Recently I attended a South African tasting sponsored by a group of 10 wineries which have banded together to promote quality wines from that nation. Under the tile PIWOSA – Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa - their aim is to “shine the spotlight on the flourishing premium South African category.”
The wineries are mostly located In the Stellenbosch area near Cape Town, though a few are farther afield. What they shared in common was a clear dedication to making the best wines possible, and over-all they are succeeding.
A number of the wines are currently in Vintages, though not all our areas are stocking them. If you are near Barrie or Guelph - or can prevail on friends in the vicinity - you will have the best luck in locating them.
There is also a list of nine wines from the Tasting itself which have just become available on-line at Vintages. To order, call 1-800-668-5226.
I enjoyed the enthusiasm and clear dedication of the wine-makers and winery principals.
Hans Anstrom, a Swede who is now managing director and partner in Klein Constantia explained how this winery, which once produced some of the greatest dessert wines in the world, had fallen on hard times after the phylloxera louse epidemic, and was only resurrected after almost a century’s absence in 1986.
The marvellous Vin de Constance 2012, $99 for 500 ml., was tasted, but not available for purchase. Platter’s South African Wine Guide gives it its ultimate “Superlative” rating, and I would say it rivals the great Sauternes, Chateau d’Yquem. It experiences no botrytis, the fungus which dehydrates grapes and leaving just the sweet nectar. Instead, the grapes are allowed to dry on the vine and are harvested over four pickings. The juice is fermented on its lees for up to four years in 500 litre barrels. The result is a wine rich in tropical fruit flavour, but retaining acidity to provide energy and balance.
The Anwilka Petit Frère 2014, $25, a blend of Syrah and Cabernet with a splash of Petit Verdot, is excellent and available on-line. It is tasty with up-front dark cherry and berry fruit, great complexity and a tannic back-bone. Drinking well now, it should age beautifully and can rival many an excellent Bordeaux.
Radford Dale Winery is located on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain. Owner and founder Alex Dale explained that it was only after developing a friendship over a three-year period with an older Afrikaans farmer, that the man introduced him to an area where old bush vines were growing on the hillsides, basically abandoned. They were, and remain, un-sprayed, un-irrigated, deep-rooted and hardy.
The vines give only half the production you might find in Burgundy, for example. Yet, in times of high drought, they survive and thrive much better than younger, irrigated vines. The Radford Dale Black Rock 2013, $29.95, is widely available – though not in our northern readership catchments. The 2014 was Platter’s South Africa Red Wine of the Year, and the 2013 is no slouch in itself with a “Robert Parker” 90. A blend of Rhone varietals such as Mourvèdre and Carignan, it exhibits dark and juicy berry fruit accompanied by interesting herbal notes of lavender and licorice. When I mentioned I detected “garrigue”, a quality in the Rhone which comes from resinous wild herbs, Alex Dale said that a South African bush, fynbos, has that affect there, as well.
Vintages on-line has the Radford Dale Nudity Syrah 2015, $37, rated “Outstanding” by the Platter Guide. It is still tannic, but vibrant with interesting fruit. Platter suggests “hints of fynbos, smoked meat [and] chalky minerality”, as well as significant complexity.
Bruce Jack’s enthusiasm is infectious. Owner/winemaker at The Drift in the Overberg Highlands on the east side of False Bay, his philosophy is to grow varietals he loves, with Malbec and Shiraz acting as the base of his blends. Other grapes which will work well with these two are used to create balance. His vineyards are at the extreme edge for the growing and ripening of grapes.
His Bonfire Hill Extreme Vineyards Red 2014, $16.95, is on the June 21 release. With grapes grown in various and demanding sites, a very approachable red has been created. It is tasty and good, with Pinot Noir, Barbera and Cinsault acting as the accent grapes.
Glennelly Estate has become one of my favourite South African wineries. Founded by May de Lencquesaing of Pichon Comtesse de Lalande fame in Bordeaux, it produces wines that are quite inexpensive, given their quality and pedigree.
The Grand Vin de Glenelly 2010, $19.95, still in our stores, is serious and intense with dark spice and red and black berry fruit. It carries a Wine Advocate “92” I find it very smooth and tasty.
The Glenelly Glass Collection Syrah 2012, $17, was one of my favourites at the tasting. It is sophisticated, integrated and approachable. Platter rates it “excellent”, commenting on its “pure fruit core” and “characteristically firm backbone. It is also available on-line, and really is a great bargain.
While there was much more to share about the South African tasting, there are so many good wines at Vintages on June 24 that it would be a shame not to point them out.
Vintages June 24 Release
Mis en Provence Grande Reserve Rosé 2016, $17, offers “spice and red berry along with floral, citrus and mineral tones” – Wine Enthusiast – 90.
Chateau D’Esclans Whispering Angel Rosé 2016, $26.95 -“Roses and strawberries. Some peach…bright and lively…refreshing and energetic” - James Suckling -92.
Prevedello Asolo Superiore Extra Dry Prosecco 2016, $16.95 – Owned by Franco Prevedello , a noted Toronto-area restaurateur, this wine is described by Vintages as being fittingly food-friendly” with apple and pear flavours and lively acidity.
Charme d’Aliénor Cremant de Bordeaux, $16.95 is made in the champagne method with secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle. Predominantly Semillon, with 10% Cabernet Franc, it is an uncommon blend that is well-made with toasty notes, good balance, and ”a sweet edge to the long and satisfying finish,” says Vintages.
Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier 2015, $14.95, will be fine on its own or with lightly seasoned fish of fowl. Expect the peach/nectarine and citrus for which this grape is known.
Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling 2015, $13.95, is a re-release of a reliable stand-by from Germany’s Mosel. It is on the sweet side (49 grams of sugar per litre), but concludes with appropriately crisp acidity.
Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2015, $19.95, was #41 in The Wine Spectator’s “Top 100” for 2016. It offers tropical fruit and tart apple “on a light smooth body. Finishes with a succulent juiciness.” – 90
Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay, 2015, $21.95, will give the body and harmony and depth we want in a chardonnay, along with a kiss of vanilla oak on the finish.
Cap Royale Rouge 2014, $17.95, and Chateau Terre Blanque 2015, $12.95 are two winners from Bordeaux, both earning 90 at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards. The former is 80% Merlot and carries dark fruit and nuanced oak, while the latter, a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, is deliciously fresh with a smooth tannic burr.
Saint-Roch Vielle Vignes Syrah/Grenache 2014, $15.95 and La Place Madiran 2013, $17.95 are terrific wines from France’s south. The Saint-Roch is “super sexy ripe [and] polished” and a fabulous value” – robertparker.com -90. Laplace Madiran was #4 on the Wine Enthusiast’s 2015 Top 100 Best Buys. Made from Tannat, it is powerful and structured and should still be cellared for a couple of years.
Alamos Selecciòn Malbec 2013, $16.95, and Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec 2014, $17 are both very fine wines from Argentina. The Alamos has “nice concentration and good complex aromas [with] prodigious balance…and very good length. Dead gorgeous.” – robertparker.com -91. Finca Sophenia is a ”tangy and flavorful wine with spice and dark berry character. Full and flavorful…Long and characterful” – James Suckling -93
San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Carmenère 2014, is harmonious and fruity, with good intensity and spice notes of pepper and vanilla. Characteristic tobacco intimations can be detected on the finish. A very good example of how this grape can perform when able to ripen fully.
Stokely and Stratus – A Midsummer’s Tasting, Dinner and Brunch
Join Charles Baker of Stratus Vineyards, located in Niagara-On-the-Lake, for a special Midsummer’s Tasting Experience at Stokely Creek Lodge, just 30 minutes north of Sault Ste. Marie at Goulais River.
During the winter, Stokely is one of the top five destinations in North America for cross-county skiing. This summer, though, it will host Charles Baker, Director of Sales for Stratus Vineyards - and Riesling specialist in his own right.
Stratus is an iconic winery whose wines are recognized as some of the best in Canada. On Friday, July 21, you will enjoy tasting five wines from Stratus, with hors d’oeuvres, followed by a four-course dinner with four additional matching wines.
Then, you will over-night at Stokely in either their lodge or chalets, and conclude the experience by partaking in a “Champagne” Brunch on Saturday morning.
In all, you will be introduced to a dozen wines under the Stratus umbrella, including two sparkling wines brought to Canada by Cru Merchants, the import arm of the Stratus operation. Also included will be the Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling that Charles has shepherded himself from vineyard to bottle.
I had the chance to taste the Stratus line-up recently, and the wines are very impressive. I also met Antonella Bronca of Sorelle Bronca, Prosecco specialists from the north of Italy. Her wines are exceptional, and will raise considerably your estimation of Prosecco.
Cost for the event is $225 per person, plus tax and 5% gratuity. (When I spoke with people at a wine-tasting in Toronto earlier this month, they indicated that for a wine-maker’s dinner – which would involve a lot fewer wines, guests would be expected to pay almost that much for a dinner, never mind over-night accommodation and a Brunch with wines as well.)
This will be a very satisfying experience, and we hope you can join us.
To reserve, call Stokely Creek Lodge at 705-649-3421. If need be, just leave a message and you will get a return call in short order.