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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES #139 (article first published : 2005-10-6)

Lanzerac at Stellenbosch may be best known these days as an elegant hotel, but it is also very much a working farm, with 50 hectares of vineyards.

The property, now owned by businessman Christo Wiese, dates back more than 300 years and was for most of its life called Schoongezicht, beautiful view; and a splendid outlook it has too, backed by the imposing twin peaks of the Jonkershoek mountains.

The Lanzerac name was used for many years by Stellenbosch Farmersí Winery as a label for two of its pinotage and rose wines. Now the independent company Lanzerac Wines produces a range of eight wines, including pinotage. Total output is about 30,000 cases a year, four-fifths of it red wine.

The wines are of high quality, as our private group found at a tasting at the home in Durban of Vanda Davies and Dennis Banks. Vanda is the export director of Pernod Ricard South Africa, who are now marketing Lanzerac wines, hence this theme for our tasting.

In our blind tasting top marks went to the Lanzerac Shiraz of 2003, deep red with the smoky, spicy scents and tastes that are typical of this cultivar. The wine was matured in French and American oak barrels for 12 months and should mature in the bottle for a further three to five years. A big mouthful at 14,8 percent alcohol.

In second place was Lanzerac Classic 2002, a blended red: merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec. This one was matured in French oak barrels for 18 months. Another deep, rich wine, with blackberry, currant, chocolate flavours. Alcohol content is 14,5 percent and the wine should mature further for another five years.

In close order after that came Lanzerac Pinotage 2001 and Lanzerac Cabernet Sauvignon 2000. The pinotage is a lovely wine and Lanzeracís cellarmaster, Wynand Hamman, thinks it has the potential to age well for another ten years and emulate the reputation of the early Lanzerac pinotages of 30 and 40 years ago.

The cabernet is a typical, well-matured example of this cultivar, a complex wine with flavours of blackberry, youngberry, cocoa, almond, vanilla.

These wines are not cheap but they are not absurdly expensive. They all cost about R70 a bottle, except the Classic, which is R100.

A non-Lanzerac red was included in the tasting: the Long Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon of 2003, made by a cellar at Stellenbosch which is owned by the Pernod Ricard company. This proved to be a very attractive, well-balanced wine, and it scored exactly the same mark as the Lanzerac cabernet. It costs about R40 a bottle (as opposed to R70 for the Lanzerac cabernet) and must be reckoned a good value wine.

The tasting started with two delicious white wines from Lanzerac, the 2004 sauvignon blanc and the 2003 chardonnay. Both were sipped with much enthusiasm by the tasters, who gave them scores of 17 out of 20, a very good mark. They sell at about R50 a bottle.

The evening began with a rare treat: Mumms Rose champagne, from one of the most celebrated of the French champagne houses. Their champagnes are now being distributed in South Africa by Pernod Ricard.

Mumms is an un-French kind of name, the reason being that the firm was established in 1827 by three brothers named Mumm who came from Germany and settled at Reims, in the Champagne district of France. The Mumms Rose is a clear pink colour with hints of pale yellow, and it is a truly distinctive and aristocratic bubbly. Also available in South Africa is the golden coloured Mumms Brut, a classic dry champagne.

You have to pay for these simple pleasures. The Mumms Rose retails at about R380 a bottle and the Brut at about R330.Itís a lot of money, but they sell about eight million bottles around the world every year.




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