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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2004-10-26)

In spite of the strong rand, South African wine exports have more than held their own this year. Su Birch, chief executive of the export organisation Wines of South Africa, says that Cape wines have show growth in value and volume market share in Britain and have also done well in Germany, Sweden and the United States.

She expects total exports to grow by at least 14 percent on last year’s figure of 237 million litres, instead of the 11 percent initially projected. Last year volume grew 10 percent on 2002.

She said: “After 10 years of international trading, South African wines have come into their own among consumers in Europe.”

The market leaders in Britain are Australia and France. This year South Africa has moved up a notch to fourth place, edging Italy into fifth position.

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Most wines of high quality cost money, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to enjoy a prize-winning wine. Blue White Chenin Blanc, the wine that some years ago was one of the first to open South Africans’ eyes to the possibilities of quality chenin, has won a Veritas Double Gold award. It is a high honour; only 47 Double Golds were awarded and 1,567 wines were entered for this competition.

The winning Blue White is a 1998 vintage, and Frans Botha, co-owner with Irina von Holdt of the Old Vines cellar which produces Blue White, says: “What I find amazing is that this wine received a Bronze Veritas award in 1999 and now, five years later, has received a Double Gold. This really is a tribute to the ability of a well-structured chenin to add complexity from bottle maturation”.

Speaking at the awards dinner, Cape Wine Master Bennie Howard said the 2004 results for chenin blanc were exceptional. This cultivar won seven double golds and eight golds.

The Old Vines cellar has released a limited amount of the 1998 Blue White vintage and it sells at about R45 a bottle. Other vintages of this fine wine should, of course, be available.

Also good value is the Longridge Bayview Pinotage. The 2003 vintage of this wine won a trophy at the Absa Top Ten Pinotage Competition, and the 2002 vintage is currently available at a recommended retail price of R47.

The wine is described as having sweet cherry aromas, hints of mulberry and whiffs of leather and spice. It was matured in a combination of American and French oak barrels. – Michael Green




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