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Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Jun 22, 2016
Vino Fino

From the tastings: South Africa with Jeannine McCullum

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We had a minor panic on the Monday when Martin Cahnbley who was scheduled to host our South African tasting called to say he was in hospital in Auckland and wouldn't be able to make it down to present the wines. Luckily he was able to call on his Wellington agent, Jeannine McCullum who was a more than worthy replacement. Unbelievably, this was the first time in over 20 years of hosting tastings that this has happened. 

The wines of South Africa remain a mystery to most of us, with only a small number of producers seen in NZ. However, thanks to the efforts of Martin (South African by birth) who has been importing South African wines into NZ since the early 2000's, we are now seeing some of the interesting, new innovative wines alongside the more traditional. It is quite evident that there is a bit of a winemaking revolution happening in South Africa where young, innovative winemakers have been going into some of the less fashionable areas in the Cape region and reclaiming old, bush grown vines and producing some head-turning wines. Names such as Reyneke and Sadie have been getting huge raps in the world press and it was our first opportunity to see these producers. Tonight we tasted through a very interesting range of styles - Chenin Blancs for the whites and a big variation in red wine styles. South Africa is now proving to be a very worthy source of note worthy wines.
   
I have also included some background information on the wineries with the taste notes.

We had a minor panic on the Monday when Martin Cahnbley who was scheduled to host our South African tasting called to say he was in hospital in Auckland and wouldn't be able to make it down to present the wines. Luckily he was able to call on his Wellington agent, Jeannine McCullum who was a more than worthy replacement. Unbelievably, this was the first time in over 20 years of hosting tastings that this has happened. 

The wines of South Africa remain a mystery to most of us, with only a small number of producers seen in NZ. However, thanks to the efforts of Martin (South African by birth) who has been importing South African wines into NZ since the early 2000's, we are now seeing some of the interesting, new innovative wines alongside the more traditional. It is quite evident that there is a bit of a winemaking revolution happening in South Africa where young, innovative winemakers have been going into some of the less fashionable areas in the Cape region and reclaiming old, bush grown vines and producing some head-turning wines. Names such as Reyneke and Sadie have been getting huge raps in the world press and it was our first opportunity to see these producers. Tonight we tasted through a very interesting range of styles - Chenin Blancs for the whites and a big variation in red wine styles. South Africa is now proving to be a very worthy source of note worthy wines.
   
I have also included some background information on the wineries with the taste notes.


Vino Fino

Wolftrap White Blend 2014     
Viognier 48 %, Chenin Blanc 41%, Grenache Blanc 11%
The Wolf Trap label is the ‘entry level’ label of Boekenhoutskloof. The home vineyard was first established in 1776 at the edge of the valley in Franschhoek, Western Cape. Restored and its vineyards re-planted in 1993, it is one of the leading names of South African wine.
The Viognier comes through on the palate first, showing some richness and hints of apricot with the Chenin Blanc adding citrus/apple notes and a honey tone. Medium weighted with a hint of oak. Fruity and juicy.
Retail $21.99   Special $18.99
 
Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2015      
Mullineux Family Wines was established in 2007. The grapes come from vineyard parcels of around 40 year old vines on a variety of soils in different parts of the Swartland. The wine is part tank and part barrel fermented.
This is classic Chenin Blanc – A great combination of crisp and dry freshness, with lanolin, waxy, mushroom notes.  There is plenty of drive through the palate with a nice mineral finish.
Retail $29.99   Special $25.99
 
Reyneke Organic Chenin Blanc 2014 
Reyneke are one of the new stars of South Africa with people like Jancis Robinson, Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator raving about them. The first South African winery to be certified Bio-dynamic, the Chenin Blanc is harvested from a single vineyard on the Reyneke farm, located in the Polkadraai Hills to the west of Stellenbosch. The vineyards are the oldest on the farm, being in excess of 44 years old and are located on a combination of decomposed granitic loam on a clay sub-soil. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed by foot before light settling and then fermented in a combination of 300l second-fill French oak barrels and a 2500l foudre. The wine was then aged on its lees for 13 months before three further months ageing in stainless steel tank before bottling. Made as naturally as possible.
This is quite a textural wine with plenty of minerality, hints of corruption, chalkiness along with toasty vanillin oak and apple, lime, white flower flavours. Should cellar well.
Retail $41.99   Special $36.99
 
The Sadie Family Skurfberg Chenin Blanc 2014 (Swartland)  
“Some say he has changed the face of South African wine. Others describe him as a reluctant guru, and his wines as the holy grails for wine aficionados. But everyone agrees Eben Sadie is one of the great visionaries in the new generation of South African winemakers. His approach is to be as natural as possible .. 'Nothing should ever be added. No ego, nor any other element. All you need is the fruit you pick, and this fruit should be from sound, healthy and natural vineyards. The perfect grape is enough for wine.' 
This wine blends Chenin Blanc from old bushvine parcels on three farms on the slopes of the Skurfberg (“rugged mountains”) between Clanwilliam and Lamberts Bay in the Olifants River Region. They are immaculately farmed properties, which have not been subjected to herbicide or chemical fertilisers by the current farmers. Most of the soils in the area are of decomposed sandstone, and very sandy. Rainfall is low – these vines have had to be tough to survive without irrigation. Together the three low-yielding parcels represent the possibilities of the area, each offering something unique to the complexity of the whole. The one site has huge and aromatic fruit concentration; the second offers an earthy character and minerality, and the third (the highest, and closest to the Atlantic) retains amazing acidity and freshness. The three parcels of fruit were vinified separately. They were basket-pressed and then transferred directly to old casks where natural fermentation took place. We blended them after 12 months, and then left them to age another six months before bottling them directly from the old casks. Unfined and unfiltered – decanting recommended”.

Quite a special wine – golden fruits, earth and old wax that lasts and lasts on the palate.
Retail $67.99   Special $59.99
 
The Sadie Family Soldaat Grenache Noir 2014          
Neal Martin in Parker’s Wine Advocate described Eben Sadie’s wines as “Cerebral wines, built to last.” This wine really typifies that statement. This old, unirrigated vineyard was planted at around 708 metres of altitude in decomposed granite soil with a slight easterly slope on the Piekenierskloof Pass – quite a unique site.
A very pale, translucent slightly hazy garnet colour shows that this is on the elegant and refined side of Grenache with a nod more to Burgundy than something big and ripe from Spain or South Australia. A wine that challenges perceptions with its power not being in brute, but personality and intrigue. It certainly divided the room but its character and floral aroma and strawberry, chocolate, earthy spice flavours are memorable.  
Retail $78.99   Special $69.99

Mullineux Kloof Street Rouge 2014     
This is a Mediterranean style red blend based on Syrah (86%) with other varieties including Grenache and even a bit of Tinta Barroca (Port variety). This has a touch of the old world and new world. Darkly coloured, with primary purple fruits, a touch of spice and a juicy finish.  
Retail $29.99   Special $25.99
 
Reyneke Biodynamic Syrah 2013  
The Syrah undergoes a traditional style fermentation in concrete Nomblot tanks, incorporating 35% whole bunches which are foot crushed. Spontaneous, natural fermentation occurs with minimal punch down and pump over’s. The wine spends 12 to 14 days on the skins before being racked into a combination of a 2500L Foudre and older French oak barrels for 13 months maturation.
Jancis Robinson in her Wines of the Week...." I was especially enthusiastic about Reyneke Biodynamic Syrah 2013 Stellenbosch for its interest, charm and obvious integrity. I found it especially winning and attractive but also wonderfully wholesome. 
I gave it the massive (for me) score of 17 out of 20."

A dark dense wine that is quite a contrast to the bright freshness of the Kloof Street. This is a dense, brooding, masculine wine with a mineral/saline streak. Dutch liquorice, bacon fat, hint of earth/barnyard (in a good way) finishing a fine long length.  
Retail $37.99   Special $33.99
 
Thelema Shiraz 2012 (Stellenbosch)  
Recognised as one of the Stars of the Stellenbosch. Established in 1983 on the slopes of the Simonsberg in Stellenbosch by Gyles Webb, it is still a family run operation.
This is much more in the “Australian Shiraz” style with vanilla, ripe blue/black fruits with hints of jam. Plenty of weight and density.
Retail  $41.99  Special $36.99
 
Kaapzicht Cabernet Sauvignon 2010  
The family run Kaapzicht (Cape View) Wine Estate covers 174 hectares in the Bottelary Ward in the Stellenbosch district.  This is quite a big wine and as such the winery bottle age the wine for a couple of years before release. Aged in French oak (50% new) for 24 months. A dark colour with blackcurrant, tobacco leaf, black olive flavours bound by ripe tannins and a balanced, full bodied palate. Will continue to age well.
The most popular wine of the evening.  
Retail  $36.99  Special $32.99
 
Kanonkop Pinotage 2013        
Kanonkop is a fourth generation family estate, situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch Region of the Cape. Pinotage is the red variety that South Africa is traditionally known. Kanonkop make only red wines and are renown for their traditional styles – fermentation is all in small open top concrete vats and the fruit comes from old 50-60 yo, unirrigated bush vines, from 8 different plots. Aged for 16mths in 75% new French oak.
Deep and brooding – tar, coffee, cedary oak. A big wine that has the Pinotage ‘tang’ but has complexity and is also velvety rich. Will cellar 10 -20 years.
Retail  $68.99  Special $61.99