Cape Wine 2012: Rhone ranging – Swartland & beyond


Last week I reported on Swartland newcomer Porseleinberg’s maiden release, its 2010 Shiraz.  So hotly anticipated, I thought it worth singling out.  Which is not to say that my palate wasn’t tickled by some rather more extensive Rhône ranging.   To the contrary.

Here’s my pick of the bunch from Swartland and beyond and, for ease of reference, I’ve included both the Porseleinberg Shiraz 2010 and those Rhône varietal blends I’d also already written up in my report on the (very uplifting) Old Vines Seminar at Cape Wine.

Bot River

My must see producers working with Rhône varieties in the Cape South Coast – Beaumont and Luddite – are both based in Bot River. Luddite’s Niels Verburg used to make Beaumont’s wines and I recently wrote up his limited edition Cape Winemakers Guild Shiraz with a pretty damn useful dash of Mourvedre – tasting note repeated below for ease of reference.  So there’s a concentration of knowledge and flair with Rhône varieties in this neck of the woods and great to see Sebastian Beaumont running with it.

Luddite “Oscar” Shiraz Mourvèdre 2009 (Cape South Coast)

The Mourvedre in this 90.9% Shiraz blend (pictured), the first Shiraz from Verburg’s own vineyard, is actually from the 2010 vintage – cheeky, but boy it works, revealing Bandol-like sweet lavender and saddle soap to nose and palate and rustic but tapering, firm tannins to its long perfumed finish.  The Shiraz fleshes out the whole with sweet cherry and spicy plum fruitcake notes.   Though weighing in at a hefty 15.2% abv, this powerful wine is balanced. A feast of flavour, well teased out, which keeps it more or less fleet of foot.  Very good. 15.2%/100 cases.

Beaumont Shiraz Mourvèdre 2009 (Bot River)

This blend of 59% Shiraz and 39% Mourvèdre puts me in mind of the Barossa with its rich chocolately, loamy (warm earth), spicy palate of dark fruits.  Ripe but present grainy tannins lend frame and length, while the cooler conditions of Bot River plus the vintage make for good balancing freshness.  Very good.  14.5%

Beaumont Vitruvian 2008 (Bot River)

This is the second release of this thoroughly idiosyncratic and surely unique blend of 38% Mourvèdre, 27% Pinotage, 12% Petit Verdot, 12 % Cabernet Franc and 11% Shiraz.  It shares the loamy chocolatey notes of the Shiraz Mourvèdre and, though there’s slightly less Mourvèdre, it’s wonderfully expressive with plenty of spice and saddle soap lift and intensity.  As for the Bordeaux varieties, I suspect they explain the tapering finish.  Which is not to say that this wine loses its wild Rhônish edge.  Brimming with character, it’s complex, long, powerful but balanced.  Excellent.  14%

Stellenbosch

De Morgenzon The Maestro White 2011

This showy blend of 50% Roussanne with Chenin Blanc, Viognier and Chardonnay exhibits Stellenbosch’s muscular, ripe fruit, with a core of white peach fruit to its rich, honeyed and honeysuckled palate.  A feast.

Ken Forrester Roussanne 2011

This maiden release (only one barrel made) is another rip roaring or at least muscle ripped style, with a bold, pithy, waxy palate of ripe citrus fruit (especially lime) with honeysuckle lift and spicy oak.  Flash in a glass, it’s a glossy wine – bit too glossy for me; if you like an FMC take on Roussanne, though I’d never have guessed it was a Roussanne.  And perhaps that doesn’t matter if you like the style?

The Foundry Roussanne 2011

The first of three single varietal Rhone white wines made by Chris Williams, this is tightly coiled, with honeysuckle and green tomato, the latter giving an attractive, edgy freshness; like the dryness and line here.

Miles Mossop Saskia 2009

Stellenbosch Chenin is blended with Swartland Viognier in this powerful blend.  Mossop is still tweaking it – in 2010, it included some Clairette for mouthfeel and, in its Platter five star bagging 2011 incarnation, included some Stellenbosch grown Verdelho for freshness.  2009 is pretty delicious though and with a lovely velvety mouthfeel to its apricot, juicy pineapple aniseed edged fruit.

The Foundry Viognier 2010

Initially, the emphasis here is more on citrus than stone fruits, though there’s pretty pear and a sweet creamy, leesy quality going through; well balanced.

Radford Dale Viognier 2011

I loved Radford Dale’s pure, mineral, textured take on Chenin Blanc and this single site Viognier, similarly early-picked too for acidity, takes a leaf out of the same book.  It needs time to fully show itself and flesh out a bit (bit not too much!), but there’s much to like about its freshness and mineral nuances – struck match and saline notes mingle with orange peel and honeysuckle.  Very promising.  Viognier need not be rocket fuel!  13%

Radford Dale Vine Dried Viognier 2011

This sweetie is an addition-free zone, so (controlled) oxidation has taken the emphasis of the fruit and this already shows calvados and tarte tatin-edged orchard fruits and more than a lick of spice; nice texture and structure too thanks to a couple of days of skin contact.  Wears its 143g/l of residual sugar lightly.  12%

Ken Forrester Gypsy 2009

This blend of 52% Grenache, 29% Syrah, 19% Mourvèdre scooped five stars (top marks) in the recently released 2013 Platter Guide.  Aged in 100% new oak, though there’s a smooth chocolatey quality to its spicy red fruits, firm sinewy tannins lurk beneath, suggesting that this wine will benefit from a few years’ bottle age.  And sure enough, the 2002 bodes well:

Ken Forrester Grenache/Syrah 2002

This 50:50 blend is drinking beautifully now.  There’s the chocolatey, smooth rich gloss of oak of a modern (French) Rhône red, but a lovely gamey, slightly bloody, leathery quality and plenty of spice, both fruit (liquorice) and dried (incense-like) to its still concentrated black and red fruits.  Grainy ripe fine tannins lend ample support.  Delicious and still going strong.

De Morgenzon DMZ Syrah 2011

An attractively juicy, fresh Syrah with bright red berry and plum fruit interwoven with delicate spices(oak and fruit) and firm but ripe tapering tannins.  Very well done; youthful spirit combined with digestibility – like it.

The Foundry Syrah 2007

Winemaker Chris Williams says he has pulled back on oak and extraction with a view to making a Pinot Noir/Cote Rotie style of Syrah which is more complete early on.  Result!  This is a summery Syrah, very floral with fresh picked sweet red berry fruits and just a hint of charcuterie/smoky bacon.  Focused on depth – intensity of flavour – rather than breadth and all the better for it.  Lovely and, surprisingly given its levity, 14.5%

Hartenberg The Stork Shiraz 2008

Though lavished with vanilla oak, there’s plenty of interest to this Shiraz, with smoky, gamey notes to its plum and juicy blood plum fruit.  A fine thread of tannins and that juiciness leaven the palate and allow the fruit to come to the fore going through. 14.5%

Hartenberg Gravel Hill Shiraz 2008

Just released, this single site Shiraz from particularly lean, gravel soils is super intense and densely layered with plum and darker but juicy blackberry fruit, smoke, clove and minerals.  Ripe but sinewy tannins lend plenty of support.  Tons of potential (and how sorry was I to miss a vertical tasting in London earlier this month).  A keeper.

Waterford Estate Waterford Kevin Arnold Shiraz 2009

In the past, I’ve found this Shiraz a little too full on the oak and fruit for my taste but, in 2009, I’m converted.  Long, linear and white pepper perfumed, its firm backbone of tannin is fleshed out by smoky dark berry and plum fruit.  Very balanced and complete.

Waterford Estate Library Collection MB 2004

MB stands for Mediterranean Blend, though there are a couple of interlopers (Petit Verdot and Barbera) with the Shiraz and Mourvedre.  Really on song. Expressive with wonderful flow and layer of smoke, saddle soap/leather, lavender and incense to its succulent, still pure blackberry core.  Svelte tannins add to the sense of fluidity.  Just delicious.

Edgebaston The Pepper Pot 2011

Savoury, funky but fresh this unusual blend (Syrah, Mourvedre & Tannat) has plenty of mouthfeel, with textured tannins and well-integrated rolling, juicy acidity to its blackberry fruit.  Very good.

The Liberator Episode 3 The Bandolier 2009

Savoury and sweet flavours meld together very well in this 50:50 Syrah/ Mourvedre blend, which shows fresh and glacé red cherry fruit, saddle soap, spice and garrigue wed to firm, gravelly tannins.  15%.  Sturdy, unshy stuff for the barbie, steak or a winter stew.

Voor Paardeberg

The Foundry Grenache Blanc 2011

A little broader than previous vintages, this white Grenache has a funky edge with ripe lemon peel on the nose, which signposts the textural quality of the palate.  Zingy citrus acidity maintains length and line.  Finishes long and nutty, with hints of fennel/aniseed.  Very good.

Scali Blanc 2009

Rich, honeyed and creamy this textural blend of 50% Chenin Blanc, 20% Chardonnay, 10% Viognier, 10%Roussanne and 10% Sauvignon Blanc shows good concentration and length of ripe, round stone fruits.

David Grenache 2011

Lovely translucency and freshness to this young vine Grenache’s strawberry and red cherry fruit, clarity and definition too.  A touch of aniseed adds and fruit tannin adds a spicy note and texture to the finish.  Nicely done.  13.5%

Piekenierskloof

Vriesenhof Grenache 2010

As I discovered during the course of Cape Wine, Piekenierskloof has emerged as the Cape’s Grenache hot spot. This wine comes from a  c. 50 year old vineyard at 700m on decomposed table mountain sandstone (which is very well drained). Stellenbosch-based producer Vriesenhof has been making a Grenache for 3-4 years, in fact I’d tasted the spicier, earthier 2009 from magnum earlier in the week, also excellent. It’s made in a very traditional way, with 1-2 pumpovers daily and aged in old Burgundy casks (40 in total).  Deep, bright ruby in hue, it’s a Grenache with sinew and no heft, showing floral hints to its delicate red cherry and berry fruits.  With an earthy undertow, for Sadie  “Pinot Noir is the Grenache of the north, rather than other way around!”

Vriesenhof Grenache 2009

With its exotic chocolate orange notes, incense spice, leather, earth and creamy red fruits, this evoked a long buried memory of a bottle of Château Rayas.  Though I’d happily agree it tastes more evolved than I’d expect (especially from magnum). I found much to enjoy here though, for others, it was marred by brett.  I’m far from liberal about brett, but it really didn’t strike me as bretty, just funky.

Sadie Family Soldaat Grenache 2011

This wine comes from Erasmus and Bielie van Zyl’s vineyard at 708m on table mountain sandstone.  It is 100% whole bunch fermented, foot stomped and aged in 30 year old casks.  Pale ruby, this is as textured and layered as they come, with floral (Turkish delight) and fynbos lift, especially on the echoey finish, as well as spice strewn red cherry and raspberry fruit.  Sweet jube hints too, though the finish is distinctly dry and assertively mineral, with tapering, flavour mopping suede-like tannins.  An exciting wine and in more revealing form than last November’s tasting (click here for my notes).

Swartland

AA Badenhorst White Blend 2010

This Platter five star blend of Steen (Chenin) Grenache Blanc & Gris, Roussanne, Verdelho, Chardonnay, Colombard “plus four others” (!) is beautifully textured with honeyed apricots, nougat, marzipan and calisson with fresh, mineral acidity and a hint of green tomato for balance and persistence.  Very accomplished, complex wine.  13.8%

David Aristargos 2011

This wine, a blend of 31% Chenin Blanc, 27% Roussanne, 22% Viognier, 20% Grenache Blanc, is another 2013 Platter five star wine.  I included it in my highlights of last year’s Swartland Revolution here – good to see it living up to expectations!  It’s possessed of a lovely clarity and minerality, with subtle marshmallow sweetness and spice to its just ripe stone fruits.  Limpid.  14%

Nativo White Blend 2011

With 60% Viognier and 40% Chenin Blanc, this is a rich, honeyed wine with a good girth of ripe apricots but brighter quince too; long and well balanced, finishing with an attractive quinine bitter minerals note which I associate with Loire Chenin.  14%

Sequillo White 2011

Eben Sadie told me that, since he’s pulled back from his Priorat project, he has been able to devote more time to his joint venture Sequillo brand.  It really shows in this blend of Chenin, Palomino, Semillon Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Semillon Gris, Viognier and Cliarette.  With so many grapes, it’s multi-faceted, terrifically long and layered, each layer animated and extended by racy (Sadie picks the Clairette at 11% for drive) but well integrated mineral acidity – a tensile backbone, which lends the wine great focus. Very impressive.

Mullineux White Blend 2011

Having enjoyed a deconstructed version of this wine at last year’s Swartland Revolution (click here for my notes), it was exciting to see how the individual components of this 65% Chenin Blanc, 26% Viognier, 9% Clairette blend have come together.  Very well, I might add, plus it is absolutely true to Chris and Andrea Mullineux’s philosophy, which is to be “very gentle custodians of the wine, guiding it through its life without stamping on it and telling it what it wants to be.”  Long and rolling, it shows subtly honeyed, nougat-edged stone fruits with an animated undertow of mineral acidity; like its makers, both gentle and intense.  Very good indeed. 13%

Rall White 2011

Another Platter five star winner, this delivers a great concentration and purity of rich, ripe and fleshy apricot fruit.  Seamlessly integrated juicy acidity pushes out a long, controlled finish, keeping the fruit in line.  Very good.

Mount Abora Saffrone Cinsault Rosé 2011

A delicate, dry, lingering rosé, floral and savoury with a distinct aniseed, pastis-like note.  Nice freshness too.

Radford Dale Black Rock 2009

Given where it’s from (though not who makes it), this surprisingly under-stated blend of Shiraz (71%) Carignan (13%) Grenache (12%) Mourvèdre (3%) & Viognier (1%)shows cinnamon licked fresh black berry and cherry fruit, really juicy, with liquorice going through.  Terrific freshness and fine grainy tannins make for a really long, tapering, mineral finish.  Lovely and very elegant for a 14.5 percenter.

Nativo Red Blend 2009

This blend of 56% Shiraz, 18% Grenache, 13% Merlot, 9% Mourvèdre and 6% Pinotage is spicy, fruity, round and fleshy yet well balanced, with chocolate orange and saddle soap notes to its red and black fruits.  Plenty of flavour and an attractive rusticity. 14.5%

Nativo Red Blend 2008

A slightly different composition in 2008, with 48% Shiraz, 16% Merlot, 13% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre, 9% Pinotage and 3% Viognier has a deep seam of sweet but earthy raspberry fruit, really fleshy with gamey notes without losing freshness.

Sequillo Red 2010

A yielding, generous but balanced palate builds in flavour, texture and layer, revealing earthy red fruits, truffle, chocolate and spice along the way.  Very good.

Mullineux Cinsault 2010

Just one barrel of this wine was made and it’s one of a number of super small batch wines available exclusively to Mullineux Wine Club members.  Aged for 11 months in old French oak, it has a really spicy orange peel tang to its loamy earthy chocolate-edged red fruits. Nice tannic grip too.  Attractive rusticity and intensity.  Well done.  14.5%

Sadie Family Pofadder Kasteelberg 2011

After the Cape was ravaged by phylloxera, high yielding and hardy Cinsault was swiftly and widely planted with just one aim – to help restore production levels soonest.  Which explains why Sadie referred to the grape as “like having a brother in jail.  You love him but you can’t really talk about him.”  Still, as he points out, the great Cape wines of the 1940s-late 60s were mostly composed of this variety and have proved ageworthy.  These days, the jail bird is singing and, in Swartland, has been embraced by several producers; in Stellenbosch, Howard Booysen makes a very good one.  This wine, from slate soils, is 50% whole bunch fermented and spent a month on skins before being pressed straight into 30 year old casks.  It’s very pale ruby, with purple glints.  A mineral-sluiced, textured palate shows ‘tracing paper’ red fruits and dried spice nuances – fruit is not the main story here – it’s as if seen through a gauze.  Rather, minerality is very much to the fore.  Lovely purity, intensity and delicacy, with a finish as haunting as its fruit.

Intellego Syrah 2011

Youthful and still coming together but promisingly fresh with spicy still tight knit red (especially raspberry) and black berry fruit with earthy undertones and ripe but present textured tannins.

Lammershoek Roulette Red 2010

This blend of 66% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 14% Carignan & 5% Mourvedre shows fresh and spicy wild fruits of the forest with a saline edge; textured tannins lend an attractive touch of grip.  Piquant, very drinkable & food friendly.

Mullineux Kloof Street Swartland Rouge 2011

Both scent and palate of this blend of 72% Syrah, 13% Mourvedre, 11% Cinsault & 4% Carignan really puts me in mind of an elegant Douro red such is its wild, fresh picked fruits of the forest, wild bilberry, schist and saltiness.  Bright and beautiful for such a modestly priced wine. 14%

Mullineux Shiraz 2010

Five star and Platter’s Red Wine of the Year 2013 will surely fuel already strong demand for this wine.  As with Mullineux White (reviewed above), what strikes me about this Shiraz is its gentleness.   A fluid wine, with lovely purity and sheen of raspberry and plum fruit, schistous, salt lick minerality, a hint of charcuterie and dried herbs/garrigue.  Exemplary tannins – fine and long – tease out a supple but finely crafted finish.  Lovely, unshowy stuff. 14%

Mullineux Schist Shiraz 2010

I was blown over by this wine and its soil strutting companion Granite at last year’s Swartland Revolution (see my initial report here).  Once again, I found them both to be exciting wines, with lovely energy and flow; distinct too (as they should be).  Portuguese analogies kept springing to mind when I was tasting through the Mullineux range, here that Schist has the darker, fleshier mid-palate of the two, like the Douro (schist soils) has a fleshier, richer palate than the Dão (granite soils).  And fleshy and rich is a relative statement with this medium bodied, intense Shiraz.  It has lovely purity to its red and black fruits and a salty, mineral piquancy going through.  No shortage of structure either with its ripe but coolly present firm backbone of tannin.  Excellent.

Mullineux Granite Shiraz 2010

With 100% whole bunch, this has a wonderful thread of floral,spicy/stemmy notes to its pure and well-defined red fruits; a subtle hint of earth/mushroom too – very Pinot Noir.  In the mouth it’s extremely elegant and mineral with lifted white pepper notes.  With fine, seemingly sheer tannins, a long, fluid finish is possessed of beguiling levity.  Terrific.  Still my favourite of the two!

Porseleinberg Shiraz 2010

At this early stage of the game, the wine – a touch reductive – is as laconic as its winemaker, so I was pleased to have the chance to taste it three times.   Deep ruby in colour, though floral on nose and palate, with notes of wild peonies and violets, its well-defined, tight knit, pure dark fruit is presently firmly braced by a charge of powdery tannins.  I think of Cornas – albeit a very refined one, such is the fine if firm weft and warp of its tannins and its remarkable quality of mineral freshness.  A taut, somewhat impenetrable wine which has yet to reveal itself, but promises plenty.  Here’s hoping I get to enjoy a longer conversation with it when it has a little more age under its belt.  13.7% abv.

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