This page is dedicated to my South African wine tasting notes. I was so fascinated by the diversity of wines produced in SA, according to my reading, that I want a whole page I can refer back to and add additional tasting experiences as I go along. As I first mentioned, I was intrigued to study South Africa next because of my recent fascination with Chenin Blanc and was eager to compare the country’s expression from that of the classics from Loire. But during a tasting class, there was an overtly herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc that the majority of my classmates swore up and down weas from New Zealand—nope: South Africa. Listening to a recent podcast, I learned that sommeliers are particularly excited about Cab Francs out of SA. And then when I got to my reading about Elgin and how Burgundian the Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs are…
Anyway, as you can see there’s a long list of SA wines I’m dying to try. This list (as of October 6, 2020) is what I have tasted thus far. I am hoping through the course of my studies to continue to add to this list.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy my tasting notes and assessments…
A brief note about my tasting notes: As per all tasting notes and assessments you’ll find on my website, despite the way the information is presented, all technical information is gathered after my initial tasting assessment so as not to influence my perception or opinion of the wine.
Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2019
About the Wine: This 100% varietal Sauvignon Blanc harvested from the Simonsberg-Stellenbosch sub-region of Stellenbosch District.
According to the winery, the vines grow on decomposed granite, hutton/tukulu and shale soils on “some of the highest altitudes that vineyards are grown in the Stellenbosch region” at over 550m above sea level. The vineyards receive minimal drip irrigation and all grapes were hand harvested.
The grapes were crushed, destemmed, and pressed into stainless steel tank where they then underwent primary fermentation utilizing both native and cultured yeasts. The wine rested on the lees for 2 to 3 months before being fined and bottled.
Appearance: pale lemon
Aroma: Medium (+) aromas of apple, pear, lemon, blossom, mango, melon, passionfruit, green bell pepper, a hint of pineapple, and a slight toasty note.
Palate: This is a dry wine with medium (+) acid, medium body, and medium alcohol. There is just a touch of texture, a hint of phenolic grip and bitterness. The flavor intensity is at medium (+) mimicking the aromas mentioned above as well as adding additional notes of lemongrass and grapefruit.
The finish is medium (+) in length
Conclusion: I find the Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2019 to be of very good quality. While there is still that ‘edge’ of obvious green bell pepper aroma and flavor, this herbaceousness is well balanced with the plethora of tropical and citrus fruit notes. There’s a strong enough acidity to keep those aromas and flavors fresh and vivacious from start to finish. Additionally, that slight texture on the tongue, from possible lees aging, says to me that there was a bit of complexity in the winemaking and this added component does, indeed, give the palate a bit more weight, lift, and body. The finish did fall just short of long at a medium (+) which is why I could not say that this wine is outstanding, but it is very good.
I would not recommend this wine for further bottle aging. I think that the joy of this wine is in the freshness of those fruit flavors and I can’t conceive how those flavors could develop any further in a pleasant way. With age, I’d fear those flavors would instead fade and the wine become unbalanced.
More Info: $15.99 at wine.com
Mullineux Family Wines Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2019
NOTE: Mullineax Family Wines is part of the Swartland Independent Producers organization. Read more here.
About the Wine: This is a 100% varietal Chenin Blanc sourced from several vineyards throughout the Coastal Region’s Swartland District According to the winery: “One parcel of 38 year old Chenin planted in the stony Shale and Schist based soils of Kasteelberg, and two parcels of 40+ year-old dry land, bush vine Chenin grown in the decomposed Granite soils of the Paardeberg.”
Grapes were pressed whole bunch and juice was allowed to settle overnight. “Minimal” SO2 was added, but the winery notes that no other additions were made. ” We do not make use of any yeasts, acids, tannins, enzymes, or fining and filtering agents,” they say. Eighty-five percent of the juice is racked to tank and 15% racked to old oak barrels for primary fermentation using 100% native yeasts. According to the winery, fermentation lasts as long as six weeks. The barrels are racked and blended with the tank fermented wines and bottled.
2.0 g/L RS
5.2 g/L TA
Appearance: Medium Lemon
Aroma: Medium (+) intensity of chestnut, wet wool, toast/smoke, lemon, ripe apple, nectarine, peach, vanilla, grass/dry grass
Palate: This is a dry white wine with high levels of acidity, medium alcohol, and an overall medium body. The flavor profile is of medium (+) intensity and reveals flavors as those mentioned above, with the addition of an herbal quality—almost like eucalyptus. I also found that on the palate the apple was more of a bruised apple (as opposed to ripe), where as those peach and nectarine notes were the very definition of ripeness. I also found there was a bit of a floral note in the background of the palate that I did not pick up on on the nose—like a hint of rose water perfume just lingering lightly in the air.
I also want to add here that I found the overall mouthfeel to be round, smooth, quite the contrast to the more linear Savennieres.
Conclusion: I found the Mullineux Family Wines Kloof Street Chenin Blanc 2019 to be of very good quality, with a wonderful balance of both primary fruit flavors as well as more earthy tones like the toast and smoke and even that kind dry grass or hay component. That addition of toast and smoke does make me think that there could have been a bit of barrel usage, even if slight. Which would not be uncommon for a wine made from old vines, which typically make the higher quality wines of the Swartland. Additionally I did find some tertiary tones, which is interesting as this is a 2019, but that slight bit of nuttiness first detected on the nose and the fact that there was a roundness to the palate, leads me to believe that this wine has engaged in some development and could, indeed, develop further to showcase more honeyed and caramel tones along side dried tropical fruit flavors that could be quite delicious in the future.
The only point off I gave this wine was that finish felt just shy of long. And I mean just. But because it did, I could not mark it as outstanding.
More Info: $20.99 at wine.com
Mulderbosch 2016 Faithful Hound
About the Wine: 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 17% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot sourced from the Stellenbosch District of South Africa.
The wine was aged fro 16 months in French oak barriques (30% new).
1.1 g/L RS
5.1 g/L TA
Appearance: Deep ruby
Aroma: Medium (+) intensity: red cherry, black cherry, pomegranate, toast/oak, black currant, red currant, eucalyptus, cedar, tar, boysenberry, vanilla, licorice, smoke, toast
Palate: The palate is dry with medium (+) acid, medium alcohol, medium body, medium level of fine-grained tannins and an overall medium (+) flavor intensity. Flavors do respect the list above, but the fruits give quite a tart impression, while the smoke, tar, toast, and woody notes tend to sit in the back of the palate. The finish was medium.
Conclusion: This is a good wine, an easily palatable wine, and a wine that should be enjoyed now. There are clearly layers to this wine with primary, secondary, and perhaps even a few tertiary (smoke/tar) notes all enveloped into the aromatic and flavor profiles. The fine-grained tannins are well-integrated and neither coat the palate nor detract from the fruits, while the higher level of acidity does a great job of keeping those fruits alive. Fully alive. In fact, my critique comes to the balance of those overtly tart fruit flavors that are quite prominent on the palate, with such a loud voice, those other characteristics barely have a chance to speak. And, once those primary fruits fade, the tasting is complete—no lingering, no echoing, just silence. So because of this bit of unbalanced structure and the lack of a truly long finish, I cannot mark this wine any higher than good.
Food Pairing: All that being said, this is a fresh, fruity wine that I think one could easily pair with a variety of meals and I look forward to doing just that.
More Info: Sample; MSRP: $24.99
Mulderbosch 2017 Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc
About the Wine: This is a 100% varietal Cabernet Franc sourced from vineyards located in the Stellenbosch District. The wine aged in small 300L French oak barrels (50%) new for 18 months.
1.3 g/L RS
5.8 g/L TA
Appearance: Medium ruby
Aroma: Medium intensity: chocolate, red cherry, black cherry, cinnamon, cedar, clove, toast, smoke, violet, red currant, capsicum, dried herbs (maybe thyme), tomato leaf
Palate: This is a dry wine with medium (+) acid, medium (+) chalky tannins, medium alcohol, and an overall medium body. The flavor intensity is, as the nose, medium and mimicking all the flavors listed above with an elevated note of that capsicum (green bell pepper) component.
The finish was a medium length.
Conclusion: I found the Mulderbosch 2017 Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc to be of good quality. Unfortunately both the palate and the nose lacked any real intensity, especially regarding the fruit flavors. Instead the new barrel component seemed to take over with excessive notes of cedar, char, and toast and the chalky tannins did not seem to be well-incorporated into the body of the wine. And that lack of intensity carried through to the finish that was simply, medium. I cannot argue that there is complexity to this wine. As stated, there’s clearly some new oak integrated into the wine and that time in barrel certainly added those spice components (clove, cinnamon, cedar). I would not call this wine imbalanced, per se, despite my note above, as I actually found those secondary components quite desirable and, if one allows the wine to open over time, those tannins will soften, the mouthfeel become more plush than chalky. Though this does nothing to intensify the fruit flavors.
It is because of that lack of intensity and lack of length on the finish that I cannot qualify this as an ageable wine. Without any fruit now, where will the wine go?
Food Pairing: Like the Faithfull Hound, I think this wine does have its place, but in this case with the right food pairing. I look forward to enjoying this wine with a blackened and barbecue (sauced) grilled chicken, as I think the dual sweet-savory-ness of that dish will also help round out the palate of the wine. And with a little funky blue cheese—yessir.
More Info: Sample; MSRP: 44.99
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