Durbanville and Darling – pretty cool

Russo is a rather good name for a wine – and one I hadn’t heard of before I came across it at a trade tasting last week. In fact, it was the maiden vintage that this new, tiny Durbanville estate was showing – a 2007 Bordeaux blend (nearly half cab sauv, with cab franc, merlot and petit verdot), off the four hectares of vineyards. The name is a play on “rosso”, of course, but also on Rossouw, which is the family name of the owners – winemaker Terèsa and viticulturist Henk. (The pic alongside taken from the Russo website.)

It’s a fairly easy-going, smoothly attractive wine, modest in the best sense – mostly to do with being unshowy, bone-dry and not heavily oaked – with restrained and herb- and tobacco-tinged fruit and an elegantly light richness to it. Isn’t it amazing that 13.3% alcohol (which is what this wine has) can so easily be regarded as “moderate” these days? At R90 ex-farm, Russo is a good buy for someone wanting an eminently drinkable, classically-oriented bordeaux blend that should be a good food partner.

In much the same style, is another new wine, also influenced by the cool Atantic breezes on the Durbanville hills, but from a more established and larger producer, Hillcrest. Hornfels 2008 is part of their new Metamorphic range, and named for the kind of rock occurring throughout the property. The stylish labels of the range also reflect the geologic concern. I recently sampled Hornfels along with Angela Lloyd, Ingrid Motteux and Cathy van Zyl at one of our occasional get-togethers to try new wines (we taste them sighted). Most of us appreciated the wine’s rather old-fashioned virtues of straightforward, restrained honesty (but Angela found less of interest than the others). The wine is fairly austere and perhaps a touch leafy, though the fruit is good; it’s gratifyingly dry and with that, again, “moderate” alcohol of 13.2%. I suspect it will respond well to another few years in the bottle. It’s by no means cheap at R250, but will please the lover of more classic wines that decline to pander to a modern taste for over-ripe lushness. We rated it 16/20.

Durbanville is better known for it’s white wines, and Nitida has become one of its finest producers of sauvignon and semillon – and of them as a blend, as the Aureus 2009 on this year’s CWG Auction showed. But the non-auction blend of those varieties, the grandly named Coronata Integration (2009 the maiden vintage of this new flagship white) had us all a little confused as to how to take it. Perhaps, as Angela suggested, it is still just too young to be showing well, perhaps it was just having an off-day (or we were). Not that we weren’t aware of it being a very good wine (with good grass/khakibos notes, together with honeyed florality and a little oak, and semillon revealing itself especially on the lemony finish), but it was not altogether harmonious, and seemed a trifle hard and powerful. We scored it 16, but not with great confidence.

Further north, Darling is another renowned white wine area. We at Grape haven’t always admired Groote Post’s wines, but we were appreciative especially of The Old man’s Blend 2010. This is a very successful mingling of half sauvignon with chenin and semillon, selling at just R44, which we thought made it pretty good value, with a score of 15/20. It’s lively, unpretentious and well balanced, full of tropical aromas and flavours.

Groote Post Sauvignon Blanc 2010 was a little more controversial, with me and Cathy at or near 16/20, Angela and Ingrid closer to 14. The aromas were a touch sweaty, perhaps, along with fynbos and passionfruit; the greener sauvignon notes emerged on the palate – very convincingly, I thought. Crisp, balanced and satisfying.

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