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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2004-09-8)

Vinimark is a Stellenbosch-based firm which markets locally and abroad the products of many distinguished Cape cellars, and its annual media and trade tasting was held recently at the Sun Coast Casino, Durban.

About 150 wines from 31 producers were available for tasting, a feast for the discriminating palate and a temptation for the incautious and greedy. The wine regions represented included Stellenbosch, Paarl, Robertson, Helderberg, Tulbagh and Wellington, and almost every style of South African wine was on the list.

What struck me at the end of my restricted sampling was the high quality of the wines, and the good value of most of them. Good value does not necessarily mean inexpensive. The Jean Daneel Signature Chenin Blanc 2003 is an example. Jean Daneel has been around the Cape winelands for a long time and now runs his own cellar at Franschhoek. This prize-winning chenin blanc is absolutely brilliant, with melon, apple, peach and honey flavours and aromas. It is lovely by itself and it would go well with most foods. The price is just under R50 a bottle, not cheap for a white wine but reasonable for something of this quality.

Another exceptional white was the Chardonnay 2002 from Glen Carlou Vineyards at Paarl, owned by Walter and David Finlayson and a Swiss company. This is another elite cellar, and the chardonnay turned out to be a delicious melange of lime, melon, spicy, paw-paw flavours, and reasonable value at R56 a bottle, not a wine that you would drink every day but one for the special occasion.

Flagstone Winery at Somerset West is a relative newcomer; its first wines appeared five years ago. In that short time it has built a high reputation, one well justified by its Free Run Sauvignon Blanc 2004, an intense, strongly-flavoured sauvignon with the gooseberry and asparagus features typical of this cultivar, and much else besides. Price: R47 a bottle.

Wines from the Robertson area usually offer good value, and the Rooiberg Winery, which was established 40 years ago, is no exception. I tried the Rooiberg Cabernet-Merlot 2003 and found it very good, elegant, with a plummy, berry character. Red wines are expensive these days. Here is a quality oak-matured blend that goes for about R23 a bottle.

Twee Jonge Gezellen at Tulbagh is an estate that goes back 300 years, and in the modern era it produced its first wine nearly 70 years ago. It is owned by the Krone family, and its Krone Borealis sparking wine is the cellar’s star turn in more ways than one --- it is named after a constellation. It is a brilliant, prize-winning bubbly, made from chardonnay and pinot noir, the grapes that are used for the classic champagnes of France.

It seems a pity that in terms of international agreements one is not allowed to call this Cape champagne. The truth is that it costs here about one-fifth of the price of imported champagne, about R48 a bottle, and most people, experts included, would never be able to tell the difference. – Michael Green




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