Notes from our trip to South Africa in 2014
Our tour of the Paarl Wine Route stared at Klapmuts which is at Exit 47 from the N1 north or along the R44 from Stellenbosch - see here for a useful map.
We turned off the R44 towards the North East along the Klapmuts – Simondium road to start tasting at Noble Hill, a short distance before the intersection with the R45.
Noble Hill charge R30 for tasting all 8 of their wines (excluding their Blanc de Blancs sparkler). Their ’13 Sauvignon Blanc (R55) was a mixture of farm grown and Elgin (40%) grapes giving a blend of hot and cool climate sauvignons. It had good fruit and acidity but we were not wholly convinced by the blend of such different styles. The ’13 Chardonnay (R105) spent 6 months in new oak; it had great fruit, lemoney, buttery and new oak flavours – good. The ’12 Viognier (R95) had spent 9 months in oak and to our taste this overpowered the typical Viognier flavours of which there was but a hint. We passed on the Mourvedre Rosé (R65). The ’09 Syrah (R65) had spent 14months in oak. It had good fruits, was nice and peppery but, to our taste, was slightly green and did not have a full mouth taste. All their other reds spent 18 months in oak. The ’11 Merlot (R105) had great fruit and soft tannins and was the pick of the reds. The ’09 Cabernet (R95) was austere and green to our taste and underperformed the vintage. The Estate Blend (cab 60%, merlot 30%, petit verdot 10%) (R120) had great complexity and plenty of tannins – good; we bought this.
If you tasted everything on Backsberg’s list on could be there for some time; luckily they focus your mind by offering 5 wines for R15. We tasted 2 Sauvignon Blancs; the ’12 John Martin (R82) and the ’13 normal ‘Premium Range’ (R46). The former made from ‘cool climate’ grapes from Durbanville which had the flavours and tastes one would expect but seemed understated and a bit short. The latter made from grapes from the farm, ‘hot climate’ grapes. This was light and pleasant but not much of anything as far as a Sauvignon was concerned. We then moved to the reds and started with the normal range, a ’12 Merlot (R67) and a ’10 Cabernet (R70). The Merlot had a toffee nose, great fruits and soft tannins whilst the Cabernet had a typical cab nose, herbaceous notes but the tannins seemed too soft. The ’08 Klein Babylonstoren (R107) is their top of the range red; it is a blend of cab and merlot and spent 24 months in oak; very pleasant but did not have the ‘full mouth of flavours’ one would hope for (but also didn’t have the price tag). We thought that the Merlot was the pick of the bunch and we offer that half bottle of wine on our site – see here
If one was to visit just one winery in this area, Glen Carlou is it. They charge between R25 and R35 for a tasting. We started with their ‘13 Sauvignon Blanc (R65) – fresh, gooseberries. The ‘13 Chardonnay (R90) was excellent – a hint of new oak vanilla, slightly lemoney and buttery. We then tried a few reds, stating with the ’11 Merlot (R80). This was a bit thin but had great fruit and soft tannins. The ’12 Cabernet (R90) was typical on the nose and palate. Their Bordeaux-style blend, the ’11 Grand Classique (R120) was up their usual standard – great complexity, full of fruit. We bought this.
This is the first time that we have tasted here. Their tastings are free but their cheese and wine paring seemed to be popular. We started with their ’11 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve (R95) which to us did not really taste like one. We far preferred their lightly oaked ’13 Chardonnay (R55). We seldom taste Pinotage finding it too sweet to our taste but tried their ’12 Pinotage / Syrah blend (60/40) (R60 or R25 for a half bottle of wine) because they had half bottles of wine. We thought that this was a good combination; full of fruit, soft tannins. It is not really a mainstream blend so not a wine we would offer on halfwine.com but if we lived in the Cape we would buy it. Their ’09 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (R120) we thought was very good; great fruit with that full mouth feel that we like. We bought this. The ’06 Syrah Limited Release (R95) was good but we hoped to find better on our tour. The ’11 Malbec Limited Release (R95) was very fruity – almost too much so - and bore no resemblance to an Argentinian Malbec which we love.
We then drove west along the R44 to the other end of the Paarl rock (the left side of the picture at the top of these notes) where we started at Boland Cellars Northern Paarl cellars.
We tasted their Five Climates Single Varietal range (excluding the pinotage, of course, despite it being their pride and joy). The Chenin Blanc was pretty good but the best in our opinion was the Cabernet Sauvignon which we bought.
Then it was off to Ridgeback for some lunch and to taste their range. Ridgeback specialises in Shiraz but their other wines also win plenty of awards and very few of their wines get less than a 4 star rating in Platter’s guide which is a remarkable achievement. We started with their lighly oaked ’13 Chenin (R70) and the somewhat more but still subtly oaked Viognier (R80). We thought the latter was really good. And then onto the reds, starting with what is known in South Africa as the SGMV blend (Shiraz / Grenache / Mourvedre / Viognier) similar to those of the southern Rhone. The ’13 (R75) was very complex, had good fruits and soft tannins. All their reds have undergone malolactic fermentation to soften the tannins but this also means that their cellar life is somewhat shorter – they recommend no more than 6 to 8 years. The ’12 Ridgeback Journey (R85) is a merlot-dominated Bordeaux-style blend and was complex with dark fruits and soft tannins. The ’11 Merlot (R95) had great fruit; the ’11 Cabernet Sauvignon (R95) was a typical, excellent cab. The ’09 Shiraz (R95) was peppery and fruity. We bought all the reds except the Merlot. For lunch we had the seafood antipasto along with the remains of some of our tasting wines; if our portions had been half the size we would still have battled to finish them.
Also worth a visit in the area is Veenwouden but they require bookings so we gave it a miss. Back onto the R44 from Ridgeback to visit Windmeul.
Windmeaul is a classic co-operative winery (or, perhaps, not so classic as their wines are pretty good). In the Cape co-op wines are really good value for money when the wines are good, but they are not good every year so one has to go and taste when the vintage is released in the second half of the year. And the word soon gets around so if you are late (after September) then the wines are sold out. When we visited most of Windmeul’s wines (particularly the whites) were sold out. We tasted the ’10 Reserve Shiraz (R85) and Cabernet (R90); both were very good. The Shiraz had a typical nose, was peppery and full of fruit; spicy from the use of American oak. We thought that the Cab was slightly green but nevertheless a great cab, full of fruit.
Perdeberg is also a co-operative winery and wins a lot of gold medals in wine shows. We tasted some of their premium Dryland range; a ’13 Sauvignon Blanc (R66), the ’11 Cabernet Sauvignon (R80) and the ’11 Shiraz (R80). The sauvignon was fresh with typical capsicum flavours; the cab was dusty and full of fruit; the shiraz fruity but without the pepperiness. We bought the cab.
Back along the road towards the dual carriageway we took a left turn towards Landskroon and Fairview.
Landskroon has always had a good reputation for its red wines so that is what we focused on. They have a normal range and the premium Paul de Villiers range; the difference being grape selection and time in oak. We tried the shiraz and cab in both ranges. The ’12 Shiraz (R56) had good fruit and tannins; the ’12 Cabernet Sauvignon (R56) was herbaceous and full of fruit – very good. The ’11 Paul de Villiers Shiraz (R85) was sweeter and fruitier than the normal range. The ’11 Paul de Villiers Cabernet Sauvignon (R85) was full of fruit and soft tannins – very good. We bought this.
View from Landskroon tasting room with a shower-burst coming in from the East.
Fairview are well known for their wines and goats cheese. They have turned wine tourism into a huge business. They have the largest tasting room we have ever seen and are big on lunches. We paid R30 to taste 6 wines. Unfortunately, relative to what we had already tasted that day we were underwhelmed; nothing wrong with the wines but nothing special either. Certainly worth the visit just to see what wine tourism is all about.
Welgemeend www.welgemeend.co.za is on the way back from Fairview to the dual carriageway but as it was undergoing renovations we did not visit.
We decided to go back to Cape Town via Stellenbosch to visit Laibach and Waterford, two estates that produce half bottles of wine.
Laibach started going organic at the turn of the century and now produce their Ladybird range from these vineyards. Their Ladybird red is a Bordeaux-style blend that includes Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec and varies year-by-year depending on what the vines produce. We thought that this was excellent so added it to the range of half bottles of wine that we offer - please click here to see more.
Next door to Laibach is The Vineyard Connection which is always worth a visit to see what they have, not least because one can buy polystyrene cases to take your 12 bottles back on the plane with you.
We had heard that Waterford bottled a 375ml Cabernet so we just had to go taste; and pretty good it was too. We will try to get this 375ml bottle of wine as we have run out of stock of the Rustenberg Cab that we offered. We tasted the ’12 Chardonnay (R149) which had the subtle oak but not the butteriness that one would also expect; the result of no malolactic fermentation they told us. The ’10 Kevin Arnold Shiraz (R180) was very smooth but with little pepperiness and restrained fruit. The ’10 Cabernet Sauvignon (R175 and R90 for a half bottle) included 5% Malbec and spent 24 months in oak. It great cab nose and fruits, complex and not too tannic. They offer a chocolate and wine pairing tasting which is fun.
The day of wine tasting over we headed to Clifton beach to watch the sunset with a bottle of champagne (the lifesaver).
Clifton beach sunset - one really does need some cloud for a great sunset!