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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 #199 (article first published : 2008-07-1)

The Long Mountain Wine Company at Stellenbosch has seen its sales grow steadily in recent years because it offers a wide range of good quality wines at reasonable prices.

We sampled some of these products when our private tasting group met at the home in Durban North of Vanda Davies and Dennis Banks. Long Mountain is owned by Pernod Ricard South Africa, the local company of the French-based international liquor giant Pernod Ricard, and Vanda is the export director of Pernod Ricard SA. Nine wines, all recent vintages, were tasted blind (no glimpse of the labels) and our average scores for each ranged from 14,3 out of 20 to 17,7, which means good to superior.

The five Long Mountain white wines tasted were:

Chenin Blanc 2008. Very attractive, with hints of granadilla, fig, guava and honey in the bouquet and taste. The once disparaged chenin blanc grape is producing some lovely wines at the Cape these days.

Chenin Blanc Reserve 2007. Slightly more expensive, although, oddly enough, we marginally preferred the straight Chenin Blanc. Matured for three months on the staves of French oak barrels. Guava, pear and citrus aromas, tropical fruit on the palate.

Chardonnay 2008. Made mainly with grapes from the Robertson and Breedekloof areas, from vineyards planted in rich limestone soil. Tropical fruit and peaches on the palate, with a touch of marmalade. 14 percent alcohol.

Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Pale green colour. Mineral, passion fruit and asparagus features on the palate, all typical of sauvignon blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2008. A zesty wine with tropical fruit, pear and citrus characteristics. Again, our tasters marginally preferred the lower priced straight Sauvignon Blanc.

All these wines would go well with fish, shellfish, salads, Thai food and a great variety of other dishes. And of course they taste very good on their own, as an aperitif or whatever. With the exception of the chardonnay all have a modest alcohol content, about 12 percent.

Predictably enough, the four Long Mountain red wines tasted all had higher alcohol, and they provided the three highest marks on our scoresheets. The wines were:

Pinotage 2006. Like chenin blanc, the pinotage grape, first developed in South Africa in 1925 as a cross between pinot noir and cinsaut (hermitage), has grown in stature over the past decade or so. This one was a good example: cherry red colour, plum and raspberry flavours. Rather a potent item at 14,56 percent alcohol.

Pinotage Reserve 2007. From grapes in the Riebeek Valley area, where the vineyards are about 50 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean. Deep red colour, blackberries, dark chocolate, coffee in the aroma and taste.

Merlot Shiraz 2007. Mulberry and cherry flavours from the merlot combine with pepper and spice from the shiraz. A splendid harmoniously balanced wine.

Shiraz Reserve 2007. Crimson colour, berry aroma, chocolate and blackcurrant in the taste. An admirable accompaniment for meat dishes or curries. This wine scored the highest mark in our tasting.

Some of these wines are not yet on the market. Retail prices will probably be about R40 a bottle for the whites, R50 for the reds. Only two tasters succeeded in identifying, blind, all nine of the wines: my wife and myself. A rare triumph for me, not so rare for her. – Michael Green




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