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Extended tasting note 8
Double bill: The Foundry Syrah 2003 and Columella 2002 

So here we are faced with the delicious prospect of tasting two of South Africa's most serious red wines. Eben Sadie's Columella is for many the top of the new hierarchy of South African reds, a list which is beginning to be dominated by Syrah-based wines. South Africa's winelands are warm; perhaps better suited to Syrah and Rhône-styled wines than Bordeaux varieties which have traditionally dominated the upper echelons of Cape wine. The Foundry is another hot (not in the thermal sense), relatively new winery that's making a bid for pole position with its no holds barred approach to quality, and their Syrah is very highly regarded. So in a non-competitive but slightly comparative approach, I'm going to taste these two wines together. 

First, some context. It's 10.30 pm (a little late, I guess), but I've just been playing football. As it's usually best to play football in an utterly sober state, this is the first chance I've got of trying these wines. But am I mad? Opening two wines both of which have the capacity to be the focus of two immensely enjoyable evenings, at 10.30 pm? Well, truth is I came by these bottles earlier this evening when they were already in an open state. I was one of the late arrivals at the Wines of South Africa tasting of a range of 30-odd high end wines, and as I was the last to finish tasting Sophie asked me if I wanted to take any wines back. I could only carry two, so I chose these. They were my favourites (along with Klein Constantia's stunning Vin de Constance and a delicious Vintage Port-style wine from Axe Hill), so I bagged them. Each bottle has just under two-thirds left, so they really have to be drunk tonight, or at a pinch, tomorrow. 

The ambient temperature is quite high: a sticky 25 °C. This certainly influences perception, but I'm trying my best to bear this in mind. The structure of red wines changes considerably with temperature. I'm drinking out of a Riedel 'O' series Cabernet Merlot glass. 

The Foundry Syrah 2003 Coastal Region, South Africa
Hmmm. Nice dark smooth, classy black fruits dominate the nose. But sniff a little deeper and there are some complex spicy, slightly meaty notes. Just a hint of tar, too. While the fruit is ripe, it's not too new worldy in its impact. There's a hint of the tight spiciness of old world Syrah here, and some very refined savoury oak notes that don't really stick out at all. Perhaps a little alcohol is evident, or could this be something that's suggested itself by the fact the label declares it at 14.5%. I'm getting a hint of cured meats, too. The palate is spicy and structured, but the structure is a fine one, with quite elegant tannins and good acid. It's not jammy; rather, there's a nice freshness to the dark fruit profile, finishing with quite a long spicy ending. The tightness of the structure and the acidity suggest this could well mature nicely. I wouldn't put it down as Northern Rhône. Instead, it's a bit more like a high-end Châteauneuf. At £17.49 from a wide range of independents (including Reid Wines, The Cellar Door, Raeburn, Andrew Chapman, Uncorked, Thameside Wines, Fortnum & Mason) this is pretty good value for what is a serious wine. Very good/excellent 93/100 

Columella 2002 Swartland, South Africa
With a label that just oozes old world class, you'd be right in thinking that this wine is taking a tilt at elegance rather than power. Or more to the point, it's aiming for the sort of expression that many old world wines have rather than up-frontness. And it succeeds, without wimping out or tasting like a pretender. The nose is utterly serious. This isn't a bling-bling wine; it's a wine of understated class, sure of itself and not needing to display this overtly for everyone to see. It invites the seeker of wine seriousness in. Quite intense, with a heady concoction of fresh red and black fruits and spicy depth. Just a hint of eastern spices: maybe a touch of ginger? Underneath the fresh spiciness there's some brooding liqueur-like depth of fruit. The palate is concentrated, full and shows good complexity to the predominantly dark fruits profile. It's just a touch more intense than the Foundry, and perhaps just a bit riper in its fruit profile. Another wine that straddles the new world/old world divide very successfully. Again, there's more to this wine than just fruit, and that's why it works so well. A bit pricey at £38.49 (retailers include SWIG, Reid Wines, Laytons), but this is justified if you look at the price of equivalent quality from the old world. Very good/excellent 94/100 

My tentative conclusion is that these are two of the best red wines I've tasted from South Africa. It's encouraging to see the progress that is being made here at the top end. It will be fascinating to see how these wines evolve. 

Other ETNs:
; Roc des Anges; Gaillard; Veratina; Arturo; Wynns; Drystone; Foundry and Columella; Meruge; Foillard Morgon; Clonakilla

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