Kaapzicht pinotage at a South African braai

During the recent World Cup fervor I attended a good old-fashioned South African braai sponsored by the Wines of South Africa at the Orangery in Kew Gardens. I’ve recently become a bit of a convert to South African wines and will even drink, *gasp* pinotage. However, it can’t be any pinotage, I do have my standards you know, and it has to be a pinotage with some age on it. I’ve found that pinotages that are from 2007 or older show much better then the young ones. Young pinotages often have that smokey, burnt, pongy quality that put me off of them in the first place and I think they need a few years to mellow out into a more drinkable wine. There were a variety of South Africa’s finest on show, both red and white but the one that took my fancy was the 2007 Kaapzicht  pinotage. Kaapzicht means “cape view” and the vineyards are situated in the shadow of Table Mountain in the Stellenbosh wine region of South Africa. The winery is in the Bottelary Hills of Stollenbosch and benefits from an ideal climate to grow grapes as well as cool sea breezes and north-west facing slopes. The vines that the Kaapzicht pinotage comes from are gnarled old vines that produce low yielding intensely concentrated red wines. The 2007 pinotage was a hugely enjoyable wine. I have to admit, I found it hard to believe that it was a pinotage at first as it was not smokey or burnt but rather fresh and full of very ripe berry fruit on the nose and palate. It had some lovely toasty notes to it, reminiscent of cedar box and tobacco. At the braii, we had ostrich burgers and other exotic meats and I found this wine to be the best match to go with all those exotic meats. I’d never had ostrich before so it was a new experience for me. Not gamey but not steaky, I’m not sure how to describe it other...

read more

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...

read more

Warwick Estate, S. African wine I like!

“Denise, there has been a slight change in our lunch plans today. Could you please call us? ” That was the first voice mail that greeted me on a recent Monday morning. I knew it was all that damn Icelandic volcano’s fault even before I returned the call. I was supposed to be attending a tasting and lunching with a Burgundy white wine producer that afternoon but I had a niggling feeling that lunch was going to have to be rescheduled due to the flight ban caused by the volcanic ash spewing into European air space. Rebecca,the PR rep, was very apologetic and to make up for the cancelled lunch offered me a lunch and tasting with James Dare, the stranded marketing director  of South African winery, Warwick Estate as a substitute. Much as the French winemaker couldn’t fly in, no one could fly out. James was stuck here until flights resumed. I’d gone from  a white Burgundy lunch to a S.African lunch in the space of two seconds. I was a bit hesitant because as many of you may know, I’m not a big fan of S.African wines but agreed because lately I have had some positive SA wine experiences and was curious to see what Warwick Estate had to offer. Lunch was at the delightful Islington restaurant, Frederick’s just off the high street. Walking in, it’s an oasis of calm with a lovely garden which is where we were seated. We sat down and James proceeded to give me a brief history of Warwick Estate as well as the Stellenbosch region since I wasn’t very well informed on the whole region.  Originally a fruit farm, in 1902 it was bought by Colonel Willam Alexander Gordon of the Warwickshire Regiment, converted into a vineyard and renamed Warwick Estate in honour of the regiment.  In 1964 the estate was bought by Stan and Norma Ratcliffe. The couple decided to plant cabernet. At first the grapes produced were sold to neighbouring wineries but Norma found...

read more

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...

read more
%d bloggers like this: