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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES No.132 (article first published : 2005-06-20)

Tulbagh, 130 km north-east of Cape Town at the foot of the Winterhoek mountains, is a pretty town that is slightly off the beaten track. It is well north of the Nl freeway from Cape Town to Johannesburg and is not on any particular route anywhere, which is probably something in its favour.

David Jordan, a retired sailor, and his wife Esther decided to settle in this rustic environment some years ago and bought a guest farm called Hunterís Retreat. This is still run as a B & B with conference facilities, but in addition the Jordans have established a wine farm called Manley Private Cellar, planted with about 10 hectares of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, pinotage, merlot and cabernet franc, all red wine grapes.

The vineyards have thrived - Tulbagh is good country for viticulture - and the cellar now turns out about 40,000 bottles of wine a year, about 3,500 cases. This is a boutique cellar - relatively small output, personal attention to detail, highly individual wines - and its wines have scored well in competitions and other assessments. The Jordans have had the benefit of a professional adviser, Pierre Wahl, and they have done well in the highly competitive wine market. With the help of grapes from other areas, they have added a white wine, sauvignon blanc, to their list but 85 percent of the Manley output is red wine.

The Jordans say that low tonnage and small berry size have resulted in red wines of intense colour, body and fruit. This is certainly true of the four that I have tried: Manley cabernet sauvignon, Manley shiraz, Manley merlot and Manley pinotage, all 2003 vintage. The cabernet, which was matured in French oak barrels for 16 months, is dark in colour and has lovely blackcurrant flavours. Good drinking now but should age well in the bottle for another four or five years.

The shiraz, also wood-matured for 16 months, has the typical smoky aroma and is another strong fruity wine. The pinotage, also barrel-matured, has a slight raspberry aroma and flavour and is free of the sharp acetone taste that used to characterise this South African cultivar. The merlot is a delicious wine with soft mulberry flavours.

The grapes for all these four wines were picked between February 5 and February 24, 2003. Itís a busy time of the year for a wine farmer. They all have quite high alcohol content, more than 15 percent for the shiraz and 14 percent for the others.

These are high quality wines, as the prices indicate: R76 to R87 a bottle for the reds. The cellarís sauvignon blanc is R27,50. These are cellar prices. I am not sure if local wine merchants stock Manley wines, but if you want to make inquiries yourself, the cellarís phone number is 023 230 0582, e-mail: info@manleywines.co.za

***** ***** *****

Is Price Your Value Guide? was the title of a wine evening which Peter and Annette Hoyer hosted recently for our private tasting group. They presented six South African blended red wines ranging in price from R285 a bottle to R18. The tasting was, as usual, blind and most of us had some difficulty in identifying the different items.

When the scoring had been completed and the truth revealed, it emerged that we had evaluated the six wines exactly in order of price. The most expensive wine was top, then came the second most expensive, and so forth, down to the cheapest in last place.

These were the wines, and their prices: Morgenster Estate Wine 2001, R285; Vergenoegd Reserve 2000, R159; Vriesenhof Kallista 2001, R88; Hartenberg Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2003, R40; Van Loveren River Red 2004, R26; Decent Red (from the Barrydale Wine Cellar), R18.

On average the top mark, for the Morgenster, was 16,9 out of 20. The lowest mark, for the Decent Red, was 14,1. The Morgenster cost 16 times as much as the Decent Red. I doubt whether many people would think it was better value. Ė Michael Green




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