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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #138 (article first published : 2005-09-20)

The question I am asked most often is: Can you suggest a reasonable wine at a reasonable price?

I sympathise entirely with the desire to find value. It is easy to find a good wine at R70 or R100 a bottle, but most people run on a budget that doesn’t extend to that kind of price on a regular basis. And if you drink, say, twenty bottles a month, expensive wine must necessarily be just an occasional indulgence. Not many people are prepared to spend R2,000 a month or more on wine.

In my endless quest for good value I visited two major wine shops last week, and here are the results of my researches, wines that I regard as highly palatable and acceptable and that retail, with a couple of exceptions, at about R20 a bottle.

Here are some of the white wines available at Liberty Liquors in Argyle Road, Durban: Hartenberg Chatillon 2003 vintage, R22. This is a lovely wine, dry, fresh, fruity and almost gold in colour. It seems to be much favoured at large private functions, when the host is looking for something which everyone will enjoy and which doesn’t cost the earth. Rated three stars in John Platter’s Wine Guide. Long Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2004, R28,50. Fresh taste, tropical aromas.

White wines from Checkers at Windermere Centre include: Hill and Dale Sauvignon Blanc 2005, R20. This wine, from a cellar at Stellenbosch, is I think, very good value. It has strong sauvignon tastes of asparagus, herbs, green pepper. Fleur du Cap Chardonnay 2004. At R33 a bottle this is above my chosen price range but I am mentioning it because it is an outstanding wine, fruity flavours, hints of lime, at a reasonable price.

Red wines tend to be more expensive than whites, but you can still do well at just above R20 a bottle. Here are some at Liberty: Van Loveren River Red, 2005, R23. This blend of shiraz, merlot and ruby cabernet comes from the Robertson district and it is a wine for all seasons. Backsberg Dry Red, R23. Another favourite on those big occasions when the host wants plenty of good wine at a moderate price. This blended red, quite fruity, has for years had a strong following and will not upset anybody, not even the so-called experts. Gecko Ridge Shiraz 2001: Cheerful label, cheerful wine, cheerful price, only R15 a bottle. Produced at Stellenbosch by the big international Pernod-Ricard liquor company. Flagstone Longitude 2004, R24. A blended red from a winery at Somerset West. Some people find it a bit on the sweet side. I think it is very good.

Red wines from Checkers include the simply named Just Red, a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon, 2002 vintage, which costs R27 for a 1,5-litre magnum (double bottle); and the Just blend of shiraz and merlot, a 2003 vintage which costs just R17 a bottle. I haven’t been able to find out much about these wines --- the labels are rather cryptic and they are not listed in Platter’s Guide --- but I can tell you that they are both pleasant and full-bodied, go well with food, and should be drunk fairly soon, and not kept in the probably vain hope of further maturation.

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Boland International Vineyards of Paarl and Boland Basadi Investments have reached an agreement which will lead to the entry of prominent business women into the Cape wine industry, until now a predominantly white male domain. Basadi’s shareholders include several influential women, among them Dr Namane Magau and Dr Thandi Ndlovu. In terms of the agreement Basadi will acquire a 20 percent stake in a marketing company at present wholly owned by Boland. Of the remaining shares, ten percent will be allocated to a workers’ trust.

Boland’s wines are sold locally under the Boland Kelder label and are very well known, covering a wide range of red, white, sparkling and sweet wines. – Michael Green




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