Archive for ‘South Africa’

May 27, 2022

Edgebaston David Finlayson Camino Africana Chenin Blanc, 2015

Marquis had a spring cleaning sale and we picked up a bottle of this South African Chenin for a song.  Then we went back and bought four more. YOWZA.

It’s only May, but this feels like the white wine of the year.  It’s absolutely, totally, over the top sensational.  Not one bottle we’ve had this year, perpetual favorites, old reliables, new finds, nothing compares.  Of course it’s at its peak, you can’t hold onto it, it’s no Vouvray, it’s ready.  And boy is it ready.

A golden, smoky quartz in the glass, the nose is apple and pear, the palate caramel, quince and sage, it’s rambunctious, monstrously appealing, deeply complex, nuanced crossed with assertive, and 100% Chenin loveliness.

Honestly, we are shy of words to adequately describe the heights this bottle soars to.

Now, caveat emptor: The Chardonnay/Sauv Blanc crowd will not like it.  It is nothing like, zero in common with and no kin to the run-of-the-mill whites on the spigots at chain restaurants nor the bland, thin “house” whites the BC Okanagan churns out.  It’s unique, unusual, mysterious, and drop dead spectacular.  For the adventurous, highly recommended.  But hurry, this vintage will spoil.

Thank you Marquis.

Price: Marked down to $27 from $41. 

Market Liquidity: Come taste the wine, come hear the band, come blow your horn, start celebrating..

March 25, 2022

Coterie Cabernet Franc & Malbec, 2018

For years we’ve written some variation on how exceptional the wine is in the Cape region and how it rivals many much more established wine regions, and how dire and uninspired the South African selection is at BC Liquor (and bemoaned the discrepancy).  This is more of the same.  Despite, I must point out, being “BC Select” meaning the consultants chose it as a cellar selection.

Where the CF is, where the barnyard funk is, that remained elusive.  The Malbec shone through, but not in a substantive way, just heavy, with a thud.  It drank like a decent red wine, but only.  Oh gosh, that sounds so petty, but in a way this wine is forgettable from the first sip.  Our notes were, and I quote in total, “juicy,” “where’s the CF?,” “bland without redeeming features,” and “not too memorable.”  Not a scribble on aroma, the palate, or afters.

We drink a lot of mediocre wine.  A lot.  I mean we shop twice a week at BC Liquor stores, what do you expect?  But we don’t post about it all.  We try to find redeeming wines and give then a good shake, we try to focus on the positive, take the Tony Robbins Louise Hay Goop route and just find the gorgeousness and determination in every drop.  We appreciate the hard work of producing a decent bottle.  But God is there a sea of middle of the road plonk on the shelves.

The private wine stores regularly stock Graceland Cab Sauv and when you’ve won the lottery there’s Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, South Africa is not a middle of the road producer, but it’s just a shame that in Cape Town you drink Bordeaux style red that knocks your socks off for half the price of stuff like this.

Price: $28 at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: What did I read over on Goop?  Be stronger than your excuses.  Dear BC Liquor: I will try.

February 3, 2021

Kleinood Tamboerskloof Syrah, 2016

So, you know, we are still drinking off of Christmas gift certificates, and we decided to ante up for a South African Syrah of some note.

The best South African wines seem antique, rooted in a tradition long gone in North America, Australia, South America.  This is strikingly Syrah, brazen, while at the same time unlike most of the Aussie bottles that litter the liquor stores here.  Heartily floral, the perfume pronounced and delicate, velvet tannins, just a soupcon of licorice.  I write licorice but of course one review had “tree bark” and, well, that seems a tad much.  Just a soupcon of tree bark (there, I sound more legit).

Still, despite being something of a stunner, there also seemed to be something a little bit sharp on the spice notes; think of the time you over salted meat or threw in too much nutmeg on winter vegetables and it otherwise ruined a celebratory meal.  Maybe it was the tree bark.

Staff advised us it has long cellaring potential but we wondered what direction it would go.

Price: A steep but probably, for the cellar collector worth it, $47 at Everything Wine.

Market Liquidity: At five years out we’re undecided.

Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible…
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.