Archive for ‘South Africa’

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.

October 17, 2017

Swartland Bush Vine Chenin Blanc, 2015

The acidity hits you first.  Then a tsunami of tropical notes, pineapple, guava, passion fruit.  The finish is a creamsicle.  It’s astringent and rich together.  My God, I could drink a decent Chenin every day, but am clearly in the minority (if restaurant wine lists are anything to go by—CB is rarely on offer, certainly not in the “by the glass” section; you might see a Vouvray in a hoity-toity place but these dry workhorse whites, primarily South African, damn they are versatile and exciting).  With every glass we liked it more.  It was like a seduction.

 

Price: $31 at Marquis, a lot for a SA Chenin, but worth a half case if you can stomach the financial pain.

 

Market Liquidity: It grows and grows on you.  I mean hopefully not like Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors.  But still.

August 21, 2017

Raats Original Chenin Blanc, 2014

Depending on whom you rely on for points accountability, this is anywhere between an 88 and 92 pointer, with the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator at opposite ends of the spectrum and Tanzer in between.  Which underscores more about how people think of Chenin Blanc than perhaps the subjective nature of wine scores.

 

It is indeed good, a refreshing and zesty lightly acidic Chenin with a dry forest floor note and some gobs of summer stone fruit.  We got the lime but not the pineapple.  It’s a patio sipper par excellence but a little weak at keeping up with rich foods (and I’m including creamy cheeses).  At the price point we are much more likely to spend less on the Mulderbosch and enjoy it more or spend more on the D’Orrance and wish we’d won the lottery.  It would be hard to weigh in on this as enthusiastically as some pros have.

 

Price: $21.85 in Saskatchewan but, wait for it, $33.50 before taxes at private wine stores in Vancouver.  Seriously.  When the mayor proclaims that Vancouver is on schedule to be the greenest city on the planet all I can think of is the greenback, not the solar panels, bike lanes, and lack of access to natural gas.

 

Market Liquidity: It’s a 92 pointer at $22 and an 88 pointer at $34.

April 13, 2017

Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc, 2015

Natalie Maclean loved this wine at $19.  Americans love this wine at a few dollars less.  And while I loved it too, I had to shell out much more.  Welcome to beautiful BC.

 

There is a marriage of apple (juice and cider and skin) with tropical notes, the softness of papaya, and a striking balance between those oddities that makes it zesty and like a palate cleanser mid-meal.  Over the top spectacular with a Thai meal.  Screw top to boot.

 

Price: $22 at Liberty before the overages.

 

Market Liquidity:  The Cold Crisp Taste of Chenin Blanc, to bastardize an old tagline.

March 15, 2017

Aquifer Semillon, 2015

Like being stranded in the desert and finding an oasis.  Or stumbling upon a mirage.  It depends on your view.

 

Strange and unusual and overwhelmingly addictive but in the same breath a little cloying and annoying.

 

Abrasive minerality, aggressive herbaceous-ness, pronounced acidity.  Steely Chardonnay-esque plonk on the palate.  A long, sour, grassy finish.

 

All of it enticing, an evocation of terroir, so, so, so not Bordeaux Blanc, but weirdly appealing in a deer in the headlights sort of way.  A cross of medicinal with luxe.

 

Price $30 at Everything Wine (which is too expensive for the purely adventurous I think but something I will buy again, probably many times over).

 

Market Liquidity: A diamond in the scrubby rough of tasteless, bland and nondescript Semillon which sinks the BC marketplace.

Tags:
March 6, 2017

King Shaka-Zulu Chenin Blanc, 2015

Pretty good but not pretty great.

 

Notes of clementine, an unusual and pronounced vanilla, a tangy acidity, refreshing floral herb slash butterfly garden, and a monumental minerality that persists on the palate.  I wouldn’t have guessed this as a Chenin blind but enjoyed it nonetheless.  Was superb with a cheese souffle.  As for Shaka-Zulu, check him out.

At a price point about 30 per cent cheaper, this would be a steal, a deal, a must buy.  Regardless of the pointster’s praise, at $30, it’s not exceptional value.  This bottle reminds me of the gorgeous Springfield Life from Stone which we swooned over in Cape Town at dollars a bottle then sourced it back home in BC at $33 in a private store where, as we emptied out wallet, we sort of lost our appetite and enthusiasm.

 

Price: $29.95 at Everything Wine.

 

Market Liquidity: Close but no cigar.