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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2001-06-20)

Durbanville is an attractive village about 30 km north-east of Cape Town. It was originally, in 1836, named Durban after the then governor of the Cape Colony, Sir Benjamin d’Urban. The name was changed to Durbanville 30 years later to avoid confusion with our own Durban here in KZN, given its name in the same way a year before Durbanville.

Durbanville, a place of rolling hills and cool breezes, only about 10km from the Atlantic Ocean, was long regarded as a rather genteel dormitory suburb of Cape Town with a fair measure of retired people pottering around in their gardens but in recent years the area has become known for the high quality of the wine grapes grown there.

A few small cellars were established in the district but most of the grapes were sold to big producers in the Stellenbosch and Paarl areas and further afield. Eventually seven of the leading Durbanville farmers became tired of seeing the virtues of their grapes extolled by other winemakers and about five years ago they formed, with the help of the Distell liquor company, their own wine production company called Durbanville Hills. Today this cellar is producing white and red wines that rank among the best from the Western Cape and its cellarmaster Martin Moore, formerly of Groot Constantia, visited Durban recently to display his latest products.

The basic Durbanville Hills range consists of four reds and two whites, all high class and reasonably priced (the standard 2000 Chardonnay, an excellent wine, costs about R27 in Durban). To these have now been added two wines in a limited new premium range called Rhinofields, named after the almost extinct renosterveld (rhino bush shrub) that occurs among the Tygerberg hills near Durbanville and along the Cape west coast. Ansias Londt, Durbanville Hills brand manager, says the Rhinofields name was inspired by a virgin patch of renosterveld behind the cellar, a patch that somehow survived the cultivation of vineyards. (Rhinos did indeed roam these hills a few centuries ago).

Last year Durbanville Hills wines won five medals, including one double gold, at the annual Veritas Awards and it will be surprising if the new Rhinofields wines do not add to the collection. One is an absolutely delicious 2000 Chardonnay Reserve, full-bodied (13,5 percent alcohol), lightly wooded, rich, creamy, with an abundance of fruity flavours, citrus, pineapple, banana. Not cheap at about R42 a bottle but do yourself a favour and have it as a special treat some time. You won’t be disappointed.

The second Rhinofields wine is a 1999 Merlot. The grapes were selected from two distinctly different vineyards and were hand-picked at optimum ripeness. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks from Italy --- Durbanville Hills’ owners have put R70 million into this winery --- the merlot was matured for 12 months in 300-litre French oak barrels. The result is a dark, luxurious wine, quite soft on the palate, with flavours of chocolate, mint, cherries, prunes. A wonderfully subtle red wine (again, an alcohol volume of 13,5 percent}. This one will cost you about R65 a bottle. - Michael Green




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