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South African tasting
La Vigneronne, 21st November 2001

Slightly unfamiliar territory for La Vigneronne this, and it showed in the interesting but slightly unusual selection of wines on offer. Still, even this limited sampling shows what excellent value for money some of the leading South African wines are at the moment. For some reason they havenít caught on with wine geeks in the way that Australia and New Zealand have over the last decade. The three wines from Thelema showed very strongly indeed.

Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2001 Stellenbosch
Delicious, and quite a striking example of Sauvignon Blanc. Gorgeous aromatic nose of gooseberries and cut grass; quite herby and full. Lovely full flavoured palate with great balance and intensity. Highly impressive. Very good/excellent (£11.50 La Vigneronne)

Verdun Chardonnay 1998 Stellenbosch
Superb creamy/toasty nose is very classy indeed, with mealy, bready undertones. Delicious nutty/toasty palate. This is a full-on barrel fermented style, but retains balance well. Very good/excellent

Thelema Merlot 1998, Stellenbosch
Quite deep coloured with a pronounced, sweet nose of creamy cassis. The palate has a savoury, spicy edge but is dominated by sweet, ripe berry fruit. Very forward and attractive. Very good/excellent (£12.95 La Vigneronne)

Stellenzicht Syrah 1998, Stellenbosch
Watch out here: Stellenzicht make two wines from this grape, and people often get them confused. The Shiraz is a good £8 wine, but it is this, the Syrah, that has become famous, principally for once beating Penfolds Grange in a high-profile blind tasting. This wine has a deep coloured, rich, ripe, lush nose with a spicy, roasted edge. The palate is savoury with great concentration but a slight green olive/vegetal edge that spoils things a bit. Very modern styled wine: quite attractive, but the vegetal hint is a slight let down. Very good+ (c. £25 where available)

Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Stellenbosch
Really delicious nose of blackcurrant fruit with a savoury mineral edge. Beautifully poised. Palate is quite savoury with lots of spicy, minerally chalky elements adding complexity. Thereís a hint of olives on the finish and some tannins, but ripe and drinking well now. Very good/excellent (£16.50 La Vigneronne)

Verdun Theresa 1997, Stellenbosch
A blend of 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. With its deep colour this is clearly quite an ambitious wine, but the nose is a little muted. Savoury, spicy palate showing meaty, green olive-tinged berry fruit. Good density but thereís a slightly vegetal edge that spoils things a bit. Disappointing. Good/very good (£15.95 La Vigneronne)

Warwick Estate Cabernet Franc 1995 Stellenbosch
Quite deep coloured. Sweet, open nose of berry fruit leads to a chewy, savoury palate with good balance and some earthy tannins. Drinking well; just lacks a tiny bit of excitement. Very good+

Warwick Estate Cabernet Franc 1990 Stellenbosch
The nose is quite evolved, dominated by caramel with support from the sweet berry fruit and a touch of minerality. The palate is drying a little but shows lovely chalky fruit. Great balance and may evolve some more. Very good+

Nederburg Private Bin S354 1987, Special Late Harvest, Paarl
A late-harvested Chenin Blanc, this is a deep yellow/orange colour. It has an inviting spicy nose displaying lifted apricotty, marmaladey fruit, a touch of caramel and some piercing lime notes. The palate shows good balance between the acidity and the sweetness, with more of the marmalade and lime character. Quite rich textured, this is delicious. Very good/excellent  

Contact details: www.lavigneronne.co.uk

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