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MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #146 (article first published : 2006-02-28)

Four blended white wines are among the 156 wines on offer at this year’s annual Nederburg wine auction, and this gave me the idea of presenting blended whites when I hosted a recent gathering of our private wine tasting group.

A blended wine is of course a combination of wines made from different grape varieties, and the permutations are almost endless, involving (in the case of Cape wines) six or seven different cultivars and different proportions within each blend. I offered seven wines, each composed of different combinations. The tasting was, as usual, blind (only I, the pourer, knew which wine was which) and identification proved difficult. The tasters had a description of each wine, but nobody did better than locating three of the seven wines.

Top mark on their scoring went to Whalehaven Viognier/Chardonnay, 2005 vintage, an 85 percent/15 percent blend from a cellar at Hermanus. Viognier (pronounced vee-on-yea) is a grape that originates in the Rhone region of France and it is a newcomer to the Cape vineyards, covering less than one percent of the total plantings. Its fruity characteristics, touches of peach and pear, were readily apparent in this Whalehaven wine, with the chardonnay providing a ripe, creamy finish to what is essentially a dry wine.

The Whalehaven winery was established 10 years ago and the owners say that their intention is to go for quality. They have certainly succeeded with this blend, which retails in Durban at about R48 a bottle. Alcohol content, incidentally, is a formidable 15,5 percent, confirming my long-held theory that our tasters (your humble scribe included) like best the wines with the most alcohol.

Second place was shared by a quite expensive wine and a distinctly less expensive one. The Jordan cellar at Stellenbosch was established 24 years ago by the Jordan family of shoe fame, and the wine we tasted was Jordan Chameleon 2005, a blend of sauvignon blanc (55 percent) , chardonnay (36) and chenin blanc (9). This was a dry wine with strong, intense flavours, a really powerful mouthful. It would go well with almost any food (including the lasagne we served afterwards) or indeed by itself. Price about R41.

The less expensive wine was Douglas Green Colombard/Chardonnay 2004, which sells for R23. This is a lighter style of wine, but full of flavour, with the chardonnay giving a lemony tinge to the agreeably fresh-tasting colombard. This is a good buy if you are looking for something unusual at a reasonable price.

Just behind this in the markings was another good value wine, the quaintly named Noon Gun from the Flagstone Winery at Somerset West. This 2004 vintage is composed of Weisser Riesling (33 percent), chenin blanc (33), chardonnay (17), pinot blanc (8), sauvignon blanc (7) and semillon (2). Peachy, flowery, and according to John Platter’s Wine Guide it has oak whispers in a crisp tail. Nevertheless, it is very attractive and it sells for about R24.

There was not much difference in the scores for the other three wines we tasted:

Boschendal Grand Vin Blanc, a celebrated name that has been around for a long time. The 2004 vintage is sauvignon blanc and semillon, just off-dry with a hint of passion fruit flavour. Price R48.

Buiten Blanc 2005, from Buitenverwachting at Constantia. This is a very big seller and deservedly so. Sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and a little riesling. R37.

Theuniskraal Semillon/Chardonnay 2005. A 56percent/44 percent blend from a 300-year-old estate at Tulbagh. Peach, apple and citrus flavours. A lovely, rather distinguished wine at R25 a bottle. – Michael Green




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