The Beautiful South collaborative trade tasting brought together wines from Argentina, Chile and South Africa. With over 300 producers represented, this was effectively three trade tastings combined, accompanied by a fat, bicep-building catalogue with information on all the wines and wineries. My main focus at this tasting was South Africa, so no apologies for the resultant bias in my tasting notes. I have only chosen a few wines to report, so here goes …
The Hughes Family Wines from the Swartland are organically certified from 2013. Their ethos of “minimal intervention” during the winemaking process to express the true origin of their wines is reflected by the name "Nativo". Their 2011 white blend of 60% Viognier and 40% Chenin Blanc is beautifully aromatic with notes of honey, pears, apricot and citrus on the nose and palate. This would be a perfect match for Chinese food or Sushi and, in particular, for dishes containing ginger. This wine is available from Revolution Wines at £11.25 a bottle.
Rietvallei Wine Estate is one of the oldest farms in the Robertson Wine Valley. Their Special Select Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, is superb value for money at less than £8. Tropical fruit characteristics, well-balanced acidity and minerality, make this a perfect foil for Thai-inspired fish dishes, particularly sea bass. This wine is available from Richmond Wine Agencies.
South Africa is well-known for its Chenin Blanc and a good example is Swartland Winery’s Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2012. Sixty percent was aged in oak, giving a more complex wine with tropical fruit characteristics and a hint of cream from the oak ageing adding to the well-rounded mouth feel.
Riebeek Cellars’ Sauvignon Blanc, 2013, made from grapes grown near the ocean, is a good example of a well-rounded, herbaceous and easy-drinking crisp Sauvignon Blanc with tropical fruit notes present on the nose and palate. This could be drunk on its own or with a light meal. Their Chenin Blanc 2013 would be a great introduction for anyone unfamiliar with this grape variety. The wine is fresh and fruity, with good acidity, a refreshing minerality and the surprisingly high alcohol level of 14% is barely noticeable and certainly not overpowering.
It was good to meet up with Linton Park Wines, having previously reviewed their "made for chocolate" Café Cabernet 2011. Among their other reds, the Proprietor’s Reserve Merlot, 2010, aged for 24 months in oak, is full of ripe red and black fruit and a soft, well-rounded finish. I also enjoyed tasting their Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin 177, 2013, made from grapes grown on the fourth highest-altitude vineyard in South Africa. With subtle fruit aromas, notes of elderflower and good minerality, this is another wine to be enjoyed on its own or with a light meal. Chalié Richards & Co. is the UK distributor for Linton Park Wines.
Pinotage is a grape variety synonymous with South Africa and some good examples were provided by the Pinotage Association. One of the most impressive they had was the Windmeul Reserve Pinotage 2011, from the Paarl region. This is elegant, well-balanced, full and fruity with notes of plum and a subtle smokiness – great to accompany many meat dishes.
10-year old Andeluna Cellars, from the Mendoza region of Argentina in the foothills of the Andes, produce a range of premium wines, many of which have received awards, garnering worldwide praise. Their Andeluna Altitud Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011, is full of berry fruit, pepper, cherries and smoke. Seventy percent of the wine was aged for 12 months in oak, preserving the fruit-driven aromas and flavours, while lending a smoothing effect to the tannins with notes of chocolate. This has great ageing potential and, at £15.99, is a quality bargain. However, I particularly loved their Andeluna Pasionado Cabernet Franc, 2008, aged for 18 months in oak. This could also be aged, but should be incredible in about 2 years’ time. Packed full of ripe currant fruit, spice, violets and a touch of tobacco from the 18 months’ oak ageing, this is smooth, well-rounded and a superb example of how skilful winemaking can handle this often difficult grape. At £31.99, this was my star of the show - a wine to savour with food, particularly venison. Delicious! Andeluna Cellars’ wines are available from Hallgarten Druitt & Novum Wines.
Viñalba, from the Uco Valley, make award-winning wines and their Bodegas Fabre Reservado Malbec Cabernet Franc 2012, made from 80% Malbec and 20% Cabernet Franc, has notes of redcurrant, blackberry, spice and hints of green pepper. This delicious wine would be a great match for beef and lamb dishes.
The award-winning Viña Leyda Reserve Syrah, 2011 is fragrant, peppery, smoky and rich with notes of ripe, juicy plums and blackberries. It is also very good value for money at less than £10.
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