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Tasting notes of South African wines
(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.80. Date of tasting is indicated at the end of each note as month/year)

See also:

The wineanorak's guide to South African wine

Sainsburyís So Organic South African Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Western Cape
14% alcohol. Made without any added sulfur dioxide by Stellar Winery; sealed with a tin-lined screwcap. Vibrant, aromatic, juicy and ripe, with sweet blackcurrant and berry fruit. This is fresh and vibrant with lovely purity. An utterly delicious inexpensive, fruit-forward red with a bit of spicy bite on the finish. Considering no sulfur dioxide has been used, itís incredible that itís holding up so well. Dudley the winemaker knows what heís doing. 88/100 12/08

Sainsburyís So Organic South African Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Western Cape
14% alcohol. Made without any added sulfur dioxide by Stellar Winery; sealed with a tin-lined screwcap. A really vivid, vibrant forward wine that tastes like a barrel sample. Itís that fresh! Itís bold, blackcurranty and intense with lovely density and the sweet, forward, aromatic fruit balanced by lovely crunchy, spicy tannic structure. Itís just delicious with a grippy, crunchy mouthfeel that works really well with the sweet blackcurrant fruit. Iím really impressed. 89/100 12/08

Spier Discover Chardonnay 2007 South Africa
Fruity and a bit nutty, with some buttery richness and a bit of figgy fatness. 80/100 (13.5%; £4.99 Coop) 01/09

Bellingham 'The Bernard Series' Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2007 Coastal Region, South Africa
40 year old bush vine Chenin fermented in barrel. Remarkable stuff that will revive even the most tired taste buds. Wildly aromatic nose of peaches, cream, spice and herbs - warm and lively. The palate has an amazing concentration of rich, sweet peachy, figgy fruit with lemony freshness and spicy vanilla oak notes. There's also a hint of cheesy Chenin funk, and the texture is rich and mouthfilling. 91/100 (£8.99 Majestic) 02/09

Iona Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Elgin
A really fine, elegant South African Sauvignon. It has a very pure, minerally nose with delicate, subtly herbal, gently grassy fruit. The palate is really pure and minerally with some savoury, cut pepper notes, but also a bit of lemony fruit. Itís quite subtle but full flavoured, and would be great with a wide range of different foods, especially a really fresh, simply prepared grilled sea bass. This is one of the best South African Sauvignons Iíve yet tried. 90/100 (£9.99 Waitrose) 10/08

Kumkani Lamner Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Groenekloof, South Africa
This is amazing stuff. Weighing in at 14.5% alcohol and with immense concentration, it's a serious Sauvignon from a vineyard whose climate is moderated by the fact that it's just 7 kms from the Atlantic ocean. It has a powerful green grassy, herbal nose with green peppery notes. On the palate there's tropical fruit/passion fruit richness balanced nicely by the powerful grassy methoxypyrazine character. Not at all subtle, but a serious, striking wine. 92/100 (£11.99 Majestic, £9.99 each if you buy two) 12/08

Spier Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This is as dramatic as Cloudy Bay was when it was first released: bold, aromatic, almost overpowering in its intensity, with rich tropical fruits, plus fresh grassiness, some chalky minerality and hints of smoke and spice. Concentrated and richly textured, yet fresh at the same time. It's a full-on style with real interest, and much better than I was expecting it to be. 91/100 (£13.99 Morrisons) 11/08

Mont de Toit 2003 Wellington, South Africa
A red blend from the Cape showing rich, bold sweet blackcurrant fruit. Quite lush and pure with a slightly green herby edge. Smooth with real personality Ė a ripe yet sophisticated wine. 91/100 (09/08)

Vilafonte series m 2005 Paarl, South Africa
A blend of 52% Merlot, 17% Malbec and 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, weighing in at 14.5% alcohol. This has a dark fruits nose with a smooth, spicy, earthy edge and some hints of medicine and old libraries. The palate is earthy with smooth tannins and a long savoury finish. This is an interesting wine: it's not about primary fruit, but rather spicy and earthy notes dominate. Quite stylish with good ageing potential. 89/100 08/08

Vilafonte series c 2005 Paarl, South Africa
66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot and 6% Malbec. This is the more structured and dense of the Vilafonte wines, and I prefer it. The sophisticated, complex nose shows blackcurrant fruit with a herby, spicy, earthy sort of personality. The palate is strongly savoury with spice, earth and medicinal hints to the dense, structured fruit. A bold, savoury, tannic wine with a good future ahead of it. 91/100  08/08

Julien Schaal 'African Dream' Syrah 2005 Western Cape, South Africa
From a vineyard in Elgin, this is made by a French winemaker and matured in 900 litre French oak barrels, and it's really good. The nose is sweet and ripe with dark cherry and blackberry fruit framed by a subtly roasted, spicy character, as well as a bit of meatiness. The palate combines lush fruit with spicy definition, as well as bright acidity. It's very ripe, but minerally and fresh with it. I wouldn't go so far as to call it Rhone-like, as some has done. It's more like an elegant take on Barossa Valley. Finishes fresh. Great value for money, this. 91/100 (£9.99 Handford Wines) 07/08

Sizanani Pinotage 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
40% of this brand is owned by an employees trust (http://www.sizanani-wines.co.za/). It's a really gluggable, fruit-forward wine with soft sweet berry and dark cherry fruits countered by a bitter, plummy, tarry, slightly rubbery twist. The overall effect is of a juicy red wine with a sense of deliciousness and enough savouriness to make it work with take-away pizza or spaghetti bolognaise. It takes the slightly negative features of Pinotage and turns them into positives in the context of this wine, so I think it's worthwhile in the right context. 83/100 (£5.99 Oddbins) 04/08

Meerlust Rubicon 2003 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A South African classic that lives up to its reputation. In past vintages I've found Rubicon perhaps a little hard and angular, but today the 2003 is showing beautifully, with sweet, elegant fruit. The nose is ripe, sweet, mineralic and cedary, with a subtle gravelly edge to the ripe red and black fruits. There's some soft earthiness here, too. The palate has a lovely combination of sweet fruit with minerally earthiness, in quite a Bordeaux-like mould, but perhaps without the sternness that classic Bordeaux can show in its youth. It's a fantastic wine in quite a traditional style, which is drinking well now but which will age well. 93/100 04/08

Spier Discover Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Western Cape, South Africa
Thereís some sweet blackcurrant and plum fruit here, along with a distinctively savoury earthiness. It flirts with greenness, and just about gets away with it. The bittersweet character of dark plums is the dominant theme, and for the price itís quite attractive. 81/100 (£4.99 Co-op) 04/08

Forresterís Back Chenin Blanc 2007 Western Cape, South Africa
A fresh, bright focused Chenin Blanc showing clean, mineralic fruit with a hint of richness and a rounded texture. Itís very appealing: dry, but not too acidic, with a bit of the richness of Chardonnay without the heaviness that this variety sometimes shows. 87/100 (£6.99 Oddbins) 04/08

Sizanani Chanin Blanc 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A really crisp, bright Chenin with fresh lemony acidity and a bit of smoky, flinty funkiness. Crisp and bone dry, so best with food. Tasty stuff for the price. 84/100 (£5.99 Oddbins) 04/08

Meerlust Chardonnay 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Quite a European-styled nose with tight, minerally, lemony fruit supported by classy vanillin oak Ė not at all fat or showy. The palate is mineralic and fresh with taut, rather lean fruit, high acidity, and plenty of new oak in evidence. This is quite a serious effort that needs time to fully integrate and unwind. Itís sort of hard to judge right now, but I think it will turn out to be a really interesting wine with a few more years in bottle. 91/100 (£17.99) 02/08

Cederberg Sustainable Shiraz 2006 Cederberg, South Africa
Ripe but focused red berry fruit nose with a subtle greenness. The palate is vivid and fruity with a vibrant berryish character and good acidity. Thereís a hint of spicy seriousness, but overall, this is a juicy good-time red of some appeal. 86/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 02/08

Cederberg Sustainable Chenin Blanc 2007 Cederberg, South Africa
An organic Chenin grown at an altitude of over 1000 m, this is incredibly fresh with lovely bright lime and herb aromas, as well as a tanky ester-like character. The palate has a bit of creamy richness, but, again, the dominant feature is citrussy freshness, along with a bit of spice. A versatile fresh white wine. 87/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 02/08

Boschendal Chardonnay 2006 Coastal Region, South Africa
This is a wonderfully balanced, complex new world Chardonnay, showing notes of toast and vanilla, along with some fresh lemony notes countering the richer, fatter fruit flavours. Broad and satisfying this has nice depth and weight. 91/100 (£9.99 or 3 for 2 at Thresher, £7.99 Waitrose) 07/07

Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Western Cape, South Africa
Slightly muted herby, minerally nose. The palate has some rich, quite ripe tropical fruit which combines with a fresher, grassy, green pepper character. Iím a bit unsure about this Ė it doesnít seem very integrated to me. 84/100 (Virgin Wines) 02/08

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Walker Bay, South Africa
A fresh, intense and rather unusual Sauvignon Blanc from a relatively cool-climate maritime region in South Africa. The dominant feature here is a distinctive green pepper, chalky methoxypyrazine streak, which adds some savoury complexity to the intense herby, grassy fruit. Itís a concentrated wine that would work very well with food, but isnít really suited to casual sipping. Beautifully packaged with a lovely label, a half-length silver capsule (a la Ridge) and a high quality natural cork. 88/100 (£8.99 Noel Young, www.sawinesonline.co.uk)  01/08

La Motte Sauvignon Blanc Pierneef Collection 2006 Walker Bay, South Africa
Very fresh, intense nose with a bit of green chalkiness alongside the bright, grassy fruit. The palate is concentrated and fresh with restrained, stylish, herb-tinged fruit, and a hint of richness and minerality. Old world meets new: very stylish. 901/100 03/07

La Motte Shiraz 2004 Western Cape, South Africa
Open, meaty, spicy nose with a bit of a herby tang to the dark, fresh fruits. The palate is quite savoury and meaty with good balance, juicy acidity and a subtle medicinal note, plus some drying tannins. A rather extreme style that needs food, with its distinctive herb and olive edge. 85/100 (£8.99 Majestic) 03/07

La Motte Shiraz Viognier Pierneef Collection 2005 Franschoek, South Africa
With a relatively large contribution from Viognier (9%), this is an attractive wine. Deep coloured, it has a sweet, ripe, meaty nose with perfumed black fruits and spicy depth. The palate is concentrated and ripe, showing smooth dark meaty fruit backed up by spicy tannins. A dark, sweet, intense wine with nice balance and a savoury edge. 90/100 (£9.99 Tesco) 03/07  

Graham Beck Pheasantís Run Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Durbanville, South Africa
Powerful, perfumed nose of sweet lychee fruit with some green pepper and grassiness. The palate is concentrated with a herbal, grassy character and thick-textured fruit. A powerful wine of real personality. 88/100 07/06

Crowís Fountain Traditional Bush Vine Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Villiera. Chalky, limey, minerally nose is quite fresh, with a hint of green pepper. The palate is crisp and quite savoury, with a minerally mouthfeel. Itís very dry and quite refreshing. 86/100 (£8.99 Marks & Spencer) 10/07

Excelsior Paddock Shiraz 2006 Robertson, South Africa
This has an appealing nose of dark, spicy fruit with a distinctive roast coffee edge to it. Thereís a hint of meatiness, too. The palate has ripe fruit complemented by a meaty, herbal savouriness. Itís fruity, but not too sweet, and the savoury spiciness means that this would work well at the table. 87/100 (£5.99 Tesco, Sainsbury, Waitrose, Somerfield) 09/07  

The FMC Forrester Meinert Chenin 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This is perhaps South Africaís finest expression of Chenin blanc. Itís a big old wine with a mighty flavour impact, and comes mainly from low-yielding old bush vines planted in 1967, which is my vintage. Harvested at full maturity, the grapes are treated to a wild-yeast fermentation in new French oak 400 litre barrels, using late harvested botrytised Chenin as a blending wine. Maturation on the lees ensues, with a total of 10 months in the barrel. 9.7 g/litre residual sugar. This is powerful, viscous and concentrated, with sweet vanilla, herb, honey and spice notes. Itís very broad and attractive with an almost sweet tropical fruit quality and some warm, sweet creamy depth. Not really in a Loire style, but really intense and interesting. 93/100 (Tesco, Waitrose, Great Western Wine £16.95) 12/07

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Reductive spicy, burnt match edge to the nose, masking the fruit a bit. The palate has some generous, straw-like Chenin fruit trying to get out, but itís held back by minerally, slightly bitter reductive notes. 82/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 09/07

Pearly Bay Cape White 2007 Western Cape, South Africa
From KWV. Fruity, fresh and quite citrus-pithy on the nose. The palate is fruity, clean and bright with a soft texture and a grapey freshness. Thereís nothing wrong with this accessible white wine, and for the price itís a total bargain. (£2.99 Morrisons) 09/07  

Stellar Organics Cabernet Sauvignon No Added Sulphur 2006 Western Cape
Made from organically grown grapes, with no added sulfur dioxide. A fantastic deep red/black colour, this looks like a barrel sample. It has a wonderfully perfumed, seductive nose of pure sweet blackcurrant fruit with an earthy edge and some gravelly minerally notes in the background. The palate is concentrated and quite lush, but underneath the sweet dark fruit lies a complex earthy core with a very subtle spicy green herby note adding an extra dimension. Despite the fact that this is quite a big wine, there's a lovely elegance here, and a delicious textural richness. I reckon you need to drink this gorgeously forward wine in the first flush of its youth: I suspect it will taste a bit tired and go all earthy by this time next year. 90/100 (£6.50 Vintage Roots, on offer a £5.95 until 11 January 2008) 12/07

Paul Cluver Weisser Riesling 2007 Elgin, South Africa
'Weisser Riesling' is a term used in South Africa to describe the true Riesling variety, and this wine comes from the cool climate Elgin region. It's an elegant, dry style of Riesling with apple and lemon fruit combining with a distinctly crisp, mineralic core to make a bone dry wine with a distinctly savoury character that is extremely food friendly. This is a moderately serious wine that is extremely versatile, and represents good value at the price. It is stylistically similar to Clare Valley Riesling, I reckon. South Africa should be making more Riesling, although I imagine it can be a tough wine to sell. 88/100 (£7.99 Jeroboams/Laytons) 12/07

Brampton Shiraz 2004 Coastal Region, South Africa
This may be Rustenberg's second label, but don't let this dissuade you from seeking this beauty out. It has a nose of sweet dark fruits supported by some pepper, spicy notes and a dark, savoury meatiness, together with a hint of olive. The palate is sweetly fruited but at the same time quite savoury, showing some tannin. This is deliciously balanced, and could just about pass muster as an old world wine (a sort of combination of Languedoc, Northern Rhone and Southern Rhone). I'm uneasy about the fact that it's 15% alcohol, but the wine carries it remarkably well. Very good/excellent 90/100 (on checking, I find this is the same score I gave the wine when I visited in December 2005, which is reassuring.) UK availability: Waitrose, Andrew Chapman, South African Wines Online, around £8. 02/07

The Cloof Cellar Blend 2004 Darling, South Africa
Spicy, dark, intense, tannic, this is a bit of a beast of a wine. It's an undisclosed blend, 25% of which was matured in new French oak, and it weighs in at 14.5% alcohol. The nose shows sweet berries with a hint of chalky minerality, some jamminess and a touch of tar. The palate combines very sweet fruit with some grippy tannins and a bit of spice, and in the background there's just a tiny hint of greenness. It's one of those wines that has that characteristic of deliciousness: it's robust, concentrated and moreish. In fact, that's what worries me a little. Am I being conned by this almost over-the-top wine? I think it's really nice in an obvious, forward sort of way, but have I been duped by the winemaker? Is there a bit of residual sugar papering over the cracks? But I do like those grippy tannins: they are what saves this wine for me. It's the sort of wine that if you open it with friends, the bottle will very soon be drained. Very good+ 89/100 (RRP £9.99, more info from alison@ew-pr.co.uk) 02/07

M&S Crow's Fountain Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
From Villera, this is fresh, bright and spicy with a nice grassy character to the fruit. Good weight and some richness too. A tasty, full flavoured Sauvignon. 88/100 (Marks & Spencer) 11/06

Douglas Green Chenin Blanc 2006 Western Cape, South Africa
Bright, full flavoured and fruity. Rich grapeskin and peach character, coupled with fresh acid. 83/100 (£4.49 Tesco) 11/06

Eaglevlei Merlot 2005 Western Cape, South Africa
Bright, sweet chocolatey black fruits nose is modern and alluring. The palate is sweet and ripe with a green herbal edge and some grippy tannins. Thereís an odd mix here of extreme ripeness and some underripeness that is quite common in South African reds. Nice enough, though. 84/100 (Sainsbury) 02/07

Boschendal Rosť 2006 Coastal Region, South Africa
Pretty, deep salmon/pink colour. Sweet fruity nose showing strawberries and berry fruit. The palate is soft and rich textured with sweet fruit backed up by a nice soft herbiness. Delicious full flavoured style of rosť. 86/100 (£6.99 Majestic) 02/07  

 

Flagstone The Last Word 2002 Fortified Red Wine, South Africa
A blend including Mourvedre, Shiraz, Carignan, Cabernet, Barbera, Tannat, Sangiovese and Sousao. Should be more interesting than it is. Sweet alcoholic red fruits nose and a ripe sweet palate with a green herbal character. Has the flavour profile of a cheap SA red with a big whack of alcoholic warmth. Very good 82/100 (£12.99 Oddbins) 06/06

Engelbrecht Els 2003 Western Cape, South Africa
Spicy, ripe nose with rich blackcurrant fruit and a bit of greenness. The palate is quite structured with sweet ripe berry and blackcurrant fruit, together with some chocolatey, spicy richness. Quite ripe and alcoholic yet still has some greenness. Might age gracefully. Very good+ 87/100 06/06

Charles Back Chenin Blanc Viognier 2006 Paarl, South Africa
Gorgeous forward, ripe nose with pear, melon and a bit of honey. Ripe, broad and perfumed. The palate is fat and fruit, yet fresh and expressive. Lots of flavour here, hitting all the way across the spectrum. Finishes Fresh. Very good+ 88/100 (£7.99 Somerfield) 12/06

Bellingham The Maverick Chenin Blanc 2005 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Deep yellow gold colour. Big nose of sweet vanilla, honey, herbs and cream. The palate is dry but quite rich with toasty, melony fruit. Richly textured, this is a bold style of Chenin thatís right in-yer-face. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£8.99 Waitrose, Majestic) 09/06

Nederberg Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2003 Western Cape, South Africa
Sweet blackcurrant fruit dominates. Mouthfilling and with a bit of green rusticity. Slightly harsh spicy finish. Good 79/100 (Morrisons) 08/06

Meinert Pinotage 2003  Devon Valley, South Africa
Deep spicy nose with vivid red fruits and a hint of herbiness. Thereís a touch of meatiness in the background. The palate shows lovely vivid clean red fruits with a pleasant herbal edge and just a hint of that Pinotage funk. Some clove spiciness and a rustic twist. Very good+ 87/100 (£7.95 Great Western Wine) 02/06

Yonder Hill Inanda 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A Bordeaux-style blend. Nice minerally, earthy edge to the nose which shows red berry fruits. The palate has a slight green herbaceousness. A fresh, easy drinking style thatís food compatible. Distinctly South African. Not great value for money though. Very good+ 85/100 (£8.99 Sainsbury) 01/06

Spier Inspire Sauvignon Blanc 2005 Western Cape, South Africa
Bright and fruity with nice balance: a good drinking with at ease with itsefl, and has a touch of herbal freshness and mild mannered grassiness. Very good 82/100 (£5.99 Somerfield, Morrisons) 12/05

Eben Sadie Sequillo 2003 Malmesbury, South Africa
If you canít afford Eben Sadieís fantastic Columella red wine, then why not try his Sequillo. Itís still not cheap, but itís pretty good stuff. A blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache, it offers a perfumed, sweet nose of red fruits with some meatiness in the background. The palate is smooth and ripe with lovely freshness to the fruit, backed up by some savoury spiciness. This is delicious for current drinking. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£15 Jeroboams, Richards Walford) 11/05

Charles Back Chenin Blanc Viognier 2005 Paarl, South Africa
A distinctive dry white with a fresh limey edge to the rich peachy fruit on the nose. The palate combines freshness and richness very effectively: a nicely balanced wine with some personality. (£7.99 Somerfield) 03/06

Joubert Tradauw Syrah 2004 Tradouw, South Africa
This is a new wine from an ambitious new producer whose heart seems to be in the right place (even if the other wine of theirs I tried seemed pretty bretty). A naturally fermented Syrah, this has a nose of sweet, ripe red and black fruits, together with some tarriness and minerality. The palate is sweet and quite lush with punchy, ripe, spicy fruit. Thereís some tannic structure, but at the moment it is dominated by sweet, accessible fruit backed up by spicy new oak. A forward, new world-style red, but one that will likely develop complexity with age. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.99 Oddbins) 04/06

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2005 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Iím a big fan of Kenís Chenins, and this one strikes a nice line between commercial accessibility and that ever so slightly funky Chenin character that sets this variety apart. Thereís a herby, lemony edge to the rich, plump oak-enhanced fruit, together with just a hint of dry hay. Very tasty. Very good+ 89/100 (£6.99 Waitrose, on offer at £5.99) 04/06

Vergelegen ĎThe Vergelegení 2001 Helderberg, South Africa
Perhaps South Africaís best Bordeaux-style red? A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes, with just a dash of cabernet franc. This is a beautiful wine with sweet, ripe red and black fruit backed up by ultra-smooth tannic structure and with a chalky, minerally edge. Modern-styled, but great balance. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£19.99 Tesco) 09/05

Glen Carlou Syrah 2004 Paarl, South Africa
I'm going to be recommending plenty of the wines I tried on my recent visit to South Africa, but I thought I'd get this one in quick while you can still get it - the influential Platter Guide has just named this as their wine of the year, so it will disappear from shelves fast. It's a modern, sleek, ripe style of Syrah with the sweet dark fruit supplemented by notes of black olive and savoury herbs. There's a subtle green streak I often find in South African reds, but it's in control. The vanilla oak adds a sheen to the fruit without dominating it: overall, this is quite a convincing, nicely structured wine. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£13.99 Oddbins) 12/05

Glen Carlou Tortoise Hill Red 2003 Paarl, South Africa
Deep coloured. Lovely nose of ripe black fruits with a minerally, tarry edge. Quite refined. The palate has a nice balance between the sweet dark fruits and the spicy, earthy structure. There's a slightly meaty richness to this win that is very appealing. Very good+ 89/100 (£6.99 Oddbins, sawinesonline.co.uk, Christopher Piper, George Hills) 10/05

Kumala Rosť 2005 Western Cape, South Africa
Dark pink, this has a sweet boiled sweets, cherry and strawberry nose. The palate is fruity and a bit confected. OK 72/100 (£3.48 Tesco) 06/05

Oracle Pinotage 2004 Western Cape, South Africa
Lovely ripe, rich, sweetly fruited nose with a slightly tarry vanilla edge and a hint of herbal character. Quite forward and delicious. The palate has lovely balance with a nice spicy vanillin sheen to the vibrant berry and plum fruit. Modern and quite sophisticated. Very good+ 87/100 (£4.99 Oddbins) 02/05

Older notes, arranged by region

Constantia Back to top

Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Constantia, South Africa
Sauvignon Blanc can get a little boring, but itís an incredibly useful grape that makes wines that drink well with a wide range of foods, or even on their own. This is a very good one. Full, open nose with blackcurrant (yes) and herb notes: quite aromatic and full. The palate is concentrated and ripe with a lovely grassy edge to the rich fruit. Impressive full flavoured style. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£7.99 Sainsbury) 07/04

Buitenverwachting Buiten Blanc 2002 Constantia, South Africa
Lovely and fresh. Light with a nice delicacy and some grassiness. Joyful stuff for lunchtime drinking. Very good+ 02/03

Buitenverwachting Rhine Riesling 2001 Constantia, South Africa
Very fresh, intense limey nose with a hint of grassiness. The palate is crisp and dry with good acidity. Quite youthful tasting and very fresh. I reckon this will develop some more. Very good+ (£6.99 Oddbins) 03/03

Groot Constantia Chardonnay 2002 Constantia, South Africa
Quite fresh and modern with yeasty aromas. The 14.5% alcohol is a bit overpowering, but when you see the big fat Chardonnay grapes on the vine, pinky orange with sunburn, you can see that theyíre pretty ripe. Very good 02/03

Steenberg Merlot 2000, Constantia, South Africa
Slightly faded colour. Bright blackcurranty herby fruit on the nose. Lots of pure berry fruit on the palate. Good concentration, but overall a slightly old-fashioned style with an austere finish. Very good+ (£9.99)  05/03

Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Constantia, South Africa
(Tasted blind) Aromatic nose with a fresh grassy character and a little bit of herbiness. The palate shows fruity richness combined with high acidity; there's a touch of sweetness on the finish. Well made, fairly intense Sauvignon in a new world style. Very good+ 04/01

Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve 1999, Constantia, South Africa
(Tasted blind) This is a fascinating full-on red, with an exotic nose showing complex herby, menthol and eucalyptus aromas, along with mint and blackberry notes. The full, dry palate has rich fruit and tannins: it's a ripe, meaty, savoury wine. Tastes expensive! I was a bit surprised to find that this is a £12 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage. Very good/excellent 04/01

Buitenverwatching ĎChristineí 1996, Constantia
Thereís a slightly leafy, herbaceous edge to the chalky, spicy nose. Midweight palate has a nice spicy edge to the fruit. A bit light? Very good. 05/02

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1997, Constantia, South Africa
This is sensationally good. A deep yellow/orange colour the nose shows lovely, complex crystallized fruit and marmalade character: it is sweet and rich with a little lifted acidity to keep it lively. The palate is intense, complex and well balanced despite the sweetness. Quite brilliant. Excellent (£21.50/50 cl Waitrose) 10/02  

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 1995, Constantia, South Africa
This is the modern recreation of the wine that was famous from the 17th to 19th centuries, and even got a mention from Dickens! Itís a deep golden/orange colour and has a lovely nose of sweet citrus fruit and orange peel, with a bit of spice. The palate is rich and complex, with good balance between the fruit and spiciness. Not too sweet, this is lovely stuff with a  brilliant texture. Very good/excellent 04/02

Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling 1998, Constantia, South Africa
Light coloured wine with a slight petillance. Attractive, taut, crisp white wine with good concentration and a pleasant citrus edge. On the palate there is complex, lemony fruit. There is probably potential for evolution here; overall it is a bargain. Very good. (£4.99 Oddbins) 08/00

Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 1998, Constantia, South Africa
From an estate with a good reputation for Sauvignon, I was a little bit disappointed by this alcoholic monster (it weighs in at 14.5%). Full-bodied and richly textured, with a distinctive grassy edge. Quite intense, but lacking a real cutting edge. OK/Good. (£6.99, Oddbins) 08/00

Buitenverwatching Sauvignon Blanc 1998, Constantia, South Africa
A ripe, fat-textured, full flavoured Sauvignon with crisp acidity to keep it fresh. Cut grass elements predominate on the nose, which are followed up with a rich, lively, spicy palate. Very different to the Marlborough NZ style, but just as interesting. Very good. (Oddbins £7.69) 07/00

Franschoek Back to top

La Cotte Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, Franschoek, South Africa
Lovely sweet spicy nose with a warm, dusty character. On the palate there's prominent lemony acidity and the fruit is drying out a bit. It's drinking very nicely now, but drink up soon. Very good+ 2/01

Stonybrook Estate Pinotage 1999, Franschoek, South Africa
Lovely, dense, tannic wine in a modern style. This lacks the rather rustic, funky character that many Pinotages express, and it is better for it. This is impressive stuff, with rich, ripe fruit and nice texture. Very good/excellent. (Adnams £8.95) 11/00

Chamonix Reserve Chardonnay 1997, Franschoek, South Africa 
(Tasted blind, note as written) A deep yellow colour, this has an intense, savoury, herbal nose with a distinct vegetal edge: powerful fruit is competing with the oak. Serious, complex, taut youthful palate has a tough high-acid finish. Itís all very concentrated and tight knit at the moment, but itís a very substantial, savoury white wine. Plenty of oak, but plenty of fruit as well, and potential for development. Iíd guess that this was a fairly serious, modern-styled white Burgundy. Very good/excellent 11/01

Chamonix Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Western Cape, South Africa
(Tasted blind, note as written) Deep purple/red colour. Intense nose showing savoury, spicy red berry fruit with a sweet blackcurrant/minty edge. The palate is rich, savoury and quite evolved with firm, dry tannins on the finish. Good concentration, but beginning to dry out a little, so drink up. This is clearly a new world Cabernet with some age, and my guess would be that itís from South Africa. Very good  11/01

Paarl Back to top

Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2001 Paarl, South Africa
Intensely fruity with good acidity and some toasty, spicy complexity from well judged oak. Really attractive with lots of character and some elegance. Very good/excellent (68 Rand) 02/03

Homtini 2000 Paarl, South Africa
93% Shiraz and 7% Viognier from  Anthony de Jager. Unusual stuff. It is slightly green round the edges with some sweet berry fruit, and a touch of meatiness. Made in a modern style. Some structure. Very good+ 02/03

Fairview Cyril Back Shiraz 2000, Paarl, South Africa
Pure berry fruit nose leads to a palate displaying rich, ripe berry fruit, good acidity and a tarry, slightly medicinal edge. Attractive. Very good+ (£8.99 Waitrose) 10/02  

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  11/01

Veenwouden Vivat Bacchus 1998, Paarl, South Africa
A blend of Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. (Tasted blind, note as written.) Sweet nose of supple, ripe fruit leads to a soft, slightly spicy palate with rich berry fruit. Itís a bit chalky. Mouthfilling wine with a lush texture, some complexity and a touch of tannin. Seamless. Reminds me of a Western Australian Cabernet Sauvignon. Very good+ 07/01

Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Sauvignon 1995, Paarl, South Africa
Deep purple/black colour. Sweet blackcurrant fruit with cedar and herby notes, followed by a touch of vegetal character. Good concentration. Quite Bordeaux-like rather than new world in style. The firm tannins suggest that this wine needs some time to open out fully. Very good + (£10.99 Tesco) 6/00

Plaisir de Merle Chardonnay 1997, Paarl
A very modern South African Chardonnay that almost gets it right. Light textured, subtle, but with noticeable toasty oak, this is a fresh Chardonnay with some bottle age. Lean and balanced in character, but a bit light in texture and fruit to carry the oak. Good. (£8.99 Tesco) 8/00

Fairview Merlot 1997, Paarl, South Africa
A disappointing wine: quite subdued on both nose and palate, with savoury character and dry tannins. Good structure and concentration, but no real interest. OK. (£5.99 Fullers, on sale at £3.99) 3/00

Veenwouden Classic 1995, Paarl
Bordeaux style blend, this is a deep, concentrated red/black colour. Big, ripe cassis nose, backed up with strong but velvety tannic structure. There is a little sweetness from the upfront fruit and the oak, but there is plenty of complexity too. Tasty now, this should improve for a few years to come. Very good. 7/99

Robertson Back to top

Springfield Estate Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Robertson
Attractive chalky, earthy edge to the nose with some vivid blackcurrant fruit on the palate. Brightly fruited but slightly austere: savoury with a medicinal, herbaceous edge. Despite the good concentration, this herbaceous edge is a little off-putting. Very good (£7.99
Wannop Wines) 08/02

Excelsior Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Roberston, South Africa
Good concentration. Pure, ripe blackcurrant and cherry fruit dominates this wine, which is warm and approachable with an attractive spicy finish. Brilliant commercial winemaking. Very good+ (£4.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Danie De Wet Bataleur Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
Remarkably expressive high-end South African Chardonnay, with a full nose of toasty, nutty barrel-ferment character and a concentrated palate of lemony fruit, minerals and high acidity. Despite the new oak, this wine is not at all fat: I suspect it was not allowed to undergo full malolactic fermentation, and the resulting bright acidity really brings this complex wine to life. Very good/excellent (£12, Fortnum and Mason) 7/00

De Wetshof Estate Bateleur Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
Geisenheim-trained Danie De Wet is a Chardonnay specialist, and this is his top wine -- in my book this is a real winner. It has a stunning, complex, nutty nose; not overblown, but quite restrained, with hints of butterscotch, minerals and toast. On the palate the wine shows a spicy complexity: it's mineralic, has good lemony acidity and is concentrated yet lean. Thoroughly enjoyable, and not at all the typical new world style, despite the relatively prominent oak influence. Excellent (£12 Fortnum & Mason) 1/01

De Wetshof Estate Lesca Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
A crisp, fresh and full flavoured Chardonnay, with attractive nutty and toasty character. There is firm acidity, and a slight bitterness on the palate. This is a nice, savoury dry white with well judged but noticeable oak, which represents good value for money. Good/very good. (£5.99 Sainsbury) 8/00

Graham Beck Lone Hill Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
A classy barrel fermented Chardonnay at a good price (100% barrel fermentation in French oak; 50% new, 50% second use). Full lemony nose with an edge of vanilla and toast. On the palate there is ripe, rich fruit with nice oaking (nutty and rich-textured), and there's some lemony acidity. Quite a modern-styled wine, but very well balanced and extremely sophisticated for the price. Very good+ (£5.99, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Thresher) 1/00

Graham Beck Waterside White 2001, Robertson, South Africa
This producer is turning out an impressive, modern-styled range of wines. Unfortunately, this is one of their rare misses. It starts off well with a striking nose of tropical fruit, but despite the lively acidity the palate is short and a bit rough, which ruins things a little. Good (Sainsbury £4.49) 09/01

Graham Beck Lone Hill Chardonnay 1998, Robertson, South Africa
100% barrel fermented in a mix of new and second fill French oak. A rich, concentrated wine with brisk acidity, well-judged oak and smoky, mineral-laced, nutty complexity. Very good + (£6.99, Thresher) 7/00

Rooiberg Winery Chardonnay 1999, Robertson, South Africa
Neutral, lean and acidic Chardonnay without much character. Dull. (Safeway £3.99) 8/00

Stellenbosch Back to top

Vergelegen ĎVergelegení 2000 Stellenbosch, South Africa
(Tasted blind, note as written) Lovely savoury, rich intense nose with some chalky minerality. The palate is concentrated and minerally with rich but elegant fruit. Great concentration and some spiciness with good structure. Quite a bold style, somewhere between the new world and old world. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£24.99 Oddbins) 03/04

Kumalaís Journeyís End Chardonnay 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
This premium Chardonnay, fashioned from hand-picked grapes barrel fermented in new French oak, is delicious. It has a remarkably complex nose of ripe, intense figgy fruit with a rich, slightly sweet spicy character, together with some nutty, toasty notes. The palate is rich and ripe with sweet edged, spicy creamy fruit and nutty richness. A big Chardonnay made in a very classy style. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£14.99 Waitrose) 09/03

Kumala Winemaker's Selection Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
I wasn't expecting a great deal from this wine - an upmarket brand from an undefined vineyard source ('Western Cape' is a catch-all encompassing the vast majority of  South Africa's winelands) - but I try to be open-minded, and was actually very impressed. It shows a sweet, cinnamon-spiced nose with rich fruit and a chocolatey, tarry edge. Very smooth and accessible. The palate is surprisingly elegant with smooth, sweetly spiced fruit and elegant tannins. Good concentration, but the winemakers have clearly been aiming at elegance rather than raw power. Impressively crafted, this is a high quality red. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Threshers) 08/03  

Ken Forrester FM Chenin Blanc 2001 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Aged in 400 litre new French oak barrels this is a serious interpretation of this oft-despised but fascinating grape. Deep coloured, it has a slightly closed taut, woody nose. This leads to a thick textured herby, straw-like palate boasting huge concentration. Almost medium sweet. Very classy and unusual. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£14.99 Waitrose) 04/03

Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Very classy. Lovely herby, grassy complexity to the nose with some rich fruity aromatics. Palate is well balanced with a good concentration of grassy fruit. Nicely poised acidity. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Sainsbury) 90 04/03  

Ken Forrester Scholtzenhof Petit Chenin 2002 Stellenbosch
Nicely savoury, herby nose with good intensity and straw-like notes. The palate is dry, savoury, rich and herby. Some depth to it and real varietal character, which is remarkable for the price. Almost profound. Very good+ (£3.99 Oddbins) 04/03

Ken Forrester Scholtzenhof Petit Chenin 2002 Stellenbosch
Nicely savoury, herby nose with good intensity and straw-like notes. The palate is dry, savoury, rich and herby. Some depth to it and real varietal character, which is remarkable for the price. Almost profound. Very good+ (£3.99 Oddbins) 04/03

Vergelegen Mill Race Red 2001 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Classic Bordeaux-style cedary, slightly leafy nose with spicy blackcurrant fruit. The palate is spicy and firm with good definition to the plumy berry and blackcurrant fruit. Some tannin. Nicely structured and very classy for the price (41 Rand). Very good+ 02/03

Jordan Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Fresh gooseberry and fig flavours. Good concentration with nice acidity. Very well made: fresh and clean with a hint of herbaceousness. Very good+ (72 Rand in a restaurant) 02/03

LíAvenir Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Fresh ripe and crisp with lovely fruit quality. Very appealing and well put together. Very good+ 02/03

Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Chardonnay 2000 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Fresh lemony fruit on the nose with a toasty oak overlay. Fresh and focused on the palate, this is light, crisp and quite woody. An attractive commercial style. Very good (76.50 Rand, restaurant) 02/03

Thelema Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Very full flavoured and grassy with aromatic, slightly herby fruit. Great intensity and nicely poised with good acidity. Very good/excellent (58 Rand) 02/03

Delheim Shiraz 2001 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Deep coloured. Lovely savoury roasted nose with smoky, spicy notes. Good concentration of rich, savoury spicy fruit on the palate with an attractive, slightly meaty nose. Full and ripe with well judged oak: an unabashed new world style. Very good/excellent (72 Rand) 02/03

Slayley Shiraz 1999 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Forward, sweet, almost exotic nose with ripe sweet berry fruit, vanilla oak and a depth of meaty, smoky bacon character Ė itís almost animally. Concentrated, ripe palate with a savoury, spicy, meaty edge. Impressive and distinctly South African; in a modern style with some varietal character. Very good/excellent 11/02

Lanzerac Classic 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Matured for 15 months in new French oak barrels, this is quite brilliant, in a modern style. Very striking, intense nose displaying complex licquorice and menthol notes together with vivid ripe fruit. The palate is rich, bold and intense; dense and modern with ripe fruit and firm tannins. Hugely satisfying and intense. Very good/excellent (£11.99 Waitrose) 10/02  

Avontuur Pinotage 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Winemaker Lizelle Gerber has used 30% new oak barrels (mostly French) on this full throttle Pinotage. Striking rich, liquoricey nose with sweet fruit. Rich, concentrated savoury palate is quite striking and lovely. Modern styled, sweet and dense. Difficult to spot as Pinotage. Very good/excellent (£8.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Grangehurst Pinotage 1995, Stellenbosch
One of South Africaís most celebrated Pinotages, with a few years bottle age. Quite an earthy, leathery nose with some undergrowth character. The savoury, spicy palate has a chunky texture. Attractive, and with good concentration. Very good+ 05/02 

Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The first vintage of this wine, from a 120 ha estate owned by Jeremy Ord. The winemaker is Kevin Arnold, formerly of Rust en Vrede. Deep coloured. Very rich, seductive nose of ripe blackcurrant fruit with a creamy edge. The palate shows a good concentration of ripe berry fruit. A forward, modern style but with good balance. Attractive. Very good/excellent (£11.95 Berry Bros) 04/02  

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) 11/01

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 11/01

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) 11/01

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 is 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) 11/01

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) 11/01

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) 11/01

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+ 11/01

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+ 11/01

Saxenberg ĎPrivate Collectioní Shiraz 1998 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Unusual, rather meaty, herbaceous nose with lots of green olive character. Cola-edged raspberry and blackcurrant fruit on the palate. Seems just a touch unripe, but itís meaty and concentrated and thereís certainly some appeal here. Very good+ 10/02

Saxenburg 'Gwendolyn' Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Stellenbosch
A concentrated deep red/purple colour, this ambitious wine has an open nose of berry fruit, spice, olives and cut green peppers. The palate shows sweet rounded fruit flavours but there's a slightly green vegetal unripe streak that spoils it a little. Good/very good (Oddbins £8.49 reduced to £4.99) 10/01

Saxenburg Private Collection Sauvignon Blanc 1999, Stellenbosch
Full yellow/gold colour. Pronounced vegetal nose with grassy/green pepper notes. Palate is concentrated with more of these grassy/green pepper elements. Crisp and dry with a spicy edge to the finish. Interesting but distinctly odd: the herbaceous, vegetal characters will be a little off putting for some. Good (£6.49 reduced to £3.99 Oddbins) 10/01

Jordan Chardonnay 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa
I'm generally a big fan of South African Chardonnays, and Jordan is a winery with quite a reputation, but I wasn't overly keen on this one. It's quite a deep colour. The nose is intense and nutty, with some spicy oak and coffee elements. Palate is rich and butterscotch-edged with great concentration, good acidity and some oak. Very savoury, but a tiny bit crude. Very good (£8.50 Unwins) 11/01

Vergelegen Chardonnay Reserve 1998, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Rich nutty, toasty nose carries through to the palate. It's a rich, classy, rounded wine. Full on, with plenty of oak, but good. Very good/excellent (c. £10 Oddbins, Sainsbury) 10/01

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2001 Stellenbosch, South Africa
Wonderfully expressive grassy, blackcurrant-tinged nose is ripe and attractive. Good concentration of rounded gooseberry fruit on the palate: it's exuberantly fruity, but with good acidity keeping things balanced. Very impressive, and I'd be interested to see how this fared in a line-up with some of New Zealand's leading Sauvignon Blancs. Very good/excellent (£6.49 Sainsbury) 01/02

Delheim Shiraz 1999, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Lots of character here. A deep coloured wine, with a pronounced meaty, stinky and heb-tinged nose. The palate is powerful and savoury, with herby, olive-laced fruit and a slight medicinal edge. Good tannin and acidity. Tastes like a burly Crozes Hermitage with a tiny bit of unripeness on the finish. A striking, impressive wine, but not to everyone's taste. Very good+ (£7.99 Wine Rack) 10/01

Morgenhof Merlot/Malbec 1999, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch
There's an attractive burnt-toast, spicy quality to the nose, which leads to a palate displaying savoury, rich fruit and a lovely spicy character. An interesting, rich, well-priced red wine. Very good+ (£6.99 Handford) 08/01

Forrester's Petit Chenin 'Scholtzenhof' 2001, Stellenbosch
A really attractive, rounded, inexpensive white from Chenin specialist Ken Forrester. A fresh, fruity aromatic nose with some herby notes leads to a full flavoured palate showing appley notes, a bit of spice (a little French oak is used here) and a trace of sweetness on the finish. Delicious stuff to glug young. Very good+ (£3.99 Oddbins) 09/01

Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 1997, Stellenbosch
Now one of South Africa's hottest estates, and on this form it's not hard to see why. A deep red/purple colour, this is a powerful, youthful wine . Rich berry fruit on the palate is joined by spicy complexity: no doubt this will develop with a few years bottle age. Very good/excellent 05/01

Thelema Chardonnay 1999, Stellenbosch
Lovely seductive nose of toasty, nutty oak is quite breathtaking. The palate has an attractive nutty, savoury character, and is complex and full. You wouldn't mistake this for Burgundy, but then it's not trying to be. Very good/excellent 05/01

Rozendal 1996 Stellenbosch, South Africa
A Bordeaux-style blend from upcoming Stellenbosch winery Rozendal, this is a superb effort. The 80% Merlot helps make this a lush, seductive wine. The full, smoky-rich nose leads to a dense, mouthfilling palate with lush blackcurrant fruit, a mineral core, spicy tannins and juicy acidity to round it off. Very good/excellent (£14.95 Handford Wine) 1/01

Warwick Estate Chardonnay 1999, Stellenbosch
A powerful, ripe, full-flavoured Chardonnay with rich fruit and a nutty mineral streak. The gorgeous fruit easily overwhelms the oak. Great power and good balance. Very good/excellent (£6.99 Waitrose) 11/00

Warwick Estate Chardonnay 2000, Stellenbosch, South Africa
The 1999 version of this wine was a real stunner, and while this latest release is a good wine, it's not quite in the same league. The 2000 incarnation is seamless and rounded, but very oaky (although the back label claims light wooding). The toasty, buttery nose has notes of caramel and coffee. The palate is full flavoured, with vanilla notes and buttery fruit. Quite an attractive style, but owes a lot to the oak. Very good (£6.99 Waitrose) 3/01

Thelema Chardonnay 1998, Stellenbosch
One of South Africa's most famed Chardonnays, the 1998 vintage is a big but refined wine that carries its 15% alcohol well. It has a rich nose of toasty oak with a creamy, ripe character. It's savoury and rich on the palate, with nutty and lemon notes and great concentration and balance. Overall it is quite soft, with good balancing oak. Very good +   (£11.99 Noel Young) 8/00

Clos Malverne Auret 1996, Stellenbosch
A Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinotage blend, this is a tasty but slightly odd wine. It has a ripe, sweet cassis nose, with leafy, herbaceous elements. The palate follows this, with cedary, leafy complexity and an odd bitterness on the finish, with a sort of cheesy/metallic tang. OK. 8/00

Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 1999, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Chenin Blanc is South Africa's most common white variety, and most often goes to make simple, inexpensive and rather plonkish wines. But this is a serious effort, made from 24 year old bush vines and barrel fermented. Gold in colour, this has a lovely toasty, smoky and honeyed nose, with a creamy, wet wool edge. On the palate it is richly textured and toasty, the spicy oak combining well with the concentrated, ripe fruit. Overall, nice varietal character is combined well with careful oaking, to make a complex, attractive wine. Very good/excellent. (£5.69 Oddbins) 8/00

Warwick Estate Chardonnay 1999, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Rich, intense, nutty and toasty Chardonnay with a dense, mineral-laced palate and high acidity. This is a huge savoury wine that represents excellent value for money. Really interesting, perhaps a little rough round the edges for some. Very good + (£6.99, Waitrose) 7/00

Meerlust Rubicon 1995, Stellenbosch, South Africa
A beast of a wine, displaying a dry, herby, menthol nose that gives way to a deep and savoury palate of blackcurrants, herbs, earthy notes and firm tannins. It is concentrated, hugely structured and savoury, and will probably need some serious cellaring to show at its best. Very good + (Fortnum & Mason, Oddbins, £14) 7/00

Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1994, Stellenbosch, South Africa
One of South Africa's top red wines, living up to its billing. Concentrated red/purple colour with a lovely nose of blackcurrants, herbs, minerals and cedar wood. On the palate this is savoury and beautifully rounded, with a dry earthiness. The firm tannins suggest that this has a good life ahead of it. Very good + 6/00

Thelema Merlot 1994, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Initially tannic and closed, it opens out after a while in the glass to reveal attractive backcurrant and leafy fruit with some sweetness coming through. The oak is well integrated. Overall, quite a serious wine that needs some time to show its best. 4/99

Blaauwklippen Special Late Harvest Chenin Blanc 1998, Stellenbosch, South Africa
On the label it says that this was Ďbotrytisedí, but I canít detect much evidence of the usual noble rot characters here. Slightly viscous, with muted nose. Smooth on palate, this is fairly simple. A bit of spice, it is an OK medium sweet sipper. (£4.99 Oddbins) 3/99

Sentinel Shiraz 1997, Stellenbosch, Coppoolse Finlayson, ĎSlayleyí winery
Deep purple red. Ripe, rich, peppery palate with noticeble vanilla oak. Smooth, this has immediate upfront appeal. But it is a bit Ďtartyí, made in an international style, with a big lemon acid kick, and makes tiring drinking. Boring. (Oddbins £5.99) 3/99

Meerlust Rubicon 1994, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Instantly identifiable as a South African wine. This has ripe fruit, smooth but assertive tannins and a pleasant herbal quality. An attractive package, this may improve with some bottle age. Good. 2/99

Meerlust Cabernet Sauvignon 1986, Stellenbosch
Savoury, tannic and herbal, this mature red is drinking beautfiully now. It is herby, dry, intense and complex. Good stuff. 12/99

Saxenburg Merlot 1994, Stellenbosch
Reasonably tannic with rich merlot fruit. Lemony acidity backs up this finely concentrated wine. Not first rate but close. Good. 7/99

Pinnacle Cabernet Sauvignon, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Concentrated green leafy notes and cassis combine effectively with a bit of smoky oak. Good, but not fully ripe, perhaps. Purity of fruit is appealing. (Tesco £5.99) 5/99

Walker Bay Back to top

Raoulís Old Basket Press Rustic Red Tinta Barocca 2001 Walker Bay, South Africa
An interesting red made from a Portuguese variety, with chocolate and spice notes complementing the sweet black fruit on the nose. Concentrated spicy palate is nicely rustic with firm, mouth-coating tannins and a savoury finish. Very good+ (£6.49 Oddbins) 03/03

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2000, Walker Bay, South Africa
(Tasted blind) A full golden colour this has a rich, oaky nose with smoky, nutty, toasty vanilla notes. The powerful palate has lots of oak evident, with savoury citrus and coffee elements. It's currently a big, powerful wine that's a little raw and intense; I was surprised to discover its identity. Knowing Hamilton Russell's track record, I expect this wine to harmonise and become much more integrated with a year or two in the bottle, when it may merit a higher rating. Very good+ 04/01

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 1998, Walker Bay, South Africa
Sensational! Rich, mineral-laden Chardonnay with smoky oak. A lovely, complex wine with nicely handled oak. Although I've had this wine before on a couple of occasions, I've never really understood why people have described it as 'Burgundian'. Now I do: this concentrated yet nicely poised effort really impresses. (£11, Oddbins Fine Wine, Bentalls, Berry Bros)

Beaumont Jackals River Pinotage 1999 Walker Bay
Raoul and Jayne Beaumont bought this property in 1973. Today there are nearly 50 hectares of vineyards planted with a wide range of varieties. Sweet, lush nose with creamy vanilla and coconut edge to the herby fruit. Quite attractive and accessible with plenty of oak, plumy herby fruit and a savoury, spicy finish. Quite refined cool climate fruit, but itís a little too oaky. Very good (£10.75 Berry Bros) 03/02 

See also: the wines of Hamilton Russell

Western Cape Back to top

Obikwa Chenin Blanc 2004 Western Cape, South Africa
Fresh, bright lemony nose with some herbs and honey. The palate is bright and fruity with plenty of freshness Ė an appealing quaffer with some refinement. Very good 83/100 (£3.99 Oddbins) 02/05

Oracle Pinotage 2001 Western Cape, South Africa
Big, open cheesy nose with herby, medicinal characters. The palate shows ripe berry fruit with a sweet edge and some slightly animal notes. Very appealing and savoury: quite an unusual wine. Very good (£4.99 Oddbins) 06/03

Obikwa Chardonnay 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
Not overblown: nice and fruity, a little simple, but enjoyable with good balance. Good/very good (£4.99 Oddbins) 06/03

Obikwa Chenin Blanc 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
Fresh appealing, gently herby nose. Nicely balanced fresh palate is savoury with a little herby fruit and good acidity. Plenty of flavour here and good balance. Very good (£3.79 Oddbins) 06/03

Tesco Unwind Sauvignon Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa
(no vintage indicated) Distinctive gooseberry and blackcurrant nose. Palate is crisp and grassy with a herby edge. Quite fresh, tending a little to the herbaceous excess of Sauvignon, but still nice. Very good 84 (Tesco £4.99) 04/03

Oracle Shiraz 2001 Western Cape, South Africa
Good concentration of sweet, spicy berry fruit with a gently herbal quality to the finish. Thereís just a hint of greenness thatís not unpleasant. A modern forward style. Very good (£4.99 Oddbins) 03/03

Flagstone Noon Gun 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
An eclectic blend of Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Semillon. Very fresh fruity nose with a lemony, herby edge. Very modern. The palate is quite intense, lemony and herby. Nicely balanced with good acidity. Pleasant stuff and good value. Very good (£4.99 Oddbins) 04/03

Long Mountain Chardonnay 2002 Western Cape
Fresh ripe nose showing clean fruit with a lemony edge. The palate is light with herb tinged fruit. Appealing commercial style and not too confected. Maybe a little alcoholic on the finish. Good/very good (£3.98 Asda) 02/03

African Cape Chardonnay 2002 Western Cape
Very fruity nose with a touch of boiled sweets character. Clean, ripe and fruity palate. Chilled down this is perfectly acceptable commercial Chardonnay. Good+ (£3.22 Asda) 02/03

Long Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Western Cape
Appealing ripe blackcurrant and berry fruit nose with some leafy, spicy notes. Quite savoury on the palate, this is nicely balanced and quite stylish for the price. Very good (£4.47 Asda) 02/03

Two Oceans Shiraz 2001 Western Cape
Pure juicy raspberry and berry fruit. Clean with good acidity, showing good ripeness. Well made commercial style. Good/very good (£4.76 Asda) 02/03

Two Oceans Chardonnay 2002 Western Cape
Fully flavoured with a herby edge to the lemony fruit. Thereís a touch of spice and vanilla from the gentle oak influence. Appealing. Good/very good (£4.76 Asda) 02/03

Asda African Cape Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Western Cape
Fresh, modern boiled sweets nose with some lemon grassiness. The palate is crisp and grassy with good acidity. Good varietal character and a bargain. Very good (£3.22 Asda) 02/03

Obikwa Chenin Blanc 2002 Western Cape
Fresh fruity nose with a lemony lift. The palate is clean and crisp with more flavour than youíd expect for the price. Good acid, herby edge. Very good (£3.49 Oddbins) 01/03 

Fairview Goats du Roam 2002 Western Cape, South Africa
A lightly oaked blend of Grenache, Pinotage, Carignan, Shiraz, Cinsault and Zinfandel. Vivid berry fruit nose with a savoury, herby twist. Bright raspberry fruit dominates the palate, with a lovely juicy, medicinal edge adding complexity. Dense and satisfying. Very good+ (£4.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Fairview Goats do Roam 2001 Western Cape, South Africa
Iíve previously recommended the 2000 vintage of this brilliantly successful blend of several different red grape varieties, and the 2001 is equally good. A vivid red/purple colour, attractive ripe, sweet raspberry fruit dominates, but thereís also some savoury, meaty complexity. Good acidity and not at all confected, this has to be one of the very best reds at this price point. (£4.99 Tesco, Majestic, Oddbins and others) 09/02

KWV Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Western Cape, South Africa
Bright, fresh wine with a crisp, green nose. Quite typical of South African Sauvignon Blanc (don't expect the gooseberries and elderflowers typical of New Zealand Sauvignon), but while its tasty enough, there's a slight greenness to this is a bit off-putting. Good (Widely available, £4.99) 2/01

Winds of Change Chardonnay 1998, Western Cape, South Africa
Made by a 'communal property association' at Sonop wine farm, this is an import by the innovative Western Wines. It shows lemony fruit with a bitter finish. Lean and a little bit dirty on the nose. Crisp acidity. Disappointing. (£4.99 Tesco) 8/00

Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc 1998, Western Cape, South Africa
From Anthony Hamilton Russellís new Walker Bay venture comes this attractive but full bodied Sauvignon. Itís quite alcoholic (13.5%), with a cut grass nose and a rounded, full-textured palate. There are smoky, mineralic notes, followed up with an acidic kick. Attractive and refined, very much in the South African style. Itís a cute gimmick to donate some of the proceeds from each sale to saving the Southern Right whale. Good/very good. (£5.99, Oddbins) 8/00

Kumala Chardonnay 2000, Western Cape, South Africa
A fresh, lemony Chardonnay with a touch of buttery, oaky fatness on the palate. Nicely made, inexpensive Chardonnay that could have come from just about anywhere. Modern but good. (£3.99 Sainsbury) 7/00

KWV Roodeberg 1997, Western Cape
Pleasant, savoury red with attractive berry-fruit nose, some leafy herbaceousness and a dry, spicy palate. Medium concentration; not sweetly oaky or confected like many modern-styled reds. A good food wine. (£5.49, Fullers) 12/99

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Mont de Toit Hawequas 2002 Coastal Region, South Africa
Ripe, sweet fruit dominates this deep coloured red, which displays black fruits with a savoury meaty character, together with some sweet herby notes. Very approachable and with good concentration, although the alcohol is perhaps a little high. Very good+ 88/100 (Corney & Barrow) 12/03

Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Coastal Region, South Africa
Iím very impressed with the Porcupine Ridge cheapies from star Franschoek winery Boekenhoutskloof, with my favourite being the lively, meaty Syrah (recommended last month). This Sauvignon isnít as showy as some examples, but it shows class. Tight, limey nose with some grassy, spicy notes. The palate shows a good concentration of grassy fruit with good acidity. Very youthful tasting but high quality. Very good+ 88/100 (£5.99 Oddbins) 02/04

Porcupine Ridge Shiraz 2002 South Africa
This is quite brilliant, and one of my favourite wines at this price bracket in a while. It's from Boekenhoutskloof, a winery making a name for its premium Shiraz, and is unashamedly forward in its style, offering masses of sweet, rich, meaty fruit. There's a hint of the RhŰne here, although the richness and sweetness of the fruit is very new world. A full flavoured meaty red of wide appeal. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£6.99 Waitrose) 12/03

 

Goats du Roam in Villages 2003 Coastal Region, South Africa
This is a real bruiser. Unsubtle and great fun. Ripe, meaty, roasted toasty edge to the nose: dark and spicy. The palate is intense and concentrated with dark, sweet fruit backed up with a slightly rustic, meaty, spicy savouriness. Just a hint of bitter plumminess to the fruit. A very satisfying winter warmer with some medicinal hints, a touch of roasted toasty new oak, and lots of very ripe, dense fruit. Very good+ 89/100 (Majestic £6.99) 10/04

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2004 Wellington, South Africa
Winemaker Bertus Fourie has fashioned a remarkably forward, modern, classy Pinotage that totally succeeds in taming the funkier aspects of this grape. Itís dark coloured and has an alluring nose of smoky, roasted dark fruits. Sweet ripe and meaty. The palate is savoury, spicy and quite rich with a nice stucture and more of that roasted character. Chocolatey richness, too. A crowd pleaser. Very good+ 89/100  (£6.99 Asda, Waitrose) 04/05

Swartland Winery Pinotage 2003 Swartland, South Africa
Deep colour. Lovely rich plum and blackcurrant nose is very fruity with a dark spicy element in the background. The palate is ripe, juicy and fruity with really vibrant berry and blackcurrant fruit. Quite delicious as an easy drinking, yet substantial wine. Hardly any funk. Very good+ 87/100 (£3.99 Majestic) 02/05

Eben Sadie Palladius 2002 Swartland, South Africa
£30 for a South African white? Am I out of my mind? Perhaps, but this is a very good wine indeed. Made from bush vine Viognier, Chardonnay and old vin Chenin, fermented for 14 months with wild yeasts followed by 12 months on lees with a small proportion of new oak. The nose is bright and intense, showing pure, rich, herby fruit. Very classy. The palate has a lovely, rich, fat rounded structure with softness and intensity at the same time. Itís a thrilling, unusual wine. Very good/excellent 94/100 (£30 Berry Bros & Rudd, www.bbr.com) 01/05

Goats du Roam in Villages 2003 Coastal Region, South Africa
A big bold monster of a red wine; it isnít subtle, but if youíre in the mood for it, this is delicious. A rich, ripe chocolatey spicy nose leads to a dense rich palate with lots of sweet fruit. Thereís some oak here too. Boldly rustic, this is a wine with the volume knob turned up to 11, and traditionalists will hate it. Very good+ 89/100 (Tesco £5.99) 06/05

Excelsior Viognier 2004 Robertson, South Africa
Viognier is fast becoming the new Chardonnay. It used to be a niche grape Ė a curiosity Ė resticted to the northern RhŰne, but now people have woken up to its unique capabilities. And of late, even inexpensive Viogniers are tasting like the real deal. This is a brilliant example, showing peachy, rich fruit with a lemony edge. Perfumed and open. It has a rich, broad, fruity palate with more of that peach character; flat without being flabby, and absolutely delicious. Very good+ 88/100 (Waitrose £5.99) 06/05

Robertson Winery Chenin Blanc 2004 Robertson, South Africa
Lovely fresh modern white with a herby, straw-like edge I often find in good Chenin. The palate is fresh with good acidity and some nice savouriness. A versatile white wine with lots of interest. Very good+ 87/100 (£4.99 Majestic) 02/05

Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2003 Coastal Region, South Africa
Iím very impressed with the Porcupine Ridge cheapies from star Franschoek winery Boekenhoutskloof, with my favourite being the lively, meaty Syrah (recommended last month). This Sauvignon isnít as showy as some examples, but it shows class. Tight, limey nose with some grassy, spicy notes. The palate shows a good concentration of grassy fruit with good acidity. Very youthful tasting but high quality. Very good+ 88/100 (£5.99 Oddbins) 02/04

De Wetshof Lesca Chardonnay 2002 Robertson, South Africa
Tight minerally lemony nose with a light, toasty, nutty veneer. The palate is fresh and nutty with well integrated oak and some richness to the lemony fruit. Good acidity. Fresh and very classy. Very good/excellent (Majestic) 03/03

Goat díAfrique ĎIndigenous Redí 2002 South Africa
The latest addition to the Goats du Roam range is a dark, brooding Shiraz with a smoky, spicy nose and restrained black fruits. The palate is dense and concentrated with well judged spicy fruit and some firm tannins. Firm and quite rich but not overblown or confected. Very good+ 89 (£6.99 Oddbins) 05/03

Raats Family Wines Chenin Blanc Unwooded ĎOriginalí 2002 Coastal Region, South Africa
Intense nose of rich, herb-tinged fruit with some lemony floral notes. Concentrated ripe fruit on the palate which is very herby and intense. Almost sweetly fruited, but the overall impression is dry. A bold style that would suit spicy fruit. Very good+ (£6.99 Oddbins) 04/03  

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2002 Coastal Region
An intense, rich expression of Sauvignon Blanc boasting rich grassy fruit with a figgy edge. Quite aromatic. The palate is broad and fruity with tropical fruit notes and a slightly herby edge. Fresh, crisp and rich, this is impeccable commercial winemaking. Very good/excellent (£7.49 Sainsbury) 04/03

Carpe Diem Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Wellington, South Africa
Opaque red/black colour. The nose shows ripe blackcurrant fruit, leading to a lush palate with taut, herby fruit. A tiny bit too sweet, but great concentration. Very modern styled. Very good+  (£9.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2000, Wellington, South Africa
This wine is matured in tanks which have French oak barrel staves bolted in to them. Very deep purple black. Striking roasted, toasty lift to the nose: very forward. The palate is herbal and toasty. Itís very appealing, but it does seem over-oaked, with a toasty, roasted almost burnt character. Very good (£6.99 Waitrose) 10/02  

Fairview Goats du Roam 2000, South Africa
A real hotchpotch blend (33% Pinotage, 22% Shiraz, 13% Cinsault, 13% Grenache, 5% Gamay, 10% Carignan, 4% Mourvedre), but it works really well. Brilliant commercial winemaking. Tarry, herby fruit on the nose with a slightly funky, animal edge. Good concentration on the palate with some chewy, herby, berry fruit and a savoury, rustic edge. There's a slight sweetness to the fruit that makes it very accessible. Very good+ (£4.99 Sainsbury, Oddbins) 12/01

Fairview Pinotage 1999, Coastal Region
A sweet herby and savoury wine showing ripe caramel and cheesy notes: it's a well made commercial interpretation of the Pinotage grape that is full of interest. Very good 05/01

The Pinotage Company 1999 Pinotage, Coastal Region, South Africa
A stinky, herby old-fashioned style Pinotage with a rustic, cheesy character. Quite light textured and a little bit volatile, this is bizarre stuff, but good if you are a fan of the 'traditional' style. I'll pass. Good+ 04/01

Deetlefs Estate Semillon 1999, WO Breede River Valley, South Africa
Fresh and tart with cut grass, asparagus and green herbaceous favours. The excessive green character suggests that the grapes failed to attain full ripeness. If you don't mind this, it would make a useful food wine. OK. (Tesco £5.49) 8/00

Spice Route Pinotage 1998, Malmesbury, WO Swartland, South Africa
Deep purple coloured: a concentrated wine with a huge, sweet nose of raspberry jam. On the palate it is savoury, herby and quite complex, with a slightly 'green' edge, which seems to be a distinctive flavour profile of many of the Spice Route reds. Very interesting, but not particularly varietally true: a heavy winemaking imprint. (£7.99 Oddbins) 3/00

Fairview Chardonnay 1998, Coastal Region, South Africa
Very attractive, concentrated Chardonnay with plenty of fresh fruit character combined with the richness of new oak. Buttery and toasty . Bright, attractive and savoury wine with a full-on flavour. Very good in its genre. (£5.99 Fullers, on sale at £3.99) 3/00

KWV Cathedral Cellars 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon, Coastal Region, South Africa
Despite the terrible label and the huge size of the KWV operation, this is a deeply impressive wine at a great price. Opaque red/purple colour. Concentrated stuff, with pure cassis and a touch of mint on the nose, a leafy herbaceous edge and big tannic structure on the palate. A powerful, flavour packed Cabernet, the only slight criticism is the touch of greenness on the palate; otherwise it is a serious, complex wine at a great price. (Fuller's, £7.99) 12/99 

Neetlingshof Weisser Riesling 1997 Noble Late Harvest
Deep amber brown, with an intense, caramelized nose and rich apricot and marmalade palate. Perhaps a little oxidized, but intense and interesting. 12/99

Nitida Shiraz 1997, Coastal region
Barnyardy, earthy stink, and plenty of rich fruit. Some herby elements, a moderate tannic structur and good concentration. This is good stuff, but don't expect it to taste like it comes from the Northern Rhone. 7/99

Swartland Shiraz 1997, Swartland
This is in a more fruit-forward style than other SA shiraz I've encountered. It has some odd medicinal notes, but also varietally typical smoky bacon fat flavours and aromas, with lemony acidity. Medium concentration. Good. 7/99

Spice Route 'Long Walk' Sauvignon blanc 1998, Malmesbury, South Africa
Lovely, fresh Sauvignon with all the aromatics associated with this grape (gooseberry, eldeflowers, cut green peppers), together with a rich texture and some residual sugar. Really nicely put together in a modern style. Nicely poised. (£5.99, Tesco) 2/00

Mulderbosch Steen op Hout 1998
Wooded chenin blanc with esteric, clean, technology driven flavours. It is well put together, only moderately oaked, but is ultimately a forgettable example of what is, when grown outside the Loire valley, usually a forgettable grape. 7/99

Diemersdal Shiraz 1998, South Arica
Medium bodied with some pepper spice. Herby, earthy nose of soft fruit (mainly cherries and plums). Light but quite complex, with a warm finish. Not new world in style, but neither is it French-style. A slight rustic edge, herby and pleasant in a light style. (£5.99 Tesco) 5/99

Vergelegen Sauvignon blanc 1997, Coastal Region, South Africa
Crisp, fresh, intense sauvignon with elderflower and herbaceous notes. Assertive with good concentration, but a slightly bitter finish. Good.  (Tesco £6.49) 5/99

Spice Route Sauvignon blanc 1998 (Inaugural vintage) Spice Route Wine Company
(Charles Back, John Platter, Jabulani Ntshangase, Gyles Webb)
A new-world style Sauvignon blanc backed by some of the leading names in South African wine, this is quite a hard one to call. It is fresh and grassy, with esteric (boiled sweets) components and a medium-weight palate. Fresh and modern, it is pretty good, but this may have more to do with the winery than the vineyard. (£5.99 Tesco) 4/99

Graham Beck 1998 Old Road Pinotage, Coastal Region, South Africa
A spicy, herbal, tannic wine, deep in colour and with plenty of new oak. This is Pinotage in its modern incarnation, without any of the funk or cheesy feet aromas that are often associated with the variety. In fact, I find this too modern and too oaky, lacking in real personality. A very good wine, none the less. 1/01

Neil Ellis Pinotage 1999, Coastal Region, South Africa
Lovely ripe nose with a green, herby, vegetal edge. The palate is full, concentrated and rich, with some sweet fruit and firm acidity, along with a minty edge. However, it's slightly spoiled by a pungent green vegetal note. Firm tannins under the fruit. Good/very good 07/01

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