One of the greatest pleasures is coming across a wine that, without being ambitious, gives pleasure in its interest and honesty, with a great price being the cherry on the top.
Sadly, this marvel isn’t often to be found; Tim James and I, who taste together the various wines kindly submitted by producers, often leave such afternoons uninspired.
So we became quite excited last Friday, when our small line up produced a handful worthy of admiration and smiles.
If there’s any category that can far too often be riddled with sameness, it’s sauvignon blanc. A yeast favoured by many produces similar flavours in so many examples; flavours that in trying to outdo the next, make them virtually impossible to go with food. Enter the spotlight Waterkloof Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (R100), fermented on its own yeasts for a more subtle accent to the fruit, and spending time on the lees for extra breadth in the mouth without losing purity in its ripe fruit. There’s a flinty vibrancy providing just enough edginess and tension, which will set off whatever seafood or fish dish takes your fancy. Waterkloof is now certified biodynamic; whether this means much or little, a recent tasting with owner, Paul Boutinot and winemaker, Nadia Barnard, shows there’s every reason to buy the wines, which are crafted with honesty and understanding and getting more distinctive every vintage.
At the other end of the reaction chain, chenin blanc is providing a seemingly unending crescendo of excitement.
The name Badenhorst and Swartland are tied by an umbilical cord, except here we’re talking about Adi’s dad, Andre, who with long-time Irish friend, Edwin Doran, own Doran Vineyards in Voor Paardeberg. Martin Lamprecht was installed as winemaker in 2012.
Now, concentrate a minute: Doran Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2013 (yes, 3 years old) costs just R75 and is worth every cent. The yellow gold, green-flecked colour glows brilliantly – how much more tempting could it be? Generous ripe but pure baked apples and pear tones have gained an attractive mellowness with age, a herbal note introducing a different dimension to the concentrated flavours – as one might expected from the area. Creamily textured from older oak fermentation and lees-ageing, but with sound firm form, there’s pleasure a-plenty now and for a few more years. The price is ridiculous for the quality and with all the attention being focused on farmers being paid a price that’ll warrant them keeping the vineyards, I hope this one doesn’t disappear.
Ensuring Swartland doesn’t imagine it has sole rights to classy chenin, Louis Le Sueur van der Riet, whose daytime job is winemaker at De Krans, has laid down the challenge with his Calitzdorp fruit-sourced Le Sueur Chenin Blanc 2015. Its minimal interference route to the bottle starts with natural ferment in older barrels and ends with bottling unfined and unfiltered. Fynbos overtones make a pleasing contrast to the ripe pineapple aromas. Flavours saturate the mouth encouraged by gentle yet lively natural acid; succulence is the lasting memory. A medium-bodied, elegant chenin that is well-priced at R120 (but you have to drive to De Krans to buy it!).
Now, I’m sorry Gabrielskloof and Peter-Allan Finlayson, but I think the name Rosebud sends all the wrong messages about your seriously delicious (and seriously approached) dry rosé. I suspect the unsuspecting who lift it off the shelf anticipate something sweet and mundane. They’ll be disappointed, I’m not. This shiraz, viognier blend (55/45) is dry with spicy verve and with just 12.5% alcohol, perfectly tuned for lunch, sundowners and tuna (I mention that simply as we’re having it for supper, but other foods will go just as well). No, R70 isn’t too high an asking price, so just forget the Rosebud.
There’s got to be a red and there is. Back to Doran Vineyards and their Shiraz 2013, which comes from Voor-Paardeberg. For me it fulfils what I call a country red; robust, brimming with fynbos, spicy vivacity, mouthfilling savoury flavours, with grainy, juicy tannins and roundly dry. I see the oaking is in 500 litre French oak, a modicum new, so no challenge to the fruit. An honest wine at a more than honest price of R79. I don’t know what Adi thinks of his Dad’s wines, but at this quality and price, he better watch out!
The disappointments? Briefly. I look back at the partnership of Francois Naude and Marc Wiehe at L’Avenir with great memories of what they achieved. Under their watch, chenin blanc and pinotage started the roll these two varieties are now on. When Naude retired and Wiehe sold, Tinus Els carried on the good work in the cellar with Michel Laroche as owner. With Laroche’s other brands, it is now under the ownership of the global group, AdVini.
From what we tasted in the Single Block Chenin Blanc 2015 (R216) and Single Block Pinotage 2014 (R319), things have slipped. Oaking especially, is more obvious than in the past but both seem to have lost the distinctive personality each had. I hope this is a temporary slip.