Octogenarian Spatz Sperling of Delheim calls the current state of SA wine the worst he’s seen in 60 years of farming in the Cape. Producers are being squeezed until their pips squeak as exports tank and whisky whacks bragging brands in bars and nightclubs. One man’s meat etc. means this is music to the ears of canny consumers as quality has never been better. Last month I vouchsafed my summer drinking options for both hedonist and hoarder to the readers of the Financial Mail.
When I was a schoolboy in Boksburg, spring would be announced by the opening of public swimming pools. Now that my waistline makes a speedo look like a Chinese pull-through, I welcome spring with the popping of wine corks. This year at the Meridian trade tasting at the Park Hyatt and the Soweto Wine Festival in Diepkloof. Spending the night at the superb Soweto Hotel in Kliptown afterwards, was my contribution to responsible drinking.
Top of my white pops at Meridian was the single vineyard 2011 Sauvignon Blanc called Koetshuis from De Grendel at R85. Although quite how it can be a single vineyard wine when half the grapes come from Darling and half from David Graaff’s Durbanville farm is not clear. Perhaps the farms are located on a Möbius strip. Anyway, extended contact of the juice with its fine lees has produced a wine of wonderful concentration with a rich creamy mouth-feel. A million miles away from those overly acidic Sauvignons that keep Rennies antacid wafers in business. The normal De Grendel Sauvignon Blanc 2010 for R65 is not too shabby, either, having benefited from a little bottle age. de Grendel winemaker Chas. Hopkins later phoned to correct the claim that the Koetshuis is a single vineyard wine – it isn’t.
In Soweto, Wendy Appelbaum’s belle époque beauty, the De Morgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2010 (R160) impressed. Nostalgic packaging (designed by WA) and nostalgic flavours (designed by Dave King’s former Quoin Rock winemaker Carl van der Merwe now employed by Wendy) are real Toulouse Lautrec stuff and probably what Raymond Chandler had in mind when he had his bishop kicking a hole in a stained glass window. This wine is so atmospheric, it would have been a shoo-in as product placement in Woody Allen’s latest entertainment Midnight in Paris. A big and bold wine, it doesn’t have the huge dollop of residual sugar to frighten type-II diabetics.
Fitting-in in Soweto like a pork chop in Palestine, blonde bombshell Johann de Wet was self-confident charm itself as he poured bother Peter’s terrific De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2011 (R64) for the funky black diamonds of Diepkloof. “I went to Maponya Mall and although I felt out of place, everyone was very friendly.” An unwooded Chardonny with fresh chalky flavours, this hill is the epitome of elegance in a varietal too often overwooded.
If you insist on Chardonnay with your wood, then the De Wetshof The Site 2011 single vineyard Chardonnay is good value at R112. Made from the vineyard that previously supplied grapes for Danie de Wet’s pride and joy, called Bataleur, rumour has it a change of name to emphasize terroir will secure a five star rating in this year’s Platter wine guide. Who said that sighted tasting weren’t fair?
Meanwhile lovers of spicy cuisine may wish to consider Peter Finlayson’s Kaaimansgat Chardonnay 2010 (R114) which has enough oomph to handle the curry buffet curated by chef Kevin Joseph at the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks. By the time you order, Umhlanga waiters will hopefully have got over Prince Albert of Monaco’s R100 tip on a R5000 bill for lunch during his recent honeymoon.
For something different, Pinot Grigio is the fastest growing white in the UK and the tangy 2011 from Flat Roof Manor at R38 proves why. For a more serious interpretation, Charles Hopkins’ De Grendel 2011 has lashings of tropical fruits and a whole basket of granny smith apples for R75.
White blends still push out the boat for many wine lovers and the Limestone Kilns 2010 from Darling Cellars is a well priced example at R99. Although it may rhyme with Johann’s Limestone Hills, it’s a far more complex affair with only 22% Chardonnay. Two thirds of the blend is old bush vine Chenin Blanc from Darling which winemaker Abé Beukes credits with supplying balance. Excitement comes in the shape of an 11% Viognier component which adds fine tannins and makes this an excellent food wine. Treble the price and you’re in the big leagues with André van Rensburg and his 2009 Vergelegen Flagship White 2:1 blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, a masterclass in elegance and refined flavours from the SA pioneer of this style.