Archive for ‘South Africa’

May 29, 2020

Natte Valleij Cinsault, 2018

Natte Valley Cinsault, 2018

We are always up for novelty.  After all, isn’t that what drinking wine is all about? Unusual varietal?  Bring it on.  But first, oh my dear God, please, please get rid of the wax on the neck; it’s somewhere between a cut your wrist suicide attempt and wedding reception confetti (a mess either way, and totally unnecessary).

 

Cinsault can grow in climates not known for their wine (say Lebanon) and is widely planted in South Africa where, based on this bottle alone, it should be blended.  We couldn’t determine how and when the pungent, silty fruit of it would be most complementary, as it sipped like vermouth and drank with food astringent.  I would write pale and wan but in fact it was pale and wanting.

 

Price: $30 at Kitsilano Wine

 

Market Liquidity: Beautiful cover, mediocre book.

April 30, 2020

Bellingham Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 2017

Bellingham Old Vine Chenin Blanc, 2017

 

Lordy what a lovely find. Food friendly to the nth degree, a patio marvel, hardy enough for roast chicken gentle enough your fingers could be soaking in it.  Luscious on the palate.  Stoney minerality coalesces with citrus grove lands on creamsicle with muted oak on the tail.  Sips a dream.

 

You could look for it and not find it, which is most likely in BC, but if you do buy it, then buy it by the threes.

 

Price: $31 at Kitsilano Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: And the taste that was planted in my brain still remains, to do no justice to an old lyric.

February 21, 2020

Darling Axle Chenin Blanc, 2018

Darling Axle Chenin Blanc, 2018

Lively and rich, straw and lychee with a touch of the sweet of a custard apple.  A dreamlike 12.5% for lunch.  Wonderful depth on the palate as a sipper (a lingering lemon blossom finish) but superior in its food friendly versatility whether cheese, salad, cured meats or fish.  An unusual balancing act of heavyweight Chenin and Alsace-ish etherealness.  Plus you can call it darling.

 

Price: Kits Wine Cellar at $34 but “just over” $30 with a six bottle discount.

 

Market Liquidity: Easily as (or more) enjoyable as its (pricier) Anjou cousins.

 

December 4, 2019

Natte Valleij POW, 2015

Natte Valleij POW, 2015

 

The curious incident of the South African Bordeaux blend. Ka-POW.

 

Novel.  And not long and florid but concise and intricate.  Absolutely the most interesting wine we’ve had this fall.  And I’m including a sensational Meursault in November and some half decent Burgundy along the way as well.

 

The label claim is a Bordeaux style blend.  But this is an anti-Robert Parker wine, it has nothing of the rich, opulent and high alcohol intensity of Wine Advocate 90 plus pointers,  the Merlot is a backdrop to the Cabernet Franc and Cab Sauv.  No velvet: Instead this is sharply layered with very crisp, pungent and curious notes of wet forest, scented herbs and just a dash of wood (even after 36 months in oak barrels).  I’m going to call this blend an Isoceles with Merlot on the short horizontal.  Fresh and innovative (or, in fact, fresh and old fashioned).  New to the Vancouver market.  It straddles the funky natural wine movement trend with the old school craft.  Unusual.  Not for everyone but for everyone willing to taste the breadth of Bordeaux at half the price, highly recommended.

 

Price: $35 at Kits Wine Cellar, but a six bottle purchase will reduce it by 10%.

 

Market Liquidity: A needle in a haystack.

January 16, 2019

Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay, 2016

What a wonderful, optimistic and uplifting start to 2019.  A beautiful white; crisp, clean, minerally, the proverbial oyster shells, with hints of honeydew melon and a whisper of jasmine.  A long buttery finish.  When Hugh Johnson writes about his love of acidity, I think this wine epitomizes that sentiment, with a tart acidity extremely well balanced on the palate.  Not knock your socks of Burgundy, but restrained and evocative of terroir.  Zero complaints.

 

Price: Gifted but I’ve seen it at the Kitsilano Wine Cellar in the mid 30s.

 

Market Liquidity: The yin and yang of new and old world Chardonnay.

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November 6, 2018

Graceland Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

Something else altogether.  Wrapped up in tissue as if swaddled and then labelled like a candle from a religious supply store, the wine inside is anything but deceptive; it’s the essence of a decent glass of red.

 

My mother used to take blackberries from a bush along the fence in the lane, when I was a kid, macerate them, and squeeze out the sweetest, darkest, densest cordial imaginable.  To appreciate it, you had to drink it carefully and with hesitation, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Some years, it was so rich, we mixed it with soda.  This wine, which just begs to be sipped, very, very slowly, is an eloquent turn on cordial.  Creepily addictive and wickedly good but pointless in large doses.

 

We’ve tasted the Graceland in previous vintages and had been neither here nor there, but this smoky, intense and luscious red is a keeper.  It oozes warmth and comfort and has none of the brass band of a Napa CS.

 

Price: $31.50 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: It will float you across the river Styx.

October 31, 2018

Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay, 2010

From the cellar: On one of those gorgeous early autumn days that still has the flavour of summer we pulled out of the cellar either our last or next to last HR Chardonnay from a half case purchase umpteen years ago.  Nirvana.

 

This wine seems to pass the critics by.  It never has a note in the liquor store on points or a sticker on the neck about reviews and, if you can find it, it will no doubt be dusty.  Why no love in BC?  At the price point it’s oodles better than BC whites that command a higher price and momentously better after some time in the cellar.  Here we are eight years down the road and it’s stellar, still to peak.

 

Look at that golden hue.  Nectar from the gods.  It’s delectable, old school, hearty, earthy, refined, and with a crisp, acidic flourish on the palate that makes it very hard to sip as opposed to swill.  We called this “old school goodness” three years ago and have nothing to add except what a wine to lie down.  Wow.

 

Price: In the high 40s for a current bottle at private wine stores (but if you can score 10% off on a half case you’re laughing).

 

Market Liquidity: Why those of us who cellar cellar.

March 2, 2018

Piekenierskloof “The Tea Leaf” Chenin Blanc Blend, 2016

We love our Chenin; French, South African, Australian, bring it on.  We wanted to love this.  Low alcohol, screw cap, high altitude vines.  Maybe our predilection for the varietal and relatively unrealistic expectations were too much for the W. O. Piekenierskloof, because for us it was a bomb.

 

Bruised fruit.  Dry, brittle dry, earthy, mushroom broth, lightly acidic, kumquat on the finish with a pasty, green, tarragon-ish herby note.  Not food friendly.  Dull as a sipper.

 

Perplexing, confusing, disappointing.  Despite the novelty of its remote high terrain and the rooibos growing in its midst.

 

Not balanced or terribly pleasant and unusual in a tiresome (as opposed to curious) fashion.  Much loved by the critics which is why we tried but it’s one strike and yer out with this.  Sorry W. O.

 

Price: $33 at Kitsilano Wine Cellar.

 

Market Liquidity: Like idling in a parking lot.  It’s middling.

December 4, 2017

Cape of Good Hope Riebeeksrivier Caroline, 2014

Spectacular in its assertive diversity.  Some acidity on the tongue, juicy fruitiness like biting into a white fleshed peach, a toasty note on the finish, an orchard of nuance.  The vanilla is muted.  An uninhibited and delicious blend.

 

Mainly Chenin Blanc, but Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne round out the mix.  I can see this working in the Okanagan as well as it does in South Africa; someone in Naramata should give it a shot.  Food versatility through the roof. Not your Tuesday night house white (given the price point), but what a shame. Refreshing delectability.

 

Price: A rather steep $39 at New District.

 

Market Liquidity: Gobs of gorgeousness.

November 8, 2017

Glen Carlou Quartz Stone Chardonnay, 2014

A low score middling wine with the Decanter bunch: I took exception and found it climbed above the measly 87 points they deigned to anoint it with, and still I laud Decanter.

 

It has lovely citrus notes, a spicy nuance, bits of tropical notes like flambeed pineapple–and none of the cloying oak of heavy handed Chards.  There is a sweet spot, somewhere between the fridge and room temperature, where it comes alive and really charms.

 

Price: A not too thrifty $29 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

 

Market Liquidity: You won’t impress, but you will enjoy.