A bunch of recent releases were tasted (with labels, prices, track-records and some understanding of the wines’ origins in view!) by a little panel of me, Angela Lloyd and Ingrid Motteux. Most of them were then sampled again, perhaps even the next day, by the individuals reporting on them. The most exciting of those that fell to my lot were from Shannon Vineyards in Elgin, on which I shall report separately (as I have already on the Delaire Botmaskop). Here are brief notes on the others.
Oldenburg was a neglected farm in Stellenbosch’s lovely Banghoek Valley when it was bought in the early 200s by Adrian Vanderspuy (born locally, now living in Switzerland). The early wines off the replanted vineyards have been made at Glenelly’s fine cellar on the other side of the Simonsberg, by Simon Thompson – although there is a tasting room on the home farm, no doubt with spectacular views. We tasted the Cab Franc and the Chardonnay.
The Oldenburg Vineyards Chardonnay 2010 (R118) is a very satisfactory wine, rather richly-styled, round and flavourful, without a little more power than genuine concentration. Good aromas of lemon butter, oatmeal, a little nut. The 9 months in oak, half new, shows mostly in the richness and the butterscotch notes, but is not too overt. Probably this wine will be more harmonious in six months – at present it is not quite knot, so one sometimes notices the acidity, sometimes there seems an alcoholic glow on the finish. But clearly this is a label to watch. We scored it 15.5/20.
Oldenburg Cabernet Franc 2008 was a little less pleasing, partly because the oaking was much more prominent and this abetted the effect of the ripe, slightly jammy fruit. The understated aromas were more promising than the palate turned out to confirm – herbs, tobacco, cherries, a touch of leafiness. The acidity was a bit much – I suspect adjusted upwards to compensate for the freshness lost through late picking. Not a bargain at R180. 14.5/20.
In a very different part of mountainous Stellenbosch is the Devon Valley, which is home to Clos Malverne, a winery which is seemingly trying to burnish its image a bit. And to cash in on the craze for coffee-style pinotage with a new wine to complement their established commitment to this grape.
It’s called Le Café Pinotage (the maiden release is 2010) and I must say that I’m rather surprised that KWV, owners of Café Culture Pinotage didn’t regard this as an actionable encroachment on their branding. Expensive at around R85, I’d have thought. It’s pleasant enough, though there’s probably as much rubber flavour as there is mocha. Nicely balanced in terms of structure, however. 13.5/20.
Back across the Helshoogte Pass, past Oldenburg, to Allée Bleue on the inner edge of the Franschhoek district. I’ve always found a particular perversity in this property! I’m told it possesses a particularly lovely, historic name – “Meere Rust en Eensaamheid” and decided to put its wines under the “Meerrust” label, a shortening that, immensely predictably, Meerlust was not going to allow. Hence this name in a foreign language instead, alluding to the entrance avenue of alien trees (bluegums). And blue is famously the dodgiest colour to dress a wine in! However, let’s wish them well.
More French in the naming of Allée Bleue L’Amour Toujours 2007, a new flagship wine. And a bit more foreignness, in fact, as the grapes for it came from as far away as Citrusdal and Stellenbosch. The blend is based on cab and merlot, but takes in Shiraz and grenache, as well as a dollop of petit verdot. Ripe-fruited, with firm but soft tannins; the deep colour is the first hint at how extracted this wine is, and the rather heavy, thich succulence confirms it – though there’s a whack of acid to compensate. There’s plenty of winning flavour, however, untrammelled by the year in 60%-new oak, and I’m sure a lot of people would enjoy the fruity, in-your-face styling, though R140 seems a lot to pay for this pleasure. Not a wine to keep. 15/20.
We compromised on the same score, 15/20, to a wine from the Riebeek mountainside in Swartland, Kloovenburg Shiraz 2008, though both Angela and Ingrid would have liked it a touch lower (it lacked focus, said Angela, with some justification). I enjoy the ripe sweet-fruited unpretentiousness of it (somewhere between a classic style and the ripe extractedness of the Allée Bleue wine), and found the tannins well-managed and the acidity in good balance. It cost R107 from the farm, not a bad price when you look around (or perhaps I am, looking at my remarks above, just getting embarrassed by calling too many wines over-priced…).