Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES August 3rd: Spotlight on South Africa

Rosé all day, an absence of whites, reds in Portuguese, French and Italian dress plus choosing South Africa like falling off a log.

by Michael Godel with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

It has been nearly a year since I last visited South Africa and every time VINTAGES rolls out an easily managed thematic collection of wines from that great country the heart swells and memories flood back into the brain. The powers that be within the LCBO’s New World buyers’ department do their finest no sweat work and narrowing down when it comes to Western Cape collections, surely witnessed and proven by the duck soup choices made for both the July 20th and August 3rd releases. But we can’t lay too much emphasis on their easily accomplished selections as being the be all, end all reason for the successes. Producers are fortunate to work with exceptional terroir that includes dozens or more old vine blocks in many Cape nooks and transversely the Ontario purchasing choices are so numerous it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The winemaker’s adage of “just don’t mess it up” translates into kudos to the buyers for getting things right. The fact is South African wines are of such high quality across varietal, producer and regional lines they speak for themselves and do so with great heart.

What do you do with the Swartland Swingers? Lawn bowls in Malmesbury of course

Related – Heritage and diversity in South Africa

Which brings me to what struck so strong in September 2018, straight to the heart and without equivocation. Heritage and diversity are the country’s two greatest strengths. Sure as a circle will turn you around there is this third tangible and credible something that seems so unmissable about South Africa and South Africans. Resilience. Neither politics, nor conflicts between and in the oppression of peoples nor drought can deter the farmers, workers and producers of this nation. The human condition mimics its heritage vineyards planted to century-old varieties, to perpetuate and to persevere. This is the South African way. And it is the wines that are exceptional in ways that require great levels of explanation.

Le Volte Dell'Ornellaia 2017 

Over the last several centuries, grape varieties were brought, expatriated and forced into the blending of exile. No peoples should ever be de-humanized nor taken for granted and neither should wines be quietly dismissed. With each passing varietal situation, time has been sublimed and wines produced in South Africa teach us that they simply are not examples of minor beverages. It has taken place in the heart of agriculturalist and winemaking ability, to change small things and see greatness in ascension to that which is simple, authentic and refined. It’s a matter of having felt sensations introduced into the absurdity of our lives.

While this August 3rd VINTAGES is chock full of stalwart South African wines it bears repeating that July 20th also gifted some worthy picks. The list below takes a page out of each book.

Stellenbosch Braai

South Africa picks – August 3rd Release

Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Cederberg ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Cederberg is both a wine brand and a wine appellation, the latter being at the highest altitude of any vineyard in South Africa. The cooler climate has produced a leaner, citrus and herbal driven example actually not unlike sauvignon blanc.
Michael Godel – Next level chenin blanc from the Cederburg appellative specialist, so very herbal, lime driven and smart like dry riesling in a Rheinhessen way. Terrific acids lift and elevate the lime and tonic flavours. Most excellent arid example with a dried herb finish.

House Of Mandela Phumla Pinotage 2017, WO Western Cape ($21.95)
Michael Godel – A pinotage that bridges the twain between old school and necessary modernity, with plenty of wood induced chocolate and some mocha but also quality varietal acidity and tannin. Rich, unctuous and spirited to the thriving point of attack.

De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2018, WO Robertson ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Sitting amid gravelly limestone rich soils in the interior Robertson region, De Wetshof has long been considered a premier chardonnay producer of South Africa. The deeply coloured, quite full bodied and ripe chardonnay fruit shows very good intensity and solid structure. Top drawer.
Michael Godel – Lesca’s fruit is drawn from three vineyards in Robertson notable for their predominant soils of limestone and chalk. Great work from the De Wetshof bros who just allow this grape variety to shine on, be explicit and act of its very own accord.
Sara d’Amato – A hot buy, this rousingly tart, lemon-edged, oily, flinty incarnation is a feast for the senses. De Wetshof’s is no stranger to high-praise when it comes to its chardonnay that is both expressive and progressive. Mid-weight and stony with fennel, blossom and citrus on the mid-weight palate.

Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, WO Stellenbosch ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Textbook cabernet in that crossover New World/Old World style so often evident from South Africa! This displays an impressive nose of blackcurrant, herbs, woodsy and oak notes that cabernet classicists will love. Ageworthy.
Michael Godel – From the extraordinary Annandale Estate in Stellenbosh Spier’s is very peppery cabernet sauvignon with a distinct local touch of glare and flare. Steely exterior, massive fruit and and such a bloody lekker South African. Long and juicy. Who says you can never go back to old school.

Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2018, Wo Cederberg  House Of Mandela Phumla Pinotage 2017  De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2018  Spier 21 Gables Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

South Africa picks – July 20th Release

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018, WO Stellenbosch ($14.95)
Michael Godel – Rustenberg continues to prove that it qualifies for top varietal value specialist out of Stellenbosch by pumping out pop hit after hit and this chenin blanc is no exception. Fruit riper than many, mild spice meeting wafts of vanilla and more than its share of lees-effected texture. All around right and proper.

Bellingham Homestead Shiraz 2017, WO Paarl ($18.95)
Michael Godel – Deep, dark, handsome and peppery shiraz here from Stellenbosch with a syrupy confection and plenty of energy on the flip side. Really drinks like a bigger, more expensive and chic wine.

Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018   Bellingham Homestead Shiraz 2017

Best of the Rest for August 3rd

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2018, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Canada knows Rosé but Malivoire really knows Rosé. Vivant may be there between entry-level and cru but it’s done up so right, light but too much so, gently expressed but enough that fruit gets through and shines bright as if picked just there. Salinity strikes through without splitting up that fruit, like a main vein bringing oxygen and essential nutrients like blood to the mind. Last tasted July 2019.

Château Pigoudet Classic Rosé 2018, Coteaux d’Aix en Provence, France ($24.95)
David Lawrason – There are several good rosés in this release. This is a very pale, barely blushed rosé – which of course is the thing in Provence. So its intensity on the palate may come as surprise, with a fairly generous spicy, peppery, barely fruity flavours and good energy.

Tessellae 2018 Rosé, Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Dry and pale but not austere, Jean-Marc Lafage rediscovers his roots in Roussillon with this fresh and zesty incarnation from the wide reaching Côtes Catalanes IGP. Pure, aromatic and delicate, the red fruit of grenache is notably showcased in the aromatic profile. Mineral, salty, dry with some tension that is juxtaposed by satisfyingly ripened fruit. A refreshing find.

Château De Montguéret 2017, AP Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Ostensibly the driest and purest form of chenin blanc from Saumur with the Loire’s post-modern take on the Western Cape, in a way though without pungency, pepperiness or glucose inflected texture. This is dry as the desert, tart, tangy and intense. Needs some richness in food to make all ends meet.

  Château Pigoudet Classic Rosé 2018  Tessellae Rosé 2018  Château De Montguéret 2017, Ap Saumur

Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.95)
Michael Godel – Argento is from the owners of Uruguay’s Bodega Garzón, Chianti Classico’s Dievole and Montalcino’s Podere Brizio. A year past the freshest time in its life but cool, savoury and without too much barrel overtake (thanks to second and third passage wood). Well-worked and solid to be franc, true to place, now chewy and offering proper value.

Herdade São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada 2017, Alentejano, Portugal ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This big, good value red blends Portuguese varieties with cabernet and syrah. It is deeply coloured with a ripe black raspberry jam nose, full bodied, plush and soft. A California feel here.

Insurgente Vinho Tinto 2015, Dao, Portugal ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a deeply coloured, rich and almost exotic red from the Dao, my favourite red wine region of Portugal. Very generous blackberry/blueberry fruit and an outdoorsy/woodsy vibe. Needs rich lamb or game dishes.

Argento Reserva Cabernet Franc 2015   Herdade De Sìo Miguel Colheita Seleccionada 2017, Vinho Regional Alentejano Casa Agr. Alexandre Relvas   Insurgente Vinho Tinto 2015, Doc Dão


M. Chapoutier 2017 Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages, France ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – Surprisingly ethereal, this crunchy blend offers both grip and freshness. Energetic and peppery with characteristic notes of tomato leaf, cassis and a touch of torrefaction. Notably representative and keenly balanced. A consistently impressive value.

Château Beauséjour 2015, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France ($37.95)
Sara d’Amato – A traditional, old school incarnation of right bank Bordeaux that makes for a satisfying drink without the need to wait. Broody and compelling, the palate is earthy and pleasantly sweaty with notes of wet leaves and showing elegant maturity. Iron, dark fruit, damp earth and tobacco leaf with a lightly smoky finish.

M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2017  Château Beauséjour 2015, Puisseguin Saint-Emilion

Rocca Sveva Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2013, Veneto, Italy ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a generous ripasso that is not too sweet, perfumed or too gloppy. It is full bodied, smooth and almost svelte with some inner alcohol glow, soft tannin and excellent length. Exemplary in a dodgy category.

Le Volte Dell’Ornellaia 2017, IGT Toscana, Italy ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Welcome into the Ornellaia range by way of the second wine that has never shown even a modicum of compromise. Hot vintage but acidity is strong and true while fruit stays cool, seasoned and reasoned, There’s a real meatiness to this ’17 and a lovely sense of salumi cure. Once again an educational tool for Bolgheri and Toscana.

Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($38.95)
Michael Godel – Sangiovese needing the bottle is proven here. Now a year and a half later this swirls into a grosso sangiovese like liqueur with plums, cherries and spice. Really Riserva in style and now just 18 more months away from its guaranteed due elegance.

Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino DOCG 2013, Tuscany, Italy ($50.95)
Michael Godel – Oenologist Emanuele Nardi draws his classic Brunello from the fluvial Cerralti parcel, a mix of jasper which is a type of opaque, granular quartz, along with shale and clay. Classic liqueur and modern texture give way to grippy acidity and more than necessary structure. This is one of those Brunellos that speak with fruit early but with a knowing nod to longevity.
Sara d’Amato – Dry, firm and traditional with an upright disposition. Still a touch restrained and austere with continued bottle ageing certain to soften and to unveil. Offering an intriguing sanguine, ferrous character that balances the abundance of tightly knit fruit. Great grip and spunk.

Rocca Sveva Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2013   Le Volte Dell'Ornellaia 2017, Igt Toscana   Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico 2013,   Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 2013

We finish off with some wines tasted and assessed back in September 2018. These are a cross-section of what the country’s makers do best, some unknown, others better known and collectively they act as examples in performance at the highest level.

What goes best with chenin and cinsault? Tuna Burger at Sea Breeze in Cape Town

Thirteen South African producers and wines you need to know

Badenhorst Chenin Blanc The Golden Slopes 2017, WO Swartland

David And Nadia Wines Chenin Blanc Hoë Steen 2017, WO Swartland

Craven Wines Syrah The Faure Vineyard 2017, WO Stellenbosch

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 1997, WO Hemel En Aarde Valley

Huis Van Chevallerie The Hummingbird Colibri Kap Klassique 2017

Lismore Chardonnay Estate 2017, WO Greyton

Momento Wines Grenache Noir 2017, WO Western Cape

Mullineux Cape Winemakers Guild ‘The Gris’ Sémillon 2013, WO Swartland

Paul Cluver Pinot Noir Seven Flags 2015, WO Elgin

Sadie Family Palladius 2016, WO Swartland

Savage Wine Syrah Girl Next Door 2017, WO Coastal Region

Silwervis Cinsault 2016, WO Swartland

Van Loggerenberg Wines Kamaraderie 2017, WO Paarl

Thanks for reading up on South Africa once again. The WineAlign team continues their travelling ways this summer, with stops in France, New Zealand and New York’s Finger Lakes. I’m sure future articles and newsletters will soon be filled with those stories. Until next time.

Good to go!


Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

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