From great (a semillon) to grim (a chardonnay)

Notes on a bunch of recent releases, tasted (sighted) a few weeks ago with Angela Lloyd and Ingrid Motteux. A single score given shows us in at least approximate agreement. Where we thought differently of a wine, this is indicated.

First, two bubblies from JC le Roux. (Incidentally it took me ages to find them in the Platter Guide, where I wanted to check something, because like surely anyone else looking them up, I tried under “JC le Roux” and eventually spotted a note referring me to “The House of JC le Roux”! Where does that get them, I wonder? Who’d think of looking there? As with the wineries that unhelpfully prefix their names with “The”, the choice is theirs, not the Platter editor’s.)

JC Le Roux MCC Brut A new addition to the range of MCCs from these specialists, mostly from pinot noir, with some chardonnay. Pleasant, spiced baked apple nose, touch vanilla. Good bubbles, just on the inside of brut, I suspect, as it’s a little sweet. Earthy undertones, just a little sour. Decent value. Not long or complex. 14.5/20 (R68) (Angela found some grubby, leesy notes, and rated it a bit less.)

JC Le Roux La Vallée Rather similar nose, but  aromas a little more forward. Also mostly from pinot. Sweeter than the Brut and softly creamy. Angela found this off-dry version cleaner, and pretty decent. It’s hard to find this off-dry style of bubbly with genuine quality, said Ingrid appreciatively. 14.5/20 (R62)

Two wines from Jordan with fancy names that recall the extraordinary business when it looked like there might be some prospecting for minerals on this and other wine-farms, and everyone reacted frantically (though prospecting in itself wouldn’t have been invasive, and if there was nothing to find, as everyone thought, there’d have been no mining – something which could, in any case, only have been done with the owner’s agreement. Anyway, over-reaction or not, the proposal was soon withdrawn. It’s legacy lingers on ironically with these labels….)

Jordan The Outlier  Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (An outlier, apparently, is geologically “an outcrop of rocks that is entirely surrounded by older rocks”. In previous incarnations this wine has been called “Blanc Fumé” and “Barrel Fermented”. The wooding remains the point. Oaky influence on nose, some smoky bacon, as well as the usual green and tropical notes. Similar, but stronger character on palate. I found the oak coarse and obvious, and not much depth or length of fruit flavour. For me 14/20. But the others liked it more. 16/20 for Ingrid who was “unbothered by the oak” and found lots of nice aromas, and the wine well-structured. Angela gave it 15/20. She also found the oak  “overwhelming”, but thinks it will age and integrate. A bold wine, she says, and it will be popular. (R99)

Jordan The Prospector Syrah 2008 We were more in (disappointed) agreement over this wine. Very ripe nose, easy-going style. Dark fruit, choc-tinged. A big added acidity strives to give a spurious freshness – the real thing having been lost through over-ripeness, Softly rich, but a firm tannin underlying the sweet milk-choc finish. “Lush, dense and unfocused – very expensive for this style”, commented Angela. 14.5/20 (R115)

Four top-level wines from the historic Constantia property now owned by big business – the company of the late Graham Beck.

Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2010 One of the best known and most successful of the Cape sauvignons, but the 2010 is clearly not up to the standard of some previous vintages. Clean, attractive nose, green-edged. Convincingly full palate, with some serious acidity. Lipsmacking, good flavours that linger. More subtle than some previous (perhaps that;s a non sauvignon lover speaking – relieved at the quieter flavours and less intensity!).  Mineral. But one can already sense the asparagus, tinned peas, of maturity. Nice structure. Ripe fruit sweetness. Even if not up to Steenberg’s highest standards, still a very good (and very expensive) wine. We dithered about the score, but only with half a mark involved. Let’s be generous and say 16.5/20. (R195)

Steenberg Semillon 2010 Ah! we all loved this. A subtle nose, with ripe, subtle lemony, peachy hints, already a bit of complexity. Much more graceful, charming and interesting than the Sauvignon. Succulent, long lemoncurd finish, with lanolin. Beautiful structure. The oaking makes mostly for openness of texture, not much affecting the flavour. A gliding, rich wine. Pithy acidity throughout. A bit of dithering again, at a higher level: 17.5/20 (R195)

Steenberg Nebbiolo 2009 Lightish cherry colour (as proper for this northern Italian variety). Big, strong flavours: sweet-oak, medicinal, tarry, maraschino cherry. Big, still rather raw, with mighty furry but unpuckering  tannins, and the flavours following the promise of the aromas. Not much fun – might become more so if the tannins ever subside, but I suspect they’re unlikely to do so in time for the surviving fruit. 14.5/20 Ingrid gave it a point more, as she relished the sappy savoury red-fruit, sweet-sour  character. (R170)

Steenberg Catharina 2007 The blend of the estate’s best barrels of cab, merlot and cab franc. A much more successful red wine than the Nebbiolo, costing little more, despite having two more useful years of maturity on it. A most attractive nose, with some nice spicy oak showing. Firm but ripe tannins, nice suppleness, well-balanced, savoury rather than fruity – but a nice blackcurrant fruit-pastille note to it to add some easy charm. Herbal edge. Freshness. Succulent but dry tannins. 16.5/20. Most unusual for an estate’s top red to be cheaper than its top whites – this is actually quite good value (R185).
Weltevrede Vanilla Chardonnay 2010
This Bonnievale estate, where Philip Jonker is known for his devotion to chardonnay, is clearly trying for a white equivalent of all the vulgar coffee-toffee-choccy reds. We approached it with some apprehension. Letdown! not much vanilla to sniff. But then, much more of it on the palate, where it is thick and sweetish and obvious. What else is there? Mostly some harsh acidity trying to hold it all together. Not going to be the equivalent of Diemersfontein Pinotage (I hope). 12/20

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