Diemersfontein pinotage

Jun 09, 10 Diemersfontein pinotage

Posted by in South Africa

Lately, I’ve been drinking some very good South African wine. S.A. wines used to be my whipping boy of wines. To say I was not a fan would be an understatement. I don’t know if it’s because of the World Cup or maybe it’s just we’re now getting better S.A. wines here in England but whatever it is, I’m pleased by the result. Diemersfontein Wines is known as one of the best pinotage producers around. We met owner David Sonneberg at the Le Meridien Hotel in Piccadilly to taste his pinotages as well as his other red and white wines. David says pinotage is like Marmite, either you love it or you hate it. I love Marmite but I’ve never quite gotten around to liking pinotage. Pinotage is uniquely South African, developed there by a professor who wanted a grape that could withstand the South African climate. He crossed cinsault and pinot noir to come up with pinotage. We tried the Diemersfontein 2007 pinotage and the 2009 pinotage. David’s pinotages are different from the rest in that he aims to produce pinotages that have chocolate and coffee flavours and aromas. He came onto the scene in 2001 with his pinotage and that flavour profile has gained his pinotages quite a following.  I quite liked the 2007 pinotage. Give a wine a bit of age and it can do wonders for it. This pinotage while still showing some smoky coffee, had loads of cherries and blueberries, sweet vanilla and dark chocolate to it with lots of nice round tannins at work. Finally a pinotage that didn’t make me instantly wrinkle my nose as soon as I smelled it. Pinotage is often accused of having burnt, pongy flavours and while David’s wines did not have a pongy character to them, the 2009 was overpoweringly smoky. Give this one a few years to mellow out. Of his whites, the best was certainly the Diemersfontein 2008 chenin blanc. Chenin is another varietal that South Africa seems to be...

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Chenin blancs at Tsuru

My move to Dalston and the opening of Tsuru Sushi in nearby Bishopsgate were purely coincidental but I’m sure glad they happened at the same time. Tsuru has become one of my fav local eateries not only because they do delicious and affordable sushi and katsu curry but also because they have a small but exciting wine list. Emma Reynolds, one of the partners running Tsuru, thinks that wine can be a great partner for Japanese food and is always on the lookout for new and different wines to put on the list. If it doesn’t work, she just takes it off and tries another. I asked her about sake sales the other day and she said that in Bishopsgate Tsuru, at least, customers were far more interested in wine then sake. So there are some new wines on the list, this time 3 chenin blancs from the AC Montlouis. Until 1938, Montlouis was part of the Vourvray AC but they saw fit to part ways back then and nowadays in Montlouis a band of young winemakers are taking the grapes of Montlouis and turning them into some very good wine. The wines of Le Rocher des Violettes are made by the Frenchman Xavier Weisskopf. Originally, Xavier wanted to make wine in Burgundy, having worked in Beaune with Claude Marechal but those old bugbears, lack of money and very pricy French real estate put his Burgundy dreams to bed and he opted for Montlouis. He bought 7 hectares of very old vines and got to work. His wine making techniques border on the biodynamic but he can’t be bothered with all the rigamarole and bureaucratic mischief that goes with being certified so he’s settled for the organic label. Xavier does wonders with chenin blanc. I was quite impressed with his Le Rocher Des Violettes, Petillan Originel 2007 (£26), a sparkling wine that has no dosage but bottled with about 16g/l of residual sugar. The yeasts are left to ferment but not disgorged so that...

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Wine in a (peli)can

Last week was the London International Wine Fair and what a fair! I love going to this event. Checking out all the new products, finding new wines, revisting old favorites, talking to producers  or just admiring the sleek bottles, artfully arranged, sparkling under the Excel Center lights. Walking into that place, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Remember that scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when the kids are let loose in the candy garden? I know exactly how those kids felt.  I didn’t know where to turn or which stand to go to first. It really can be a bit heart-stopping. First stop was a Friui tasting seminar that I’d signed up for earlier in the week. Lately I’ve been really interested in  Italian wines so I thought this would be an interesting seminar. It would have been if the speaker didn’t insist on speaking in a heavily accented dry monotone. The Friulis, from Northern Italy were mostly light and fruity with a striking tone of  minerality that I really enjoyed running thru all the samples we tasted. The most interesting thing that I came across from the show was the new brand Wild Pelican, wine in a can. According to their website, …”Our aim was to differentiate from the wine in cans already on the market…by taking a consumer perspective…creating a brand that allows (them) to explore some of the best wines…” in the world. So far, so good. What’s differentiates this brand from others, is that the wines are still, not sparkling. Caroline, the rep, gave me a couple of cans to take home and try. I have to admit, it’s a bit unsettling to pop open a can of wine but once it’s poured into the glass, you’d never know the difference. These are very well made wines. The first was a chenin blanc from S. Africa. Now, you know I’m not a big fan of S. African wines but this one was clean and...

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South Africa – not yet

Being from sunny California, I never really understood the Beatles’ song, “Here comes the sun” until I moved to England. Now I get it. The sun came out today and it definitely put a spring in my step. Out on the golf course today, I thought, life’s not so bad now, is it? I can’t say the same for S. African wine. I really try hard to like them but they still have a long way to go as far as I’m concerned. I was reading a review in a magazine the other day and I couldn’t agree more: rubbery, green, and with a certain “pong” (whatever that means). What it means to me is green, stalky and extremely aggressive. We featured 4 wines for a tasting in my shop on Saturday and here are my thoughts. Sticking your nose in a glass of S. African red is like being punched in the face with a plastic glove and not one of those thin surgical gloves but one of those big honking yellow ones you use to do the dishes. The merlot tasted like overcooked prunes and the pinotage, while marginally more palatable still tasted like overcooked berry jam. Too much oak, too much jammy fruit, not enough balance. I sampled the pinotage throughout the day and by closing time, I pronounced, “It’s growing on me.” My colleague replied, “Stop trying to make yourself like it, you don’t.” He was right. The whites didn’t fare much better. The chardonnay- overoaked to the nth degree, desperately searching for fruit, again out of balance. Dry chenin blanc is one variety that seems to be finding a place in S.Africa but it still has a way to go. The chenin blanc started out with a lovely banana and guava nose which carried onto the palate but then it just evaporated. One customer observed that there wasn’t much there and I’d have to agree with her. These wines were mid-priced but even on the high end, you’d be...

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