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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2004-02-6)

Off the Beaten Track was the title of a tasting of reds which I presented recently to our private wine group. I thought I might be presumptuous in thinking that the seven wines offered for tasting were unfamiliar territory to our well-informed group. In fact they knew of some but had never heard of others.

The tasting and scoring were, as usual, blind, and in the end top marks went to Kumala Reserve cabernet sauvignon 2003. Kumala is the biggest selling South African label in Britain. The name is attached to a range of more than a dozen wines produced at Stellenbosch by Western Wines, an offshoot of a British liquor company. I don’t think the name is particularly well known in South Africa but it seems to represent good quality at reasonable prices. This cabernet is a deep red colour, has blackberry and mint flavours, and is potent, 14,5 percent alcohol. A lovely wine, and as prices go these days, good value at about R55 retail.

Second place went to Bianco cabernet sauvignon 2000, from the De Heuvel estate at Tulbagh, owned by an Italian family named Bianco who migrated there about 40 years ago from Piedmont. Another powerful product, 13 percent alcohol; our tasters like their wines to have a kick.

Third was the Shamwari merlot/cabernet sauvignon 2002, an 80/20 blend made by a big Cape firm, Stellenbosch Vineyards. Spicy, herbaceous, red berry character. Shamwari means friend, and the price is friendly too, about R33.

The tasters liked the only pinotage on the list, Rockfields pinotage 2001, from Rawsonville, near Worcester, produced mainly for export. Nice plummy flavour and very little of the sharp, astringent taste that pinotage sometimes has. I bought a case of this recently in Durban at a very attractive price. The official explanation for the sale was that they are changing the label.

The other wines tasted were a veteran, Beyerskloof cabernet 1991, which had lost some quality but was still palatable; Slaley Hunting Family merlot 2000 (about R80), a Stellenbosch wine which takes its name from the owners, the Hunting family originally from Slaley, a village near Newcastle in northern England, and has the loveliest label I have seen on any bottle of Cape wine, a nineteenth century sailing ship (the Huntings were in the shipping business); and Du Toitskloof cabernet sauvignon 1988, also from Rawsonville, medium-bodied, fruity, blackcurrants, berries, about R45.

**** ***** ****

The Laborie cellar at Paarl, which is owned by the KWV, has added a shiraz to its range of a dozen wines covering most styles and tastes. Laborie Shiraz 2002 has spicy aromas and a ripe blackberry character. It was matured in 300-litre oak barrels for 12 months.

Gideon Theron, Laborie’s winemaker, says it goes well with food, especially red meat, and will age well.

This shiraz is a high quality wine and it is neither cheap nor outrageously expensive at about R50 a bottle in Durban.

Laborie, incidentally, is a beautiful old farm and is well worth a visit if you are near Paarl. It is open for tastings and sales and has a restaurant specialising in Cape cuisine. – Michael Green




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