The Art of Fine Wine and The Fine Art of Service

  

October 12 & 13th, 2009, Harold Toussaint, instructor, The Wine School, attended a two-days MEGA Tasting in London England hosted WOSA: Wines of South Africa, a not-for-profit industry organisation which promotes the exports of all South African wine in key international markets. www.wosa.co.za. Toussaint was part of a contingency of 10 American Sommeliers recommended by Rory Callahan of Food & Wine Associates to travel to London, UK to participate, learn, network, and share the discoveries.


There were approximately 220 wineries at the Mega tasting, each with an average of eight offerings. For this reason, the notes are succinct. Some terms are used frequently, denoting balance and harmony rather than highly detailed flavor descriptors, due to the clearly defined varietal and regional characteristics of South African wines. Emphasis is placed on the point system (20 pt. scale) in order to follow-up on the wines as they become available to purchase for restaurant accounts or for personal consumption. (18.5 points = B+)

  

Even though located in the Southern Hemisphere, South African wines cannot be compared to New Zealand, Australian, Chilean, or Argentinean wines. They express their own distinct characteristics. They are not overly manipulated. The best of them truly strive to let the soil, atmosphere, and climate conditions speak clearly.


Regarding the overall quality of the grapes themselves, they are fully ripe yet seldom over-ripe, mitigated by excellent coastal acidity and the warmth of an additional degree alcohol content balanced by a palate pleasing level of tartaric acid (especially the white wines) which makes them very food friend, and generally large-grained, moderate tannins in the reds.


In their blending seminar, much emphasis was placed on blending varietals as well as the drying hygienic effects of strong winds which not only serve as a natural anti-mold agent but also blows away insects in a sustainable fashion reminiscent of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Southern France.

I left London impressed with the improvements in South African winemaking over the past ten years which merges modern technology, traditional empirical methods, and knowledge of what grape varietals to plant where, according to soil type and climate conditions (terrior).

 

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WINE

NOTES

$

Pts.

Seven Sisters Chenin Blanc 2009 (Twena)

Brakenfell, 100% Chenin Blanc

Green apples, minerals, lime.

www.sevensisters.co.za


18.5

Seven Sisters Merlot 2008 (June) red, 100% Merlot

Good red fruits nuances, herbs & stony minerals.



Seven Sisters Rosé de Pinotage rosé:

50%Pinotage, 50% Merlot

Excellent potential because it’s closer to the Rose of Provence style.



Women in Wine Sauvignon Blanc '09 Stellenbosch,

100% Sauvignon Blanc

Nose: touch sweet, musqué, herbaceous and white pepper.


18.3

Edens Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay /Chenin Blanc

Good structure; apple-pear, yet typical warm finish w/good acidity


18.3

Edens Vineyard Rosé 2009

rosé: 100% Pinotage

Similar to white zinfandel with residual suugar. www.womeninwine.co.za


18.4

AA Badenhurst Family Wines

White 2007 Constantia.

70% Rousanne + Grenache Blanc, Viognier

Good aperitif wine; round body; nuances of licorice & clover honey, long finish.

 

 

AA Badenhurst Family Red

2006 red,

Shiraz + Mourvedre, Cinsault

Nuances of violets* in the nose; should pair well with gamy foods.

F

18.8

Sécateurs Chenin Blanc 2009

white, Chenin Blanc

Rich, round, soft textured for the varietal

B

18.5

Sécateurs Red 2009

Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon., Grenache

andrebad@iafrica.com/tba

Juicy w/good structure (good acidity), black fruits; Traditional fermentation (no stainless steel tanks in house); yield: 3 tons per acre (lower yields = higher quality)

C

 

DMZ (DeMorgenzon)

Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Stellenbosch

100% Sauvignon Blanc

Nose: smoky (flinty), complex w/white & green asparagus, minerals; grapefruit, finishes dry. Considered a “cult classic” in New York.

C

18.5

DMZ (DeMorgenzon)

Chenin Blanc 2008

100% Chenin Blanc

www.demorgenzon.co.za

Quince (pear-apple); textbook varietal character and color (green-golden) $34.99 retail for ’06 from MS Walker, Boston, MA.

C

18.5

Back & Eisen Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Suider-Paarl,

90% Sauvignon Blanc,

10% Semillon

Rich, grapefruit, quaffable; between California and New Zealand in style.

www.backandeisen.com

D

18.5

Themi Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Cape Town,

100% Sauvignon Blanc

Nose: like a Macon blanc (nuances de savon); mouth: green pepper, tropical/melon, viscous.

C

18.3

Themi Sauvignon Blanc Reserve

www.thembiwines.co.za

white, Sauvignon Blanc

Nose: white pepper; mouth: broad textured, apple-herbal in mid-palate, extracted, rounder [lower yield].

 

18.5

Lathithá Cabernet Franc/

Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Langa, red, 70% Cabernet Franc

30% Cabernet Sauvignon

Very well made even though alcohol is high, typical gentle cab. franc nose; cassis in mid palate $12.99 retail price.

B

18.8

Lathithá Pinotage 2007

red, Pinotage ww.lathitiawines.co.za

Very balanced but not as massive as some pinotages

 

18.5

Journey’s End Haystack Chardonnay 2008 

Somerset West 

100% Chardonnay

Nose: butter-scotch (California style) but not excessive; finish: long (oak/alcohol); Winemaker’s comments: cool, coastal climate; 9 months in oak

D

18.7

Journey’s End Chardonnay  

2008

100% Chardonnay

Some alcohol heat expression in the finish, balanced by healthy refreshing palate-cleansing effect of the tartaric acid (trace minerals); overall: very balance, food friendly (due to the mother-watering effects of the subtle but effective trace minerals). Classy.

E

19.0

Journey’s End Shiraz 2005

Somerset West, red

Shiraz, Cab, Grenache, www.journeysend.co.za

Tobacco, leather, spice; good oak expression (zinfandel-like; reminds me of Cuvaison [Napa] in the mid-70's style); excellent.

 

18.6

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Cape Town,

white, 97%  Sauvignon Blanc. 3% Semillon

Nose: stone minerals; mouth: lemon, grape -fruit, herbaceous (all subtle and balanced); long finish; good for fish in butter sauce.

D

18.8

Vergelegen Chardonnay 2007

100% Chardonnay www.verelegen.co.za

Nose: pistachio, alluvial; mouth same as nose; overall: balanced and restrained.

D

18.5

Fairview Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Suider-Parl,

100% Sauvignon Blanc www.fairview.co.za

Nose: gunflint-stony, white pepper; lean mouth feel; herbal finish; textbook sauvignon blanc character.

C

18.5

Fairview Viognier 2008

white, 100% Viognier

Nose: restrained, like a baby Condrieu; mouth: papaya; true to varietal character.

D

18.9

La Carpa Chardonnay 2009

white, 100% Chardonnay

Macon-style, clean acidity, no oak competition. $9.99.

C

18.8

La Carpa Viognier 2009

white, 100% Viognier

Gewurztraminer-like nose (spicy), green tropical notes, finishes a little short.

C

18.4

Goats do Roam White 2009

white, 54% Viognier,

40%  Crouchon

Viognier is pronounced in the nose; aromatic mouth, good finish; bio-dynamic$8.99



Jordan Cobbler’s Hill 2005  

Stellenbosch, red,

43% Cabernet Sauvignon

42% Merlot 1

5% Cabernet Franc

Pine, tobacco, soft tannins; somewhat reminiscent of Jordan winey in Alexander Valley because its somewhat feminine for a cabernet. www.jordanwines.com

E

18.6

M’Hudi Sauvignon Blanc 2008  Koelenhof

Sauvignon Blanc

Textbook varietal character, trace grapefruit, no off-odors; very well made; focused! wine@villera.com

B

19.0

Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Clanwilliam

100% Sauvignon Blanc

Good extract, clean finish, round in mid palate; text-book characteristics $17.95

D

18.6

Cederberg Chenin Blanc

2008

100% Chenin Blanc

Dry (cell salts), tartaric (great for classroom. Old sea bed, cool climate. $15.95 retail.

D

 

Cederberg Five Generations Chenin Blanc2007 www.cederbergwine.com

100% Chardonnay

Built for keeping; finesse should develop w/aging, when oak and grape acidity marries. True to type, thus good teaching tools.

D

18.4

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Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc 09 Stellenbosch,

Sauvignon Blanc www.neilellis.com

Nose: high-tones, floral (honey-suckle); mouth: Tart (green notes) w/lime. Winemaker’ comments: un-oaked. $16.00 - $20.00.

C

18.4

Neil Ellis Inglewood Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Sauvignon Blanc

Nose: clean, good fruit, grapefruit & herbs (restrained). Winemaker’s comments:no wood $15.00.

D

18.6

Neil Ellis Eglin Chardonnay 2008

white, Chardonnay

100% barrel fermented, high acidity, still rich finish yet lean. About $15.00 retail.

E

 

18.5

Neil Ellis Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2008

30% barrel fermented, clean, alcohol slightly high but finish doesn’t reflect its heat; full bodied $19.95.

D

18.4

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Franschhoek

100% Sauvignon Blanc

6 months in new oak/half in stainless steel vats; very rich, needs another year’s bottle aging for oak/grape integration.

D

18.6

La Mothe Piermeef Shiraz-Viognier 2007

red, 91% Shiraz, 9% Viognier

www.la-mothe.com

Cote Rôtie style nose but full-blown (not overly rich alcoholic strength); style more akin to Central Coast (sweetness), California.

E

18.3

De Wetshof Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Robertson,

100% Sauvignon Blanc

Fumé Blanc style; mouth: grapefruit, tropical (kiwi fruit), ripe.

D

18.5

De Wetshof Finesse/Vallon Chardonnay 2008,

100% Chardonnay

4 to 6 months in barrel (2nd use, 2yr old barrels); balanced.

D

18.5

De Wetshof Bon Vallons Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay

www.dewetshof.com

Nose: Chablis-like (no malactique-fermentation = refreshing & crisp); citrus notes; 100 days on lees (yeast), stirred (battonage) gives a subtle richness.

D

18.6

De Wetshof Bateleur Chardonnay 2007, white, 100% Chardonnay

14 months in 100% new oak, very Burundian in style with citrus notes.

F

19.0

Danie de Wet Nature in Concert

Pinot Noir 2007,

red, 100% Pinot Noir

Similar to a cross between Alsace (lightness) and New Zealand style; w/nuances of slate-chalk soil; excellent potential for a neophyte.

E

18.3

Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2009 Stellenbosch, 100% Chenin Blanc

Clean, harmonious, balanced (very aptly named) $10.00 retail ‘08.

C

19.0

Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc

2009

100% Sauvignon Blanc

www.kenforresterwines.com

Balanced nose: some grapefruit; balanced finish, alcohol  sensation of heat in the finish but not excessive. $15.00 retail for 2008.

D

18.6

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2009

off-dry, 100% Chenin Blan

Nose: tropical fruits (perhaps a ripe vintage); mouth: citrusy; finish: clean, ripe green apple.

D

18.7

Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest 2007

dessert, Chenin Blanc

Excellent raisiny-botrytis (noble rot) character; good length, creamy w/good structure (sugar-acid balance). $75.00 retail '05.

E

18.8

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Grabouw

95% Sav Blanc 5%Semillon

Nose: musqué, grassy, flinty (sauvignon blanc); mouth: some residual sugar; apple-pear, melon (semillon) finish; $13 to $18.

D

18.6

Iona Chardonnay 2008

white, 100% Chardonnay

Nose: wild, leesy; residual sugar expression.


18.6

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2009

white, Sauvignon Blanc,

Nose: green, nutty (+), balanced; broad mouth feel; tropical [kiwi fruit] well structured [excellent acidity].


18.8

Iona « The Gunnar » 2005

red, 48% Cab 47% Merlot, 5% PetitVerdot

www.iona.co.za

Leaner style (perhaps a cooler climate); cassis (cab. sauvignon/dark fruit), cranberry (merlot/red fruit) herbaceous (petit verdot).

E

18.6

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chardonnay 2008

Stellenbosch,

white, Sauvignon Blanc

Nose: yeasty (+), Chablis-like (Kimméridgien soil); reminiscent of Kistler Vineyard (Sonoma, CA) but less intense; long finish.

E

19.2

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Syrah '07 100% Syrah, www.rustenberg.co.za

True varietal character (violets); rich; good finish.

 

18.9

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OFF CONSUMPTION RETAIL SHOP PRICING

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US $

UK £

EU €

Market Share

A

< 5

< 3

< 3

50%

B

5-7

3-5

3-6

34%

C

7-14

5-7

6-9

10%

D

14-30

7-10

9-15

4%

E

30-50

10-20

15-30

1%

F

> 50

> 20

> 30

1%

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WINES OF SOUTH AFRICA, LISTED BELOW, WERE TASTED DURING A GALA WINE DINNER, LONDON, OCTOBER 2009.

The wines below were tasting during dinner at which in the emphasis was more on social introduction andconversation with the winemakers before beginningthe work of wine tasting, note taking, and Q & A at the MEGA Tasting held at Earl’s Court convention center (or “stadium,” as they call it in England) in the beautiful South Kensington district of London. Some notes aren’t as lengthy others because they were written during the reception. The notes taken while seated at dinner are longer. Even though the first two listed wines below were not rated, I thoroughly enjoyed them.

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WINE

NOTES

$

Pts.

Spice Route “Malabar 2003

red

(Rhone Valley varietals)

 

Color :very deep; Nose: somewhat gamy. I was not able to read the label; however, my “blind tasting” guess is that the wine is composed of  Rhone Valley (Fr.) varietals such Syrah and Grenache. I did not rate the wine because I was in a social setting. I did greatly appreciate it.

 

 

Vilafonté 2003

red

(Bordeaux blend)

 

 

 

Between a Bordeaux and a California Cabernet in style, with nuances of black cherry, cassis (black currants) and licorice root in the mid-palate; the volatile acidity is slightly high, as well as the alcohol level; at least 13.5% by vloume. (A representative at the dinner table tells me that the winemaker / consultant is Zelma Long  (formerly of Robert Mondavi Vineyards of Napa Valley, CA.) I remember her making a great Reisling in the ‘70s and early ’80s in California.

E

 

 

Westhof Estate “Bon Vallons”

White

Nose: floral, mineraly, pear; soft finish

 

18.4

Vinium  Chenin Blanc 2008

white, Chenin Blanc

Soft textures, rich, intense attack, pistachio; extracted, yet slightly hollow


18.4

Newton Johnson Chardonnay 2008

Walker Bay

white, Chardonnay

www.newtonjohnson.com

Very balanced (nothing overblown) Nose: polished, clean like a Chassagne Montrachet (focused), yet the mouth is like a cross between a Meursault (richness, rustic elegance and oak expression from high-quality cooperage) with a cell-salts (sea spray) characteristic that is common to Long Island Chardonnay due to its proximity to the sea.

D

19.3

 

Newton Johnson Chardonnay Estate 2007

white, Chardonnay

More subtle than their ’08 Chardonnay yet more pure; powerful, bright, subtle.

E

19.3

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2008

red, Pinot Noir

 

SO2 in the nose appears bit high but blows off in a while. Genuine pinot noir flavor profile yet underdeveloped (like a pioneer, or adolescent). The potential is excellent. (For example, Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley pinot noirs started out the same way--especially their ’74 vintage, yet now, like so many others on the west coast of USA, is making excellent pinot noir.) Stylistically, there is a common thread among South Africa’s pinots: they can be light like Alsatian’s, yet true to that beetroot-cinnamon signature of the grape type, along with the steely-fruit, focused character-istic of New Zealand pinots. Pinot noir  will find its place among the wines of South Africa because the flavors are true to type even though the color is lighter (like Alsace; but not as ripe, heady, or forward as in California).

E

 

18.2

 

Devon Crest Merlot 2004, Durban Valley

red, 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon

www.meinert.co.za

Nose: a hint of mint; mouth: good structure, dusty (+), leathery mid-palate tenderized by the Merlot. [Winemaker’s comment: the grapes sourced from four different vineyard sites]. Great arugment for blending!

 

18.6

Kanonkop Estate Pinotage 2003

Stellenbosch

red, Pinotage

www.kanonkop.co.za

Very sound color for an ’03; rich intense berry character; will age like a French wine. This wine, consumed at dinner with Roast Beef (Prime Rib) with onion/red wine compote. Tasted among other red wines it proved to be the best **** with Roast Beef. The Grange Hermitage of South Africa.

F

19.0

 

Many of the participating wineries are seeking importers and distributors for the US market. A complete listing can be found at WOSA (www.wosa.co.za). South African wines have a 40% export market share in the UK.