South African Wines in London by TheEngineer

Back in the UK this week where I am spending more and more of my time. I tend to stay in London in an area called Grosvner Square which is on the West side of London and located immediately between the shopping districts of Oxford Street and Knightsbridge. This usually presents no problem for me as I can’t afford much of what is in these areas, except for that bloody new Ferrari Store on Regents where more than a few quid have been spent.

On a cool London spring evening, I walked over to Harrods after work and then meandered into the wine area. This is located in the basement level under the ridiculously impressive food area where only the price is higher than the calorie count. There was an event going on and the area had been shut down. Too bad I thought, another exclusive event at a high end place with beautiful rich people and titles like Lord and Duke that I will not be able to go to. To my surprise, the Armani suited attendants motioned for me to join them. Did they make a mistake? Me in my tattered jeans?

As it turned out it was just a tasting event for South African wine contingent and £25 later I’m in with a glass, a pen and notes, with all the beautiful rich people who have titles that I’ll never have. Overall, I must admit that (1) I don’t drink much South African wine and (2) with few exceptions, I’ve not really liked South African wines. Having said that, I was rather impressed. Specifically, the Chenin Blancs and the Pinot Noirs were very interesting. There were a number of wines but these are the highlights.

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2007: From a well distributed South African Brand. Pale straw in color, light and reserved nose, again very fresh and clean, a bit more off dry, easy drinking wine, I’m thinking summer day with an arugula salad.

Mulderbosch Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc (vintage not listed): Golden color and a wonderfully dense nose with promises of a good acidity level. On the palate the wine does not disappoint. Very dense and heavily honeyed, floral, jasmine, orange marmalade, slight bitterness of the orange rind as well. Grippy, long, and nicely acidic but lacking some of the elegance of wines of this style but for the price, a very nice bargain.

Raats Family Chenin Blanc 2006: This is a heavier style of Chenin Blanc, straw in color, very dense nose, slightly honeyed but wood pervades in this wine. Slightly discombobulated at this point in time and finishes hot but still a very interesting wine.

Delheim Gewurtztraiminer 2008: Pale straw in color, very nice clean nose of citrus rind and lightly spicy. On the palate, a very nice rendition of fruit salad, slightly off dry and very refreshing. This is a great hot day no brain chilled summer white, especially for the price.

Graham Beck Brut NV: light golden in color, good fizz but more like Italian fizzy than Champagne fizz. Toasty, crisp, very clean and with just enough density to it. More like a cava and a very good value in this market (at the level of a inexpensive proseccos).

Springfield Methode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. This wine is made in an organic and natural way with no crushing and uses native yeasts. This wine certainly was a bit of a departure from the rest of the wines, a bit more rustic and very honest. Nose was nicely dense but suggested a broad taste profile. On the palate the flavors red fruits, tobacco, earths, cedar and some funkiness, some slight burnt flavors, and a hint of preserved prunes (but in a nice way). This wine was bottle without filtering and it showed as it was a bit more opaque than the others. This wine will not meet with everyone’s tastes but I for one liked its uniqueness.

Laibach The Ladybird 2007: An organic wine blended from Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Petit Verdot and a few other things I could not catch. A very solid wine again with a good fleshiness from the merlot. Tastes a bit older than it is but still has good grip from the tannins.

Laibach Claypot 2008: 80% merlot and it shows. Very fleshy and smooth, with a good density of flavors, ripe but good structure and acidity. Medium plus body and finish. A Right Bank ringer.

Kanonkop Estate Wine Pinotage 2006: Not a great fan of pinotage but these wines were at least very solid, juicy, well made, ripe red fruit and very soft. This is an early drinker.

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2005: This is a Bordeaux blend, nice density of color and bright. Smooth and ripe, with some leather. Wine has good length and character and a nice finish. At its price point though, it has some stiff competition.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2008: This is a great deal, Russell’s wines are Burgundy ringers for sure and this one was more Meursault than South Africa. Color was slightly golden. Nose is nicely complex with stone fruits, floral tones, tropical fruits, and a nice minerality. On the palate, one notices the density of the wine, its great grip and high toned acidity. Lighter than other years but still good density of flavors and nice structure.

Hamilton Russell Southern Right Pinotage 2006: Russell continues to believe in this varietal and this one comes with a bit of age. For me this one is like a nice cru Beaujolais. Good balance, nice fruit, softer but balanced. This one is just a bit brighter and juicier with a good acidity level.

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2008: Like Burgundy but again just a bit brighter. Good red fruit with nice high tone acidity, juicy, good focus and nicely put together.

Vilafonte Series M 2005: If you were not told of its origins, this wine would scream California with its very forward and ripe approach. It is a very generous wine, lush, ripe, dense with a very good structure and will need a few more years to resolve the tannins. It turns out the wine making team are from California.

Kumkani Lanner Hill 2007: This is a sauvignon blanc. Good density to nose, slightly honeyed, pomelo and grape fruit rind, hints of lychee and other citrus. Nicely done especially for the price point.

Kumkani Cradle Hill 2005: A cabernet Sauvignon. The wine shows slight bricking. This is a very typical cabernet with good density and length. Again a good QPR.

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