Tasting No.233 – August 30, 2021- Wines from South Africa

Club del Vino

Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Tasting Overview 

South Africa Wine Region

The purpose of this tasting is to learn about South African wines, through exploring the country’s wine history and recent developments, by tasting the main four grapes and wine styles from the most renowned producing regions, districts, and wards.

We will taste two white varietals: Chenin Blanc from Bot River Ward, Walker Bay District, and, Chardonnay, from Robertson Ward, Breeder River District; as red varietals, we have Pinotage, from Simonsberg Ward, and Cabernet Sauvignon, from Jonkershoek Valley, both in the Stellenbosch District. The four wines come from Western Cape Region.

 

Type of Tasting: Open

Wines presenters:   Jairo Sanchez, Alberto Gomez, and Carlos Silvani

These are the wines:

  1. 2018 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River, Western Cape $37.99
  2. 2017 Westhof Limestone Hill Chardonnay, Robertson, Western Cape $18.99
  3. 2018 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simonsberg, Stellenbosch, Coastal Cape $41.99
  4. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch, Coastal Cape$36.99

Menu:

  1. Seafood Salad
  2. Alfredo (or any creamy sauce
  3. Lamb and rosemary sauce
  4. Grilled Fillet and wine sauce
  5. Dessert/Coffee

Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Alberto Gómez, Italo Mirkow, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John Redwood, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Carlos Silvani, Ricardo Zavaleta, and German Zincke.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2018 Beaumont Hope Margherite Chenin Blanc*, Bot River

The Wine: Named after our grandmother, Hope Marguerite Beaumont, this barrel-fermented and matured Chenin Blanc is always elegant and complex. Beaumont’s old vine Chenin Blanc is naturally fermented in 400L French oak. Beautiful aromas of dried apricot, marzipan, and spice with hints of green apple and integrated oak on the palate. This is a pure expression of our flagship Chenin (winemaker notes).

Matches brilliantly with seafood especially scallops and any beautifully spicy Asian dish.

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate 90+ Pts. The 2018 Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc seems very shy on the nose, and it should develop beautifully over the next few years. The palate is pure and ripe, with a clean, fresh citrus core. There is a soft, white powdery minerally expression that is very pleasing with a medium finish. The wine is balanced with soft floral tones that linger on the aftertaste. This wine was fermented naturally in neutral oak barrels and comes from their two oldest vineyards. The Hope Marguerite bottling honors their grandmother and is named after her. 17,500 bottles made.

The Winery:  Sebastian Beaumont crafts superb wines on the family farm in the tiny Bot River Ward, in the Walker Bay district of South Africa’s Western Cape, west of Hermanus. The winery’s old vineyards on shale soils provide good texture and structure. The 2017 Hope Marguerite is one of South Africa’s best Chenin Blancs. It has it all – fabulous fruit intensity, concentration, and length, with 5g/l of residual sugar balancing some lees pithiness and vibrant acidity.

The Ward, which stretches from the Houw Hoek Pass in the north to the Bot River Lagoon in the south, produces high-quality white wines – chiefly Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc – from mostly small, independently owned wine estates. The area is classically cool-climate, with breezes from the nearby Walker Bay and the Bot River Lagoon rushing in to vineyards to replace the hot air during the afternoons. Herbaceous notes in Bot River wines have often been attributed to the fynbos in the region, while minerality is imparted by the soil profile of Table Mountain sandstone and Bokkeveld shale.

 

2017- De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay, Robertson

The wine: Heavy clay soils rich in limestone allow this Chardonnay to emit optimum varietal expression in a cloak of rich complexity. An un-wooded wine, Limestone Hill has notes of grapefruit and nuts, with the complexity balanced by a nuanced elegance ending with a delicate ripeness (winemaker notes).

Limestone Hill is superb with oysters, cream-based pasta dishes and light curries, as well as roast pork and veal dishes.

The Winery: The name De Wetshof has been synonymous with the production of fine wines in South Africa since the 1970’s. As the first registered wine estate in the Robertson Wine Valley, De Wetshof has become known internationally as South Africa’s eminent Chardonnay House due to the pioneering role it played in introducing this noble Burgundian grape to the country.

The De Wet family’s winemaking heritage can, however, be traced back to 1694 when the first De Wets arrived at the Cape and immediately made a mark on the South African wine industry.

The Robertson Wine Ward is a wine-producing area in the Breede River Valley region of the Western Cape, 160km east of Cape Town. Robertson is one of South Africa’s better known wine-producing areas and is associated with the production of rich, fruit-driven red and white wines made most often from the Chardonnay and Shiraz grape varieties, as well as sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The dry, hot climate in Robertson is optimal for producing premium grapes. Annual rainfall is a scant 400mm, and the river is used often for irrigation. However, south-easterly breezes from the Indian Ocean 60 miles (90 km) away have a cooling effect on the vineyards and bring moisture to the area. While daytime temperatures can get up to 30°C / 85°F, evenings are much cooler. This diurnal temperature variation means that the grapes have a chance to cool down overnight, letting them retain acidity while still developing rich flavor profiles. Winters are relatively cold, allowing the vines a period of dormancy before the next growing season. The distinctive medley of soil types gives wine farms in Robertson plenty of options when it comes to site selection. Chardonnay grapes thrive on the pockets of limestone soil found throughout Robertson. High levels of lime in the soil give a chalky minerality to the resultant wines, much like in the region of Chablis in France. 

2018 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simonsberg Stellenbosch  

 The Wine: The nose is beautifully aromatic, with scented aromas of red currants, macerated cherries, and cinnamon spice. The palate displays a silky tannin structure, backed by a fine seam of acidity. Subtle vanilla undertones from the integrated oak profile are juxtaposed against a fruit explosion of wild bramble, plums, and black berries. An elegant wine of intense purple hues, it lingers at the finish with juicy, dark plums flavors (Winemaker notes).

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate 90 Pts. Displaying a dark ruby core with purple and red hints on the rim, the 2018 Pinotage Stellenbosch opens with a nose of sweet, confected plums, black raspberry, mocha, and hints of sweet oak spice. Medium to full-bodied, the wine displays sweet fruit on the palate with a generous helping of 80% new French oak. It ends with sappy plums and black cherry skin flavors that give way to tight tannins that linger on the long finish. There are plenty of winemaking practices happening with the expression that creates an enjoyable experience for the drinker. Outstanding. Drinking window: 2021 – 2033

The winery. Kanonkop Estate is a South African red wine producer located on the low slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains, between Stellenbosch and Paarl. It was established in 1973 on plots of land that had some old Pinotage vines growing on them. Simonsberg is known as the “red wine bowl” of South Africa, with long summer days, cooling sea breezes and ideal soils for red wine varieties.

Kanonkop Estate is famous for being one of the first producers to grow and vinify Pinotage, the country’s signature grape variety developed in 1924 as an intraspecies cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut grapes. The estate also makes red wines from the classic Bordeaux varieties. It boasts some of the Cape’s first commercially planted Pinotage vines, with an average age of over 50 years. Respecting tradition while embracing the future, Kanonkop fuses age-old wine-making techniques with state-of-the art technology. All the estate’s grapes are handpicked and sorted. The wines are vinified in open concrete fermenters, using manual punch-downs, and are subsequently aged in French Nevers oak barrels.

2014 Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch

 

The Wine: This is the signature Cabernet Sauvignon of Neil Ellis. It is a distinctive style with all the hallmarks of the Jonkershoek Valley and known for its distinctive balance of elegance and fruit power. Medium intense ruby red color. Restraint aroma but deep, complex perfumes of blue and black small berry fruit. Cedary aromas and touches of mint, so typical of a Jonkershoek wine. The palate is smooth and plush followed by fine, but dense tannins. A ripe, soft tannin vintage with savory expression (winemaker notes). 

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate Rating: 91+ Pts. Beginning with a dark ruby core, the nose of the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Jonkershoek Valley has soft, dusty red fruit essences with hints of slightly stewed plums, blackberry, and redcurrant before highlighting a soft minty, herbaceous tone. Medium to full-bodied, the wine is balanced with lifting tannins that grow with sweet baking spices (from the oak) and give way to firm tannins that build across the mid-palate. On the lingering finish is a balanced expression of dusty black cherry skin and nuances of dried sage with an element of bitter black tea. It’s very food friendly and should continue to drink well until the end of this decade.  

Awards: 2014 Vintage: Gold  International Wine Challenge

Appealed black fruit with impressive concentration and length. Youthful, with reined tannins and mouthful highlight.

The Winery: Neil Ellis set out to identify distinct terroir in which individual varieties will excel. He placed the emphasis not only on the environment but also on caring viticultural practices by a dedicated team of growers which extends through to the winemaking practices. Neil Ellis produces not only Cabernet Sauvignon but also other red wines from Pinotage and Shiraz grapes and whites from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.

Stellenbosch District is South Africa’s most famous wine-producing district, surrounding the historic town with the same name. Fine winemaking here dates to the late 1600s. Its valleys of granite, sandstone and alluvial loam soils have the capacity to produce beautiful wines from many varieties. The climate is warm Mediterranean, tempered by the cool Atlantic air of nearby False Bay.

Perhaps most well-known for its Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon  and Bordeaux blends, Stellenbosch also produces wines from Syrah, Chenin blanc Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Stellenbosch, in Western Cape’s Coastal Region, is home to the country’s best-known wine estates. Cabernet Sauvignon is the region’s most widely planted grape variety.

The region’s climate is relatively hot and dry, although a maritime influence comes from False Bay in the south. Cooling southeasterly breezes wash through the vineyards in the afternoons, refreshing the grapes after the morning’s hot sun.

The variation of terroir in Stellenbosch is divided into many different wine-producing areas. The wards of Banghoek, Bottelary, Papegaaiberg, Polkadraai Hills, Devon Valley, Jonkershoek Valley and Simonsberg-Stellenbosch are all recognized by the Wine of Origin scheme. The unofficial areas of Helderberg and Stellenboschkloof also have their own distinctive wine styles.

 Technical Notes 

Information compiled and edited by Jairo Sanchez, Carlos Silvani and Orlando Gomez, from various sources, such as Wikipedia, Wine Folly, Wine.com, Wine Searcher, producers’ sites, and others.

 

South Africa is one of the most prominent wine-producing countries in the Southern Hemisphere. With more than 300 years of winemaking history, it is often described as bridging the gap between the Old World and New. Most wines are made using New World winemaking techniques, but often have more in common stylistically with their Old-World counterparts. Since the end of apartheid South African wine has enjoyed international attention and acclaim for its wide variety of styles.

South Africa’s wine industry is distributed around the lush, rugged landscape of the Western Cape. Here, the abundance of mountains, valleys and plateaus allow winemakers to produce a diverse range of styles. Vineyards are also found in the Northern Cape’s Orange River region, where the flat, barren landscape is dominated by the Kalahari Desert. Most of South Africa’s wine-producing regions have a Mediterranean climate, significantly influenced by the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

The country’s signature variety is Pinotage, an indigenous crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut that is rarely found in quantity in any other wine-producing country. Shiraz is widely planted also, as are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

South Africa White grape varieties account for 55% of the country’s 96,000 hectares of vineyards. Chenin Blanc is the republic’s most planted grape with 18.5 percent of all plantings. While it has not retained its earlier dominance within vineyards as a source of brandy and fortified wines, it retains its number one position having largely transitioned into a role providing crisp dry white wines.

South African Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have become popular internationally in recent years. The Wine of Origin system, a legal structure introduced in 1972 to acknowledge and protect the diversity of terroir in the country, classifies South Africa into the regions, districts and wards where vineyards are found.

Vines were first planted in South Africa by Dutch settlers in the 1650s, although wine production did not really begin to take off until French Huguenots arrived with viticultural skills and knowledge in the 1680’s. South Africa’s oldest wine estate is located in Constantia, where the production of the legendary dessert wine Vin de Constance gave the region worldwide fame in the 18th and 19th centuries. Stellenbosch is equally historic as a wine-producing region, the first vineyards having been planted here in the 1690’s.

The South African wine industry suffered numerous setbacks during the 19th and 20th centuries. The outbreak of phylloxera in the 1860’s severely reduced the vineyard area. The replanting after Phylloxera – often using high-yielding grape varieties such as Cinsaut – led to large-scale overproduction, prompting the South African government to fund the Kooperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika KWV.

Throughout the 20th Century, KWV restricted the production of wines in such a way that innovation was near impossible, and quantity was prioritized over quality. Yields were restricted and minimum prices set at a level which encouraged production of brandy and fortified wine. KWV’s control over the South African wine sector lasted until the 1990’s, and even now, the country’s industry is unusual for its high number of co-operatives. South African wine fell out of favor internationally during the 20th Century when trade sanctions were placed on the country in the 1980s, due to its apartheid policies.  In 2016, South Africa was the seventh largest producer of wine in the world in terms of overall volume, responsible for 3.9% of global wine output. 

 

Club del Vino Members Rating

The tasting took place before knowing the price of the wines and the participants evaluated them between Good and Excellent with the following results:

1st -2018 Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc, Bot River BW ($38)

2nd-2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Jonkershoek, Stellenbosch BB ($19)

3rd -2017 Wetsthof Limestone Hill, Chardonnay, Robertson ($42)

4th -2014 Kanonkop Pinotage, Simosberg, Stellenbosch ($37)

 

The Chenin Blanc was rated as Best Wine and the Chardonnay as Best Buy

 

.o0o.

 

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