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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 #175 (article first published : 2007-06-3)

Six distinguished red wines, some of them produced in small quantities, were presented to our private tasting group when we met recently at the home of Vanda Davies and Dennis Banks, both of whom are involved in the wine industry.

Small output wines have been described as garagiste wines, a term used by the French for some wines that have literally been produced in a garage, with the grape juice sometimes fermented in Victorian baths or plastic containers instead of barrels and tanks.

The wines offered by Vanda and Dennis were not made in a garage but most of them were, in a sense, hand-made. The grapes were hand-picked, choosing only the best bunches at optimum ripeness; the vineyards were small; and fermentation was in small oak barrels or small stainless steel tanks.

Three of the wines were pinotages, mellow and fruity and far removed from the not always pleasant pinotages of long ago, with their acetone, harsh character. These recent examples were very fine, as were the three other wines, two cabernet sauvignon and one shiraz.

In the blind tasting it was a pinotage that took top marks: Van Zylskloof Pinotage 2003, which comes from a farm (Johan van Zyl Wines) at Piekenierskloof, near Citrusdal, in the Olifants River wine region north of Cape Town, on the Cape west coast.

Only 500 cases of wines labelled Van Zylskloof are produced every year. This pinotage was matured in small French oak barrels for several months. It has berry aromas with hints of chocolate and licorice. Delicious. You should be able to get it from the cellar (phone 022 921 3328) at R50 a bottle.

We tasters were not given in advance the alcohol volumes of the various wines. Picking up the bottle after the tasting I was amused to see that the Van Zylskloof is a truly formidable 15,8 percent alcohol (most reds are about 13 to 14 percent). Not for the first time, our vote had gone to the wine with the highest alcohol. We like drinks with a kick.

The two other pinotages also scored well. Both are from the Long Mountain wine company, which is based at Stellenbosch and is a big producer. The two wines offered for tasting are, however, not available on the South African market. One was Bushbuck Pinotage 2006 and the other Long Mountain Pinotage 2007, both first rate and both good advertisements overseas for the Cape wine industry.

The other wines tasted were:

Black Pearl Shiraz 2003, from a cellar in the Paarl area (phone 021 863 2900), deep purple colour, peppery, spicy bouquet and berry flavours, cellar price about R85

Vruchtbaar Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 --- the name means fertile --- from a winery at Robertson (phone 023 626 2334), fruity, slightly herbal, about R60

Major’s Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, from an estate at Robertson (phone 023 626 6093) that produces about 15 000 cases of wine a year under its own label, this cabernet having rich, raspberry flavours, about R70. – Michael Green




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