Consumers are hurting, and so is the Cape wine industry. With shrinking budgets, winelovers who don’t intend to give up their chenin or chard., shiraz or pinotage, are turning to cheaper labels, with mixed results.
While there are many enjoyable labels in the R50 – 70 range, there are others that may be perfectly drinkable, but are unremarkable, even insipid, leaving one feeling more than a little irritable by the time the bottle is empty.
Move up a few rand and the scene changes – in the field of white wines selling between R80 and R90 and reds between R100 and 110 it is possible to find real class, fabulous whites, reds and blends where nurtured berries are given careful but often minimal treatment, where integrity plays as big a role as talent and dedication.
Here are two examples recently enjoyed:
Vriesenhof Grenache Shiraz Mourvèdre 2017 costs R100 and is described by winemaker Nicky Claasens as a nod to classic French winemaking. Yet this is no austere blend with tight tannins that should be cellared for a few years before opening – it is ready to drink now, with pizza, pasta, other Med-style fare, but will keep happily for a few years if kept in good conditions. The aromas, flavours and structure were all affected by the severe drought of that vintage, producing, as Claassens says, “not only the memory of terroir, but also the expression of place.” It’s quite rich, offers berry and dark chocolate flavours sprinkled with white pepper. It matured for nine months in 3rd and 4th fill French oak and is a great example of the new generation of wines flowing from the historic Stellenbosch cellar.
Fat Bastard Chardonnay 2018 sells for about R90 and was the wine with the highest score in the inaugural Best Value Chardonnay Tasting convened by Winemag. co.za last year. It scored 90 points and was described by editor Christian Eedes as follows” “On the nose... seduces with ripe stone fruit, tropical melon too and suble hints of vanilla. There’s good mid-palate fruit intensity... an off-dry impression enhanced by vanilla cream, oak notes and a mere hint of burnt butter. Bold be well-rounded and balanced.” It’s hard to improve on that full description, and I am not going to try, but we enjoyed every sip and found it a chardonnay not only of high quality, but rich, round and well balanced. The range may have a fun name but the wines are serious in that they are made with care, made for enjoyment, and are consistent in quality – Robertson Winery has been making them successfully for the Franco-British pair Guy Anderson and Vigneron Thierry Boudinaud for 21 years.