Bacchus Budget Buys

Last Sunday I had some price sensitive information for readers of the Sunday Times Food Weekly.  Selling price is the elephant in the drawing room of SA wine and deserves far greater emphasis in tasting notes and commentary.  Price and tasting blind are key, something notably absent from the Platter publication that appears this week.

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Spar supermarkets, largest wine retailers in SA, launched an expanded range of Olive Brook grocer’s wines at Kleine Zalze in the Winelands earlier this month.  Whether it was the black tasting glasses or the instruction to score them logarithmically out of five (with 5/5 translating to 23/20) but the only consistent comment to emerge from the serried ranks of wine hacks (below), bloggers and barflies was “the wines are too cheap” at R33.99 a bottle.

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A non sequitur if ever one was broached, along the lines of comments that the recent Nederburg Auction was a flop as prices were down 16%.  It all depends if you’re buying or selling and for consumers, financial reality in the cellar is good news indeed.  And likely to be short lived as recent Rand weakness will drain the local wine lake even faster than the petrol price rises as wineries throw their exports into overdrive.

Aníbal Coutinho is wine buyer for another supermarket chain, Continente, largest wine retailer in Portugal.  So when I was looking for a partner to produce a blind tasted guide to the winelands, he ticked all the boxes: Old World palate, stamina to taste over 2000 wines blind and an ability to judge value for money.  Surely the most important attribute for consumers when buying wine.

We focused on wines that taste of somewhere.  Made from grapes grown in a particular vineyard.  From the mouth of the Olifants River in Namaqualand in the North to the windswept dunes of Elim in the South to the Pierneef plains of the Klein Karoo in the East.  Wines possessed of regional identity.  Neither better nor worse than blends made for big labels from grapes trucked from many appellations.  Just different.

We scored them on a heart system, with five being marriage.  We awarded ♥♥♥♥♥ 147 times.  Stellenbosch got 39 straight flushes or 27% or the total, which concords with marketing perceptions.  Prices for our ♥♥♥♥♥ heroes ranged from R27 to R1,200 a bottle, with an average well over R100.

That said, there is amazing value to be had at R60 and under and while compiling the guide, we were frequently amazed at what value there is to be had.  Our top ten value for money ♥♥♥♥♥ wines consists of four whites, four reds, one sticky and a rosé and they come from five different appellations.  Confirming a remarkable geographic diversity of value for money terroir tipples.

♥♥♥♥♥ Boland Five Climates Chenin Blanc 2012 from Paarl R27

Pear drops, boiled sweets and apricots, floral nose and palate.

♥♥♥♥♥ Riebeek Cellars Pinotage Rosé 2012 from the Swartland R28.50

Pale onion skin; fresh raspberry cream with a grassy tang.

♥♥♥♥♥ Palesa Chenin Blanc 2012 from Worcester R30

Finely fruited, fresh grass and minerals, lingering finish.

♥♥♥♥♥ Waboomsrivier Arborea red blend 2010 from Breedekloof R32

Superb nose, fresh intense red and black fruits, with chocolate.

♥♥♥♥♥ Merwida Sauvignon Blanc 2012 from Breedekloof R38

Tropical fruit salad plus asparagus and green peas, sweat, tangy and persistent.

♥♥♥♥♥ Pulpit Rock Shiraz 2010 from the Swartland R38

Red plums, raspberries and tobacco, vanilla spicy, super concentration.

♥♥♥♥♥ Bergsig Family Friend Pinotage blend 2011 from Breedekloof R55

Serious wine, complex mélange of flavours with a long finish.

♥♥♥♥♥ Lutzville Diamond Collection Chenin (wooded) 2011 from Namaqualand R55

Citrus pulp and zest, fresh grassy notes, ripe white fruits with hints of sweet pastry.  Creamy, fresh and elegant.

♥♥♥♥♥ Annexkloof ShirazMourvèdreGrenache 2010 from the Swartland R55

Shiraz driven opulence, tangy red fruit and silky texture.

♥♥♥♥♥ Deetlefs Hanepoot 2009 from Breedekloof R59

Fruit intensity and exotic perfumes, herbal and nutty.

Neil Pendock’s Winelands Guide 2013 will be published in November.