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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-08-24)

Slaley is one of the most unusual names in the Cape vineyards, and it has a history. Slaley is a village near Newcastle in northern England, and it became the home of a shipowner named Samuel Hunting who, following his father in the family business, prospered in the late Victorian era and built there a country house which he named Slaley Hall. His son, Gerald Lindsay Hunting, developed the company further, with investments in shipping, aircraft and land. He sold Slaley Hall after the Second World War but subsequently named all his new homes Slaley.

Geraldís son Martin settled at the Cape half a century ago, bought half a dozen wine farms at Stellenbosch and formed these into an estate which he named Slaley. Today the place is owned by his son, Lindsay Hunting, and it produces ten first-class wines in the medium to upper-price range, plus some high quality olive oil and olives. A new cellar was built in 1995 and at present the production is 10,000 cases of wine a year, 85 percent of it red. Lindsay Hunting hopes to increase that to about 30,000 cases in the future.

The farm is on the western slopes of the Simonsberg. The vineyards are 200 to 300 metres above sea level, rainfall is about 700 mm a year, mainly in winter, and the vines are cooled by southerly breezes from False Bay, all good conditions for wine grapes.

I have tried several of these wines and found them all of high quality. The newly released 2002 Slaley Chardonnay has the citrus character typical of this cultivar and is a lovely mellow kind of wine. Ready for drinking now or for the next two years. The price from the cellar is R45 a bottle. Add about 20 to 25 percent for retail.

Slaley Merlot 2000 has a beautiful label, a picture of a sailing ship, a member of the Hunting fleet, departing from the Tyne river at Newcastle in 1887. The contents of the bottle match the splendour of the label: plummy, fruity, rich. This is a premium wine and it has a premium price, R75 ex cellar.

Three other Slaley reds bear the name Broken Stone, a reference to a battered tombstone dated 1751 which was found on the farm in 1957. Broken Stone Shiraz 2001 has won various awards. In the bouquet and on the palate it has smoky, coffee, leather, dried fruit characteristics, all adding up to an outstanding and potent wine, nearly 15 percent alcohol. Again, not cheap at a cellar price of R42 but good value, considering the quality.

At the same price is Broken Stone Pinotage 2001, quite fruity, nutty, with a slightly ambiguous and not unattractive bitter-sweet character. And among the reds the Broken Stone Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2000, a 59/41 blend, is possible the best value of all at a cellar price of R35, another big wine with lovely non-aggressive flavours.

I am not authority on olive oil, but Iím told that the Slaley Olive Oil 2002 (yes, they have vintage years for olives too) is particularly good, price R35 for 250 ml.

Slaley is open for tasting and sales and has holiday accommodation. If you want to order directly from the farm the phone number is (021) 865 2123, fax (021) 865 2798. Ė Michael Green




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