Simon and I have recently got back from a trip to South Africa, where we took the opportunity to explore some of the wineries around Cape Town.
We began our adventure in Constantia, where we spent a day post night flight from London tasting at the old wineries of Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting. My favourite was the well known sweet wine ‘Vin de Constance 2013’ which was absolutely superb! Luciously sweet, with notes of dried apricots, honeysuckle and lime marmalade, it had a lovely freshness to the finish.
Next stop was Stellenbosch, where we arranged a tasting with Chris Williams at Meerlust Estate.
Chris has been the winemaker at Meerlust since 2004, where he makes an some stunning wines, including the flagship Bordeaux blend the Rubicon. Chris also has a side line project of his own, he calls it his ‘retirement plan’ which is making the Foundry wines based on Rhone varietals. We have always enjoyed these wines and regularly stock the Viognier and Grenache Blanc so it was great to taste the latest releases of these wines and also the rest of the range. The Grenache Blanc from the Cape of Good Hope has lovely stone fruit notes, fresh peach and melon. The Viognier has notes of honey, peach and a limey note which lifts the wine. The other stand out for me was the Syrah which had complex notes of spicy fruit, blueberry and that classic peppery finish. Full bodied but very elegant.
We finished our visit tasting the 2004 Meerlust Rubicon, which was Chris’s first vintage. We have been tricked before blind tasting this wine in thinking it was from Bordeaux, and once again we were tricked when guessing the vintage and were surprised at how fresh and youthful the ’04 was.
*We have a limited amount of Rubicon gift packs a flight of three vintages which would make a for a great gift given how well theis wine ages!*
Around Stellenbosch we visited wineries such as Kanonkop, Jordan, Warwick and Tokara. These are all set up for visitors with tasting rooms and often fine dining restaurants too.
Hopping over the Helshoogte pass to Franschoek, from here we decided to take a day trip down to the Hemel en Aarde and Bot River. Our first stop was Newton Johnson.
This is a family owned winery and we were lucky taste the wines with Bevan. We had a tour around their gravity fed cellar where they have an impressive barrel room as well as a couple of concrete eggs. After which we headed up to the tasting room overlooking the stunning valley. The valley is a wind tunnel, which Bevan described as the ‘Cape Doctor’ helping to keep the grapes cool. This valley is known particularly for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. At Newton Johnson they also make a couple of Sauvignon Blanc’s, Syrah and excitingly South Africa’s first Albarino.
Our favourite wines of the tasting were the 2015 Family Reserve Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Both wines showed complexity, elegance and balance and will benefit from a few years cellaring if you can keep your hands off them! The 2015 Chardonnay recently picked up 5 stars in Platter and has rich notes of citrus fruit and ripe apple along with a fine textured palate that finishes very long. The Pinot Noir 2015, another 5 star Platter wine, had amazing depth, with bags voluptuous cherry fruit, soft spice and earth. We were also lucky enough to try the Albarino which considering its youth has all the hallmarks of this Spanish grape variety. A wonderful peachy freshness that certainly stamped its mark for me as one of my wines of the trip.
After a 30 minute drive to Bot River we dropped in on Sebastian at Beaumont who has been the winemaker since 2004. We enjoyed tasting two contrasting Chenin Blanc’s, one un-oaked which was vibrant, appley and a great expression of this variety. The ‘Hope Marguerite’ having just been awarded 5 stars in the John Platter guide was outstanding. The grapes come from the oldest vineyards planted back in the 1970’s and you can taste this in the wine. Barrel fermentation in large French oak gives the wine a wonderful texture without masking it. It will develop over the next 5-10 years and shows the exciting heights that old vine Chenin Blanc can reach.
If the whites excited, the reds did too. Particular favourites were the Pinotage which is made from 42 year old vines, low yielding and producing a wine that has fine tannins along with plummy fruit and the Dangerfield Syrah which was richer with darker fruit and a touch of spice.