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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2002-07-31)

Vergelegen, on the outskirts of Somerset West, is one of the great wine estates of the Cape. It was established more than 300 years ago by Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel, was revived and developed a century ago by the mining magnate Sir Lionel Phillips, and has been expanded further over the past two decades by its present owners, Anglo American. The name means, roughly, far-flung, which indeed it was from the Cape Town of 1700.

Today it is a showpiece, with its historic mansion, its lovely Lady Phillips and Rose Terrace restaurants in the garden and its high-tech wine cellar on the mountain slopes overlooking the farm. I have a particularly soft spot for the place because about twenty years ago I was one of a group of wine writers who were invited to plant trees for a new orchard, and there my tree is today, with my name on a little plaque.

Vergelegen is, however, far more than mere show. It produces some of the finest wines of the Cape, and a selection of them was recently presented in Durban, with wines from its sister estate Boschendal, at Stellenbosch. This “wine and food experience”, as it was called, took place at the imposing eMakhosini (Place of the Kings) hotel and conference centre in Morningside and was attended by a large number of Durban’s wine cognoscenti.

On such occasions it is usually impossible or at least unwise to taste all the wines available. I sampled about eight of the 25 wines presented. Here are my brief comments on some of them: Vergelegen Cabernet Sauvignon 1999. A brilliant complex wine, dark colour, tobacco leaf aroma, will certainly develop further in the bottle.

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2002. Lovely, full-flavoured, flinty, asparagus tones.

Vergelegen Mill Race 2000. Vergelegen wines tend to be expensive, but this reasonably–priced red is aimed at a wider market. It is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, a brightly coloured wine with berry scents and flavours.

Vergelegen Vin de Florence 2002. This white wine, named after Lady (Florence) Phillips, is an off-dry blend of chenin blanc, hanepoot and sauvignon blanc. Some people still think that sweetish wines are rather vulgar and not really acceptable, but I know very few connoisseurs who agree with this point of view. This well-priced Vin de Florence is delicious, grapey, fragrant, sunny and cheerful.

Boschendal Blanc de Noir 2001. Boschendal is one of the Cape’s biggest and most highly regarded estates, turning out about 250 000 cases of wine a year. Its famous Blanc de Noir (White from Black) was a novelty 20 years ago, a whiteish, pinkish really, wine made from red grapes. It is still in great demand and is still something of a novelty; there are not many wines like this on the market. Made from pinot noir and merlot grapes. Salmon pink in colour, slightly off-dry, fruity, very attractive.

Boschendal Merlot 1999. A really beautiful red wine, soft, fragrant, will go with any food and excellent just by itself.

The “food experience’ turned out to be a wide range of rich and exotic snacks, including prawns, camembert and bacon, guinea fowl, ostrich, cheeses, salmon. A memorable evening. – Michael Green.




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