La Motte shiraz 2004

90 points

It’s a strange mélange of sweet slightly syrupy fruit balanced by green notes and fresh acid with a very smokey overlay (which seems to be the fashion with top SA Shiraz). I’m being generous with the score because it’s interesting and, for me, novel – on another day I might be more critical.

Shiraz tasting

Larry and I organized a small tasting designed to look at the diversity of wines produced with this grape. They were all modestly priced Shiraz of about 6-8 years of age. From Australia, France, South Africa and New Zealand. Australia was most represented with wines from different states and regions.

Apart from a staggering 3 faulty corks the wine quality was very good, not a dud amongst them. There was considerable difference in style though, as was hoped. The St. Joseph stood out being savoury dry with far less syrup/alcohol characters. The Peter Lehmann Barossa was at completely the opposite spectrum, and also very good in its style. While the South African was a pleasant surprise, possibly the best wine there (if it develops as it should).

Luddite Shiraz 2001

92 points

Western Cape, South Africa. 14%

Concentrated. Sort of a Rhone Australia cross. Some smoked meats, a bit closed/dumb but optimistically this could be very good.

Impressive concentration. A bit too dense and closed now, stood out in this respect compared to other wines in the tasting.

Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2006

77 points

Cederberg, South Africa. 13.5%

Nothing like a Loire Chenin nor did I expect it to be South African Chenin is different. Exactly what it is isn’t really clear at present. It’s unfashionable but still made because there are plantings, some customers, and some winemakers who want to really make something of it.

I think they should be aiming for lowish alcohol. Not weighty-ish wines like this. It lacks delicacy and charm but hasn’t achieved flavour and character. It’s not the quality warm climate Chenin of Australia’s Houghton Classic nor is it veering towards the LoireFrance. It’s just a bit clumsy. But then it isvsry cheap.

Beyerskloof 2000

84 points

Stellenbosch 14%

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and Merlot (20%).

Fantastic deep dark red colour in spite of being 7 years old.

A warm rich wine, a little touch of Pomerol about it. But there is a lack of acid, of complex flavours, of elegance. It’s good wine, but not really fine wine.

It’s quite enjoyable but not exciting – which means it competes with an awful lot of other wine in the world. When considered against this vast array of competitors it is wrong to say that South African wine is always good value.

Drink now, while it should last a while I doubt it will improve much.

Oak Valley The Blend

85 points

Elgin, South Africa 14.5%

Very dark colour. Very lifted aromas that include some stewed grassy tones. It’s a rich alcoholic bordeaux blend with some hard greenness. The tannins are nice and firm, and the mid palate is warm, rich and sweet – but not cloying.

It’s a pretty good wine, though a bit dense, it lacks finesse and flair. I’m perplexed how this won the Decanter 2007 wine challenge “best Bordeaux blend over £10″.

Luddite Shiraz 2003

88 points

Western Cape. South Africa. 14%

Nice smokey aromas. Sweet but not syrupy fruit core, not over extracted, quite light on its feet – a really good effort. Drinks well now, though I expect it will age gracefully. Nice style.

One of the top South African shiraz. Plenty of potential for this variety here.

Rust en Vrede ‘estate’ 2000 (review)

81 points

Stellenbosch, South Africa. 14.3%
58% Cabernet, 33% Shiraz, 9% Merlot.

The top wine from this producer, regularly listed in Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines of the year. As was this vintage and rated 92 points.

Smokey vegetal aromas appear to be a house style (see my previous review of their shiraz) but are quite extreme on this wine. I was sure it was mercaptan spoilage – offputting to say the least.

Or was it just the combination of this style with this particular grape blend ? So I compared it to Tin Shed’s 2002 similar blend a syrupy fruit bomb of a wine but the flavours did suggest that this Rust en Vrede’s weird taste isn’t necessarily mercaptan, but a due to the blend plus some smokey vegetal characters.

No matter what the cause it’s an odd drink. Thick quite sweet/syrupy as many South African reds are, with the fruit unable to shine above the vegetal characters. Had to drink/stomach.

PS A blend of this with the Ten Shed was better than either wines alone.

Plaisir de Merle Grand Plaisir 2001 (review)

87 points

Paarl, South Africa. 14.5%

A bordeaux blend but with some shiraz. A shiny wine with tiny hints of crimson still. Big but quite concentrated. Syrupy with glycerol and some sweetness. Best with food. Quite impressive rather than fine. Lacks really exciting fruit or savoury characters.

Recommended. One of South Africa’s better wines.

South Australia vs South Africa Shiraz

South African vs. South Australian Shiraz- A comparison…
2001 Ross Estate “Reserve” Shiraz, Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia
2001 Fairview “Solitude” Shiraz, Paarl Region, Western Cape, South Africa

Both of these wines were rated very well by the tasting group underlying Shiraz’ (Syrah) ability to produce remarkable wines under a number of different conditions, philosophies, and purposes.

The two wines in the glass were poles apart. The Ross Estate was highly extracted- a deep opaque purple to the rim, the FV a bricky, almost tawny rust. The Fair View ironically had more sediment in the bottle- a result of the unabashed French style it was made in.

The nose’s were distinctly different : The FV’s savouriness and spiciness easily bearing the high alcohol. Fine spice said French oak- in stark contrast to the Ross Estate – a very south Australian “vanilla pod” style. The tawny hues of the FV transitioned well over to the palate, with sticky rancio notes countering the 15% alc vol. The richness of the RE did not head into confectionary mode (I find a common experience with Barossa Shiraz) in a seamless, but large fashion. Darker berries (almost in a stewed fashion) dominated this nose in comparison to the heady red berries of the FV.

The palate followed well for both wines- FV offering no surprises besides its extreme ability to cope with its high alcohol, with its savouriness/tobacco base. A lingering finish that was hard to separate between flavour and burn. This wine, with its slight porty notes reminds me of a wine I had recently- Hillstowe Udy;s Hill Pinot (1999- Adelaide Hills South Australia)- that same subtle dirtiness that comes with the combination of fine tannin, spicy/brown fruit and Tawny. A great wine to sit on- its not in a hurry, and did not change much in the glass. I would not leave this one much longer- alcohol I suspect will soon dominate now pleasant linger. RE showed excellent combinations of big round berry fruit, silky vanillin, and tannins that were almost absent. The finish was attractive, but relatively short. A great example of the sweet spiciness of French oak FV vs. the vanilla pod Ross. The Ross, in my opinion will be slightly longer lived.

by Travis