Archives for posts with tag: South Africa

On Monday 6th August Ralph showed the WING Tutored Tasting Group CINSAULT WINES FROM NATTE VALLEIJ.

 Natte Valleij is situated at the foot of the Simonsberg and it is not a new estate, “it’s just been resting for the last 50 years…” Winemaking ceased there in the 50s, and it was bought by the Milner Family in the late 60s

In 2005 wine was made once again and Winemaker Alexander Milner strives to make wine with minimal interference and pretence, merely guiding “beautiful grapes into character full wines” They pride themselves in keeping things traditional: grapes are picked by hand, bottled by hand, corked by hand…

The Natte Valleij Cinsault Collective is a culmination of Alexander’s explorations of The Cape Winelands. Seeking out forgotten patches of old dryland bush vine Cinsault that he felt would offered exceptional quality and interest.

The Estate makes about 800 bottles a year each from 4 parcels:

Simonsberg-Paarl – bush vines planted on decomposed* granite in 1993 face North-West in the lee of the Simonsberg Mountain. They are the youngest in the collective.

Darling  –  bush vines that are most isolated block in the collective. Planted on a lonely hill surrounded by wheat fields and too many gates to remember, this block stands very alone. Planted in 1978 (they think) on Malmesbury formation with strong influences of decomposed * granite.

Stellenbosch – bush vines planted in 1974, in the shadows of the Heldeberg Mountain are planted in decomposed* granite and face West towards False Bay, making it the oldest block and the closest to the sea.

Swartland  – bush vines planted in 1986 on decomposed* Malmesbury shale. The vineyard is situated on an eastern facing slope, which catches the early morning sun and a beautiful block to be in at sunrise.

*  The group thought, especially in the light of recent discussions,  that the use of “decomposed” for minerals should be viewed as a metaphor for “smashed up” or “eroded” rather than taken literally.


Ralph showed us 2 vintages: 2016 & 2015; from each area.

Here are my notes:

This is pale, translucent with a subtly perfumed nose, red fruit (I though cranberry) and a hint of farmyard. Palate has a lively fresh, almost citrus acidity, cranberry fruit again and refreshing length with just a hint of spice at the finish.

This is darker and has a smoke nose with herby notes reminiscent of Côte Chalonnais reds… Palate is deeper too, darker flavours and more tannin but a bit simpler and less interesting…

This is similar in colour to the previous wine, with pungent, vegetal aromas. It has a creamy texture and rich body with herby plum fruit and some lifting acidity but a little unintegrated and soft.

This has cream notes on the nose with some spirit-tinged fruit (kirsch?). Palate has a brilliant long line of fruit-acidity and a deeper crunchy loganberry fruit. Just delightful, moreish and involving!

Back to a lighter colour, just deeper than wine 1. Fruit nose with some perfume and herbs. Palate is sweet, jammy summer-fruit with some citric acidity – but very “jelly-juice” simple.  Not to my taste at all…

This is darker – almost purple – with spirit nose of plum and cherry. Palate has earthy tannin but sweet fruit again and a warm – spice and alcohol – quality. Big, unsubtle and definitely more Côtes du Rhône than Burgundy in style.

This is very dark. Strong pungent compost nose, more black than red fruit and spirit again. The palate is blackcurrant pastille with a tannic structure and a lot of spice. A little “cooked” IMO, though more successful than the previous wine…

This is even darker again, with  a more dried-fruit nose and an oily hint. Firm tannins and acidity balancing the big, but less blowsy, prune fruit. Longer and fresher than the previous wine – and successful in a more Gigondas style, the best of the 2015s!

These are very interesting wines, each of well-defined character but ranging from light Burgundian to heavier Southern Rhône in general style. The expressiveness of the grape is a revelation – I don’t think I’ve ever before tasted 100% Cinsault, and even majority-grape examples would be outnumbered by the set here. Vintage too was clearly expressed though the tasting – usually the 2016s being lighter and “prettier”. However the Swartland examples were the reverse – at this, the biggest, end of the spectrum the 2015 showed more elegance and better integration – maybe due to the greater maturity. I liked that wine a lot, and the first (Simonsberg-Paarl  2016) for exactly the opposite reason – light, fresh, fruity, succulent and delightful. However, all-in-all my favourite was a lovely wine with real depth and poise – the Darling 2015.

A wonderfully deep enquiry into a quite neglected grape – excellent! Thanks so much Ralph

À Bientôt


On Monday 5th March Sue and Mike led the WING Tutored Tasting Group in sampling a set of Wines from Bosman Family Vineyards in South Africa.

Bosman are a certified Fairtrade Grower with 3 vineyard sites amid 430 ha of vineyard land. Vines are in two different areas: at Wellington (about 10 miles North of Paarl) and in Hemel-in-Aarde Valley, 70 miles further South at the top end of Walker Bay.

Sue and Mike showed 6 wines, the first two from Hemel and the last 4 from Wellington.

Here are my notes:

This is a Champagne blend (66:17:17), originally made into still wine accidentally and then continued. The nose is all citric fruit at first, later a sweeter fruit and a yeasty suggestion. Very sharp attack to the palate, hints of pithy bitterness too, then a warmer, softer though still mouth-puckering fruit. Very bubbly-without-bubbles all round! Needs food –  a short pastry nibble with cheesy or oily fish filling?

This has 5 days skin contact to make a gris Gris: a slightly blush colour wine! Slightly smokey and pithy notes with a hint of rose on the nose. Palate has a pithy note too and a lean profile backed by warm peach fruit. Very good acidity from a grape that sometimes lacks it, giving structure and length. A food wine – I liked this a lot!

This is a single-vineyard Wellington Chenin, from 63 year old bush vines; matured in (third-use?) French oak barriques for 6 months. Oak, vanilla, honey and some floral notes stand out on the nose – then some tropical fruits (all very Chardonnay so far) and finally some apple character more indicative of Chenin. Palate has a good citric backbone with balanced core, but it is a big-scaled wine better suited to a big glass. Impressive!

Slightly minty nose, a sweet woody underlay and some red fruit, with a hint of earthiness. Palate has a surprisingly supple fresh red fruit note at first and then a slightly sharp middle and a bitter twist to the grainy finish. A little unintegrated as yet, but quite fresh for a Pinotage.

Black fruit, cedar and some evolved – forest-floor, vegetal, herb – notes. Palate is very succulent: deep dark fruit with a fresh, slightly spiced acidity. The wine is a little hollow in the middle and then has a long, warm and pliant finish. Almost a text-book varietal Cabernet Sauvignon, with all its charm and shortcomings – but not too big and well done!

Efernis is a best-grapes-that-year blend, made only when the fruit warrants it and therefore different in composition each year made. In 2014 it is 30% Pinotage and 14% each of Cabernet, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre – all from Wellington. The nose is aromatic with a herby element and woody notes, a little in the direction of the Pinotage. Palate is surprisingly fresh with soft red fruit and a spicy finish – very pliant but a little bit “International”.

A very interesting tasting typified – by South African standards – by restraint, succulence, and some elegance. Only the Pinotage really showed any of the rubbery/earthy/smoky elements that often intrude on SA wines – and even that, by Pinotage standards, was restrained….

Thanks Sue and Mike for a great tasting.

À Bientôt

On Thursday October 9th, seven intrepid Wing-ers ventured to Plumptre to eat, drink and listen to Richard Kelley. The theme was South Africa, and 6 wines were shown, along with a two-course meal.

Richard Kelley is a well-known expert in (at least) two wine regions: the Loire and South-Africa. Always a good speaker (Corkmaster has heard him speak before – on the Loire) it turns out that the bottle (a Gaston Huet Vouvray) that turned Richard on to wine is the same grower/appellation that did the same for one of our group. It also turned out that the Corkmaster and Richard were present at the same Huet tasting (led by wine maker Noel Pinguet) in Nottingham in 1984! Small world….

Rather than recount the content of Richards interesting talk why not look at his South African wine website “The Liberator”. If you’re more interested in the Loire, have a look at his Definitive Guide to the Wines of the Loire.

As to the evening, here are my wine notes:

Slightly nutty and honeysuckle nose, with a sharp pear-ish note. Palate has warm, but very strong acidity. Partly barrel-aged from old vines; there is a long warm finish with a greengage/plum element. High acidity a little unbalanced but good – especially with food.

Much more floral nose with hints of white peach. Quite complex with apple notes later. Rich palate with a softer first note underpinned by long warm acidity. Honey and honeysuckle – very good.

EAGLES’ NEST VIOGNIER 2013 – Constantia
Very fruity – peach/apricot – slightly spirit and later nutty nose. Warm palate and oily texture with a slightly soda-ish twist to the sweet fruit giving some balance, still a bit big blousy for my taste.

photo (1)

Slightly herby and tarry nose with black fruit and coffee tones. Palate rather spicy with the fruit more red than black berries, and a brackish salty finish. Avowedly a take on a young Crozes-Hermitage, but a rather rustic take on that sometimes rustic appellation. Better with the food (a very creditable blade of beef), though the spicy note comes out further against the sweetness of the meat.

Warmer nose, more a plum spirit note. Palate is richer with plum fruit and plum stone impressions, grainy but controlled tannins, a supple finish with the fruit and spice balancing and little impression of saltiness. Much more elegant and if the previous wine tended to young Crozes, this tends towards mature Cornas… Good, and a lovely foil for the food.

MILES MOSSOP “KIKA” 2013 – Stellenbosch
This is a Noble Late Harvest made from 100% Chenin blanc. An immediate Botrytis / marmalade nose, with hints of cardamom, passion fruit and honey. The palate is passion fruit too, with a gingerish warmth and butterscotch flavours. The dessert (an intensely, dryingly, warm sweet treacle tart – so warmly sweet that there is a “spicy hot” impression) takes out much of the sugar in the wine and exposes the lively, refreshing chenin acidity. A good foil, which would work a little better with a slightly more (but not very) delicate pudding, IMO.

A lovely evening – thanks to Perkins and Richard Kelley.

A monthly review of an easily obtainable wine that’s had a recommendation somewhere in a National newspaper. Always posted just before the usual monthly theme, this may be the latest post for only a few days…

Bellingham “The Bernard Series” Whole Bunch Roussanne 2010 (or 2012) – 14½% – Sainsbury’s £11

A warm, satisfying, complex, long-lived and refreshing 2014 to all!

A warm, satisfying, complex, long-lived, sensuous and refreshing 2014 to all!

The wine, which originates in Paarl, is a rather pale straw colour. The nose has oily, nutty notes – then floral hints, citrus peel and lime. Later as the wine warms, pears and kiwi fruit emerge…

Strong warm lemon acidity and a slightly spirity alcohol hit on the palate, buttery elements with an oaked-wine structure (though not big new oak vanilla). Oily, fleshy texture – pears again and a mineral finish. The overall flavour profile is rather reminiscent of Chardonnay.

After a while, as the wine warms, these Chardonnay-ish qualities (oak structure, butter, citrus, mineral…) become more dominant and – to be blunt – tiring. Cooling the wine helps and returns the fresher characteristics…

With food (Thai Green Curry) the oily and buttery elements work rather well, coating the mouth and offsetting the spices and aromatics in the food (in a similar way that Gewurztraminer works, although most Gewurz have a sweeter balance). While the foods masks out the subtler notes in the wine this means that the citrus peel quality becomes more prominent.

Later still many of the wine’s components integrate more, making it much more satisfying and stable. I was drinking the 2010 and would guess another year would help that wine – for the 2012 – 3 years?

Overall, rather a volatile wine – very sensitive to temperature. But a big wine that slots into the New World Chardonnay  £10-£15 bracket. From that point of view it is very good value. It needs the right occasdion or food but then can show off complexity and interest well beyond most £15 New World Chardonnays.

Ratings:    Quality:  15/20            Value:  16/20

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