230 2301 Email:
Avoca Food Market, (stocked by Mitchell & Son), Kilmacanogue. Co. Wicklow
Tel: 01 274 6900 Web:

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Wines of Springfield Estate. Unfiltered. Unfined. Oozing Class!

The Wines of Springfield Estate.
Unfiltered. Unfined. Oozing Class!
Springfield Estate “The Work of Time” 2008, Robertson Valley (Western Cape, South Africa).

The Wines of South Africa's Springfield Estate are unfiltered, unfined, unstabilised. No pumps. No crushers. So how does this 2008 Bordeaux blend stack up? Brilliantly! And I'm not the only one impressed. In the latest edition of the Hugh Johnson Pocket Wine Book, the Springfield wines are lauded: “All ooze class, personality.”

The blend is Cabernet Franc (31%), Merlot (30), Cabernet Sauvignon (25) and Petit Verdot (14). They made their “maiden” vintage in 2001 from specially planted vines that were then nine years old.

This is how they produced the 2008: Grapes fermented whole (according to our ancient custom) and left for five weeks on their skins. A slow 2 years of barrel maturation followed and a further 4 years of bottle maturation. Finally, we released this wine, rich, classic and complex from age - of vines and wine. This long wait, justified only by our passion, does bear fruit. Its called “The Work of Time”.
Three of my Christmas five

In the aromas there is an immediately attractive mix of dark fruits (berries,plums) and the superb first impression is maintained on the palate, a delicious mix of fruit and spice, a fresh and lively personality, really well-balanced fine tannins too and a long finalé. Very Highly Recommended.
Springfield is a fairly common Irish placename. I live in one such and had over the years toyed with the idea of getting my hands on some wines from Springfield Estate. This Christmas (2015) I did something about it  and, as you can read, it proved to be something of an eye-opener! (Next year? Well, I notice there is an English sparkling wine called Mayfield!).

In a Cork connection (admittedly a rather roundabout one), the family that run Springfield Estate is the 4th generation of Huguenot refugees that left the Loire (with bundles of vines) in 1688. This particular group headed to South Africa while others made their way to Cork. And there is another Cork connection as Springfield's Jeanette Bruwer visited Cork a few years back and indeed gave a tasting during a class in the Ballymaloe Cookery School.

Thanks to the hard-working brother and sister team of Abrie and Jeanette, and using a combination of sometimes risky winemaking techniques (natural wild yeast for example), traditional methods and modern technology, Springfield produces a wine they are proud to call their own. Made on honour, as the bottle states. “Our honour is our conscience.” We need more producers like this, and not just in wine. An amazing story and you may read more of it here.

In all, I've tasted five of their wines recently including a pair of Sauvignon blanc. “Life from Stone” is one and, as the name suggests, this has a clean minerality about it. The other, “Special Cuvée” is more fruity and floral.

The Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon is another gem, intense, juicy and easy-drinking. Didn't make too many notes on these as we had them at the Christmas dinner. The rich creamy Wild Yeast Chardonnay was another that went down well on the day.

This beautifully balanced Bordeaux blend though is the star and Very Highly Recommended as indeed are the remarkable people behind Springfield Estate. The wines are imported by Classic Drinks.
Abrie and Jeanette Bruwer

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sparkling and Still on Skype. Wine Geese on the World Wide Web.

Sparkling and Still on Skype.
Wine Geese on the World Wide Web.
Dermot Sugrue, at home in Wiston, talks to the tasters in Cork
A Decanter Gold Medal winner was among the wines featured at a novel international tasting based at L’Atitude 51 (Cork) last Friday as part of the nationwide Culture Night. The work of three of the younger generation of Ireland's Wine Geese was celebrated with the winemakers talking about their vineyards (in Sussex, South Africa and New Zealand), telling us all in L’Atitude about their various wines as we sipped them in Cork and watched the winemakers on Skype (big screen, bien sur).

Beverly Mathews, Colm McCann and Maurice O'Mahony, who organised the 2013 series of Wine Geese visits, were behind this venture, the first public internet wine-tasting in Ireland, and the speakers on the other side of Skype were Dermot Sugrue (Wiston Estates, Sussex), Marion Smith (Elgin Ridge, South Africa) and Fleur McCree (Little Beauty, New Zealand).

Dermot, a Limerick man, had wanted to be a winemaker since he was 16 but it was some thirteen years later before he started a Viticulture and Winemaking Course in England's Plumpton College. His progress was astonishingly rapid thereafter, much like the English sparkling wine industry, and his Wiston wines are regular award winners.

Wiston Estate vineyards are on pure chalk soil, just like in Champagne… This gives finesse, aging potential and a certain Je ne sais quoi. They are showing so beautiful, though still so young. And are in the top restaurants in the UK."

We tasted two. First up was the Blanc de Blancs NV. This has been voted the best in England. “It has a sense of richness that belies its youth. It is one hundred per cent Chardonnay, mostly 2011 plus reserve from 2010 and has spent 18 months on its lees.”

He described the Rosé 2011 as “a freak of nature”. The year was unbelievably warm, a poor Spring but a great Summer that extended into September eventually yielding very ripe grapes. “An accidental Rosé, our most successful wine, still very young and so exuberant early on.

“That exuberance is now fading and it is maturing into a sour cherry type. From over one hundred English sparkling wines, this Rosé has won one of just Decanter three golds.” It may be a freak of nature but Dermot hopes to replicate it in 2014. This year has been similar in many respects to 2011 and fingers are crossed for the harvest next month.

Marion, in the vineyard
Next stop was Elgin Ridge in South Africa and here we met Marion Smith (right) from Ballyjamesduff - her cousins still run the family farm there. The farming goes on at Elgin Ridge and Marian is the largest breeder of Dexter cattle (the native Irish breed) in the Western Cape. Sheep “mow” the grass between the vines. Elgin Ridge is organic.

The Dexters
But there were no vines there when Marion and her husband Brian arrived about eight years back. The farm had lain idle for some time and that made it easier to go organic. “We are living the dream and have wonderful workers here.” 

As she spoke the vineyard behind rapidly fell into total darkness. “I miss the long bright evenings sitting out in Ireland”, she said and invited anyone visiting in the area to drop in and see them. Be sure and take a look at the website. It is a gorgeous place, so many animals.

We tasted their 282 Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyard is 282 metres above sea level and the vines benefit from the cool afternoon breeze and the proximity of the ocean. It is a different style of Sauvignon Blanc with a beautiful freshness.

Fleur McCree, whose ancestors (the Cox family) hail from Passage West, is a serious winemaker but is always game for a laugh. We were thanking her for getting up early in Marlborough until she pulled the curtain behind her and showed us the Tower Bridge in London. Fleur spends much of her time on the road selling her gorgeous Little Beauty wines.

Marlborough is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc but this time we were tasting Little Beauty’s Pinot Gris. “We have a tiny strip of Pinot Gris. ..The bad weather doesn't get to the East Coast … We have huge sunshine hours and not much rain… Hot by day, cold by night is good for Pinot Gris.”

"It is a prolific grower, too much so, too much fruit is no good! You must discipline the variety, quite hard - cut the bunches by hand! It is also thick-skinned and that stops the sunshine getting through. So open up the canopy to aid ripening. The fruit is hand harvested and it is gentle handling all the way after that".

“The aromas are herbaceous, stone fruits (peaches, nectarines). It is almost creamy, hints of mild spice. Notice that textured element when you lick your lips and inside your mouth. It is an interesting wine from a sensation perspective, oily and concentrated. It is better served not so cold as it then expresses itself better, not so shy. It is a very popular variety, very approachable.” It sure is. One of the best of its kind as far as I am concerned!

“What would you pair it with?”, somebody queried.
“With your cornflakes,” came the rapid reply. “One of your five a day!”.  She did go on to say Asian, particularly Asian with nuts, peanut Satay is her own favourite. She also recommended Pork belly with chilli and garlic etc or maybe pork roast with apricots.

And then she pulled that curtain, bringing this innovative long distance tasting to an end.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Val de Vie’s Barista 2009 Pinotage


Val de Vie’s Barista 2009 Pinotage, South Africa, 14%, Bradley’s Off Licence, €12.99.
This is a great excuse to call to Bradley's, if you ever need one!
Colour is a dark red and the nose gives up dark red fruit, the bite of plum skins for me, and the famous "rush" of coffee. On the palate, you also find those dark red fruits, also pomegranate and cherry, and that coffee which, remember, is also a fruit.
The deliberately induced coffee (see video) element has led directly to this wine being labelled Barista. Despite that and the lingering dodgy past reputation of the Pinotage grape (“A love it or hate it” – Mr Oz Clarke’s summation), there is nothing to be afraid of here.
This is what Hugh Johnson terms Pinotage Mark 11 and the evolution means there is nothing preventing you from making a call to the iconic North Main Street store, founded in 1850. Where half the world goes anyhow. Massive selection of drinks, just about as many languages.
The coffee in this version by Val de Vie (not by any means the first of its kind) is far from being a dominant factor and there are tannins enough to give a well balanced and quite mature mouthful for a 2009.
In this video , you will see Val de Vie MD Bertus Fourie. His favourite accompaniment “remains a blue cheese-filled brandy snap, with Belgian chocolate and roasted coffee beans”. Didn't have anything that exotic on hand on the football-less Wednesday but there were some high class chocs. Tried them out. Neither the chocs nor the wine were improved by the combining but neither deteriorated either.