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New Wines from South Africa

We’ve been fans of wines from South Africa for a couple of decades, but it’s been more than a year since we’ve tried anything new. Happily, our friends at Vineyard Brands took care of that again by sending us several samples for our consideration not long ago, and as is usually the case, we found a lot more to like than otherwise.

We enjoyed the last two wines we tried from Neil Ellis a year ago last December, so we were interested in seeing what five more from them and their second label, Sincerely, had to offer. Click images to enlarge.

2010 Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc, 13% alc., $13.99 SRP: Clean, medium color; varietally correct gooseberry, grapefruit and mineral flavors and aromas shaded with just a hint of lime. Good intensity, medium-to-medium full body, good acids and length. Good value for the money. Fruit sourced from vines in Groenekloof, Stellenbosch and Elgin, varying from 5 years to 22 years (average 12 years). Fermented at low temperatures, and left on the lees for 3 months before blending. Find this wine

2010 Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc Groenekloof, 13.5% alc., $18.00 SRP:
Clean medium color, with a little more of everything that the Sincerely Sauvignon has; more intensity of flavor, a little bit sharper in acids and a bit longer on the finish, while maintaining a similar gooseberry, grapefruit and mineral profile. Not quite as steroidal as many from New Zealand, which is fine by me, and like Sincerely, offers good value for the price. Sourced from low-yielding vineyards with no supplementary irrigation. Whole bunch pressed, fermented at low temperatures, and left on the lees for 3 months before blending and bottling. Find this wine

2010 Sincerely Shiraz Western Cape, 14% alc., $13.99 SRP: Clean, dark color, with straightforward blackberry and black plum aromatics that gain a subtle, but evident earthy base in the mouth; a kiss of oak complements, rather than dominates. Full bodied, yet fairly sleek, with good structure and length. Solid, if unspectacular, this delivers good QPR. Sourced from vineyards in the Stellenbosch and Darling regions. Fermented in stainless steel, followed by nine months in 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th fill French oak barrels. Find this wine

2009 Neil Ellis Shiraz Elgin, 14.5% alc., $19.99 SRP: Clean, dark color, with similar characteristics to the Sincerely Shiraz, offering blackberry, black plum and restrained oak; sleek in nature, but brighter and more intense than the previous selection, with enough earth underneath to temper the ripeness. (Yes, it’s $6 more, but it’s worth it.) Full bodied, with good structure and length; drink now and over the next few years. Fermented in stainless steel, with malolactic fermentation taking place in barrels; 14 months in 500 liter French oak , 25% new. Find this wine

2008 Neil Ellis Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch, 14% alc., $23.99 SRP: Clean garnet color, with a stingy toast-coffee-tobacco nose that picks up nicely in the mouth with a good core of black currant-cassis fruit and some earth underneath it all. Full bodied, with good structure and length, this will probably improve for at least five years in the cellar. A little riper than I usually like, but not objectionably so, and the earthy element helps to offset the ripeness. Fermented in stainless steel, followed by 15 months in 35% new French oak barrels. Find this wine

Tormentoso was new to us when we unpacked the bottles, but it turns out that this is a second label of MAN Vintners, whose offerings we’ve enjoyed on a number of occasions.

2010 Tormentoso Cabernet Sauvignon Paarl, 14% alc., $11.99-12.99 SRP: Clean, dark color; toasty sweet oak nose follows through on the palate with a solid core of ripe black currant, blackberry and black cherry fruit. Finishes drier than the entry would suggest. Full bodied, and structured for a few years of cellaring at most, this is made to drink now, and performs well enough in that regard. Not a bad wine, but it’s a little too ripe and shows more oak than either Kim or this taster care for; however, I know people who will like it just fine. Sourced from dry-farmed vineyards in the Perdeberg region of Paarl. Find this wine

Porcupine Ridge, The Wolftrap and The Chocolate Block are all labels produced by Boekenhoutskloof. We started our survey of the selections sent to us with two from Porcupine Ridge.

2010 Porcupine Ridge Syrah Coastal Region, 14.5% alc., $13.00 SRP: Deep, dark color; coffee and toast nose leads to plenty more of the same on the palate, over a solid core of black plum and blackberry fruit. Full bodied, and structured for at least a few years of improvement in the cellar, with good length on the finish. This kind of “toasty” character doesn’t always appeal to me, but in this case, it fits in nicely with the overall character of the wine. Good QPR at the SRP. Fruit sourced from Malmesbury in the Swartland; picked at optimum ripeness and fermented in stainless steel with selected Rhone strain yeast. Two thirds maturation in French oak, with the balance remaining unoaked. Find this wine

2010 Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Coastal Region, 14.5% alc., $13.00 SRP: Clean, dark color, with the same basic coffee/toast nose as the Syrah, if not quite so intense; more of the same in the mouth, with a core of black currant and cassis trying to be noticed, but not entirely successfully. Again, as with the Syrah, full bodied, and structured for at least a few years of improvement in the cellar, with good length on the finish. Air helps to calm this down, and so will a few years. Bottom line? I like it, and it offers good value for what’s in the bottle. Fruit sourced from vines in Malmesbury, Wellington and Franschhoek; fermented in stainless steel with selected yeast strains. Extended skins contact to soften tannins and extraction, followed by French oak maturation for nine months. Find this wine

2011 The Wolftrap Rosé, 56% Syrah, 26% Cinsault, 18%Grenache, 13.63% alc., $9.99-10.99 SRP: Strawberry pink color; like drinking a bowl of fresh, ripe, almost perfumed strawberries and raspberries, all fruit forward and exuberant on entry, but falling off some towards the finish. Medium-to-medium full bodied, with good acids and underlying, earthy minerality, but again, a little more on the finish would be nice. All in all, a good Rosé with more positives than negatives, and worth the price of purchase. Produced using the saignée method, in which juice is bled off from the must; it is then cold fermented in stainless steel prior to blending and bottling. Find this wine

2011 The Wolftrap, Syrah 65%, Mourvedre 32%, Viognier 3%, $9.99-10.99 SRP: Clean dark color, with a toast-and-coffee personality that’s toned down somewhat from previous vintages; there’s a solid core of deep, dark plum and berry shaded with earth, mineral and dark chocolate. Full bodied, with good structure and length, this works well with flank steak grilled medium rare. Great QPR! Find this wine

2010 The Chocolate Block, Syrah 72%, Cabernet Sauvignon 13%, Grenache 7%, Cinsault 6% and Viognier 2%, 14.5% alc., $29.99-34.99 SRP: Inky color, not quite opaque; the aggressive coffee-toast-oak-char is somewhat less pronounced than in previous vintages, but still sets the tone for the character of the wine. (I never have detected anything resembling chocolate in any of the various incarnations that I’ve tried.) There’s a solid core of deep, dark black fruit on the palate; full bodied, but not too heavy, with ample structure for some years in the cellar and very good length. The least objectionable Chocolate Block that I’ve tried thus far, and some time in the cellar should help smooth it out nicely. Find this wine

Reporting from Day-twah,

geo t.

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