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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #183 (article first published : 2007-09-24)

The Stellenbosch farm Clos Malverne has one of the most unusual names on the Cape wine routes, an Anglo-French blend that is rooted in the history of the place. Seymour Pritchard, the owner, bought the farm in 1969 from Colonel J.W.O. Billingham, a former mayor of Cape Town, who had named it Malvern Heights after the Malvern hills in his native Worcestershire, the English county about 150 kilometres north-west of London.

Intent on producing wine, Seymour Pritchard thought a French name would be more appropriate, so he put an exotic e on the Malvern and added the word Clos, which in French means an enclosed vineyard.

The cellar’s beginnings were modest, 800 bottles of cabernet sauvignon which were put on the market in 1988. Today Clos Malverne turns out 24,000 cases of wine a year, 80 percent of it red and 70 percent of it exported. Seymour Pritchard and his wife Sophia are still there, but nowadays the farm is run by his nephew Zaine and the latter’s wife Lizelda, and they have a winemaker named Ippie (I.P.) Smit.

Quality red wines such as those produced by Clos Malverne tend to be fairly expensive, and the Pritchard clan have now turned their attention to what they describe as entry-level wines, acknowledging a strong consumer demand for wines in the moderately priced category. They have released a new range which is called Clos Malverne Devonet (the name is derived from the Devon Valley at Stellenbosch, where the farm is situated).

These six wines are reasonably priced, rather than inexpensive. I have tried them, and they are all good value; you could serve them to anybody on any occasion. They are:

Devonet Merlot/Pinotage 2006. It is a 51/49 percent blend that has been matured in oak barrels for four months. The wine has a lovely deep colour, and the soft berry character is complemented by the plummy fruitiness of the pinotage. Ready to drink now but can be aged for another two or three years. 14 percent alcohol. Retail price about R39 a bottle.

Devonet Merlot/Shiraz 2006. Another successful blend (50/50), with the spicy, peppery features of the shiraz balancing the softer merlot. 14 percent alcohol. Price about R39.

Devonet Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon. Fifty-fifty blend again, lightly wooded, and again berry and spicy flavours and scents, plus good aftertaste. Also R39.

Devonet Chardonnay 2006. Light greenish-yellow colour, fresh flavours of lime and grapefruit with a touch of peach. Very good. 13,5 percent alcohol. About R34.

Devonet Sauvignon Blanc 2007. Dry and flinty yet fruity, with the asparagus and fig character typical of this cultivar. 12 percent alcohol. About R36.

Devonet Rosé 2006. Made from various red grapes, with pinotage dominant. Coral pink, with strawberry and other flavours. Just the wine for a hot day (even though it is 14 percent alcohol). About R30,50.

Clos Malverne is about 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town and is open for tastings and sales. Phone 021 865 2022. – Michael Green




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