Intrepid South Africa

 

Tobacco Dock, Tobacco Quay, Wapping Lane, London, E1W 2DA

 

Intrepid South Africa was a trade tasting presented by Wines of South Africa to highlight just how much South Africa’s winemaking industry has grown.  There were over 100 producers at the event which was held at London’s Tobacco Dock in Wapping on Thursday, 8 September 2016.

 

South African wines are increasingly receiving more positive reaction for their diversity, quality and range of styles, which remain at a competitive price point within the UK. 

 

In addition to the producers’ offerings, Wines of South Africa created a Tasting Trail with 9 different stations to demonstrate different themes.  Each station had 18 wines available to taste and at various points during the day, a winemaker was available to discuss the different wines.  Themes included the varying styles of Chenin Blanc, Pinotage, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, together with “Off Beat Reds”, “Off Beat Whites” and red and white blends.

 

Highlights for me were as below:

 

Meerlust

http://www.meerlust.co.za/

The Meerlust Estate is located 15km south of Stellenbosch and the Myburgh family has been producing fine wines from estate grown grapes since 1756.  I met their winemaker, 8th generation family member, Hannes Myburgh.  Their flagship wine is Meerlust Rubicon, the 2013 vintage of which was available for tasting.  This was a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot.  It was full bodied with silky smooth tannins, an excellent concentration of black fruit and a long lingering finish.

 

Steenberg

http://www.steenbergfarm.com/

Steenberg was established in 1682 and is located in Constantia at the foot of Table Mountain National Park.  As it lies only 5km from the Atlantic, it has a very cool climate which is ideal for producing elegant fruit forward wines.  70% of their production is white and 30% is red.  Steenberg produces a range of wines including Méthode Cap Classique, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Nebbiolo.  Their iconic wine is Steenberg Magna Carta, which is only made in exceptional vintages.  The 2012 vintage was available to taste and a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon.  With a tropical nose and ripe citrus, this wine spent 9 months in French oak, was full bodied and had great acidity.

 

Graham Beck

http://www.grahambeckwines.co.za/

Graham Beck has a reputation as one of the leading producers of Méthode Cap Classique wines in South Africa and now focuses exclusively on this style of wine.  I met Kobie Lochner, Export Manager, who guided me through their full range.  Their most exclusive offering is the Cuvée Clive, a blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir which receives a minimum of 60 months lees contact before disgorgement.  This wine was incredibly complex, rounded, full bodied, rich and creamy. 

 

Boutinot

http://boutinotwines.com/boutinot/

Boutinot is a producer, importer and distributor based in the UK that works with over 150 producers globally.  It also produces its own wines working alongside winemakers in France, Italy and South Africa.  As such, they produce and market a wide range of labels from entry level to premium.  They have recently launched “Camper Vin”, a bag-in-box wine which is being marketed to festival-goers in an eye-catching box shaped like a model VW camper van.  The box contains the equivalent of 3 x 75cl bottles and the first edition is 100% Chenin Blanc.  The RRP is £15 however it is currently being trialled in Asda for £13.

 

Klein Constantia

http://www.kleinconstantia.com/

Klein Constantia dates back to 1685 and vineyards are located on the upper foothills of Constantiaberg overlooking False Bay.  The estate produces a range of wines including Méthode Cap Classique, a premium Estate range, an easy-drinking KC range and their stunning and rather iconic natural sweet wine, Vin de Constance.

 

Hamilton Russell

http://www.hamiltonrussellvineyards.com/

I discovered the wonderful wines from Hamilton Russell whilst studying for my Diploma.  Their vineyards are some of the most southerly in Africa and very close to the sea.  The Hemel-en-Arde Valley appellation located very close to the small village of Hermanus has a cool maritime climate which enables them to produce some extremely elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines.

 

Vergenoegd

http://vergenoegd.co.za/

I was attracted to the Vergenoegd stand by a rather large wooden duck sitting in an ice bucket and asked their Managing Director, Peter Stuart, what it was all about.  Peter told me that they have around 1000 Runner Ducks on their farm, originally imported from India around 30 years ago in an attempt to deal with a snail epidemic.  The snails lay their eggs in the sandy soils of the vineyard and the ducks provide a form of natural pest control by burrowing into the sand and eating the eggs.  Check out the video on YouTube.  Peter told me that when it was first launched, it received over 23 million views! 

 

Aside from the rather comical and extremely useful ducks, Vergenoegd Estate produces both red and white wines in an old world style.  The reds in particular were extremely impressive, most notably the Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 and the Merlot 2008.

 

Simonsig

http://www.simonsig.co.za/

Simonsig Estate obtained its name from the Simonsberg Mountain in Stellenbosch and is currently owned and operated by the 2nd and 3rd generation of the Malan family.  I met Pierre Nortje, Export Manager, who told me that Simonsig Estate produced the first Méthode Cap Classique wines in 1971.  Sparkling wines now account for around 25% of their production.  Their star MCC for me was the Prestige Cuveé Royale Blanc de Blancs Cap Classique Brut 2011 which receives no less than 5 years lees ageing and is made in an Extra Brut style.

 

Tasting Trails

Wine of note from some of the tasting trails included:

 

  • Bouchard Finlayson Hannibal 2014 from Walker Bay; a spicy and concentrated blend of Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Nebbiolo, Mourvèdre and Barbera with soft silky tannins.

  • Ashbourne 2009 from Hemel-en-Arde, an old world style with leather and rich dark chocolate made from a blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.

  • Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2012 from the Bottelary Hills in Stellenbosch; packed full of sweet spices, red plums and black cherries.

  • Waterford Estate The Jem 2010 also from Stellenbosch; a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Grenache and Barbera which exudes black pepper, oak, smoke and blackcurrant.

 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the event and felt that it really did showcase the best of what South Africa has to offer and illustrated how producers are focused on creating wines to reflect both the areas and climates in which the grapes are grown.  I personally think that South African wines in the UK offer incredibly good value for money and the event today demonstrated how exciting and dynamic the region is becoming.  South Africa is definitely one to watch!

 

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