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MICHAEL GREENíS WINE NOTES #145 (article first published : 2006-02-15)

Malbec is a rarity on the Cape wine scene. This highly regarded red wine grape originated in the Bordeaux region of France but is now grown mainly in south-western France (where it is known as Cot) and in Argentina and California. Very few South African vineyards are planted with malbec, and the grape is used mainly for blended red wines; it goes well with cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.

One of the new wine farmers in the Elgin area, 70 kilometres east of Cape Town along the N2 national road, is now making a significant quantity of single cultivar malbec wine. He is Paul Wallace, who has been a viticulturist for the past 25 years and an independent consultant in the wine industry for the past 10 years.

In 2003 he and his wife Nicky bought a 25-hectare farm in the Elgin area and named it Wallovale Vineyards. They are converting the entire production from apples to wine grapes. Like her husband, Nicky has wine in her veins; her great grandfather was the Sedgwick of Old Brown Sherry fame (the Sedgwicks started their Cape liquor business in 1859), and the other side of her parental family owned hotels and liquor stores. She herself worked for a time at Woolworths as national grocery and wine buyer, and at Simonsig wine estate in exports and marketing.

They have planted a hectare of malbec vineyards on their farm, plus two hectares of pinot noir and seven hectares of sauvignon blanc, all grapes that do well in the relatively cool climate of Elgin, a high valley surrounded by mountains. They plan to expand further but in the meantime Paul Wallace has bought two tons of high quality malbec grapes from elsewhere and has produced his first malbec wine. The grapes were vinified at the Stonewall Winery in Somerset West.

I have tried a bottle of this wine, and it is unusual and excellent. Going under the name of Paul Wallace Malbec, with a striking purple label, this 2004 vintage is rich and fruity and immediately accessible, without the harshness sometimes associated with young red wines. It is full-bodied, indeed quite potent at 14 percent alcohol, and it should mature well in the bottle for the next few years. Strongly recommended if you are looking for something distinctive and superior.

I donít think you will find it in the liquor stores but the wine is available directly from Paul Wallace at R57 a bottle. Phone numbers: Paul 082 572 1406, Nicky 083 255 1884, home phone and fax 021 848 9744. Ė Michael Green




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