April 11, 2009

Newton Johnson Winery, Walker Bay, South Africa

By Andrew Barrow In Tasting Reports, Wine Notes

View from Newton Johnson, Walker Bay, South Africa

Even the hazy cloud cover couldn’t dampen the thrill of the view. After a gentle meander alongside the Onrust River passing Hamilton Russell and Bouchard Finlayson (both top wine producers) we discover Newton Johnson pearched on hillside; its restaurant, Heaven, gives commanding views across the De Bos Damn (pictured), down the Afdaks River Valley and on to distant Mount Horeb and beyond.

Newton Johnson pitches itself at the premium end of quality in a boutique type manner. Plenty of wines opened for us to spit, swirl and sniff starting with a comparison of Sauvignon Blancs. As an aside our host, Bevan Newton Johnson highlighted a cultural difference – the South Africans prefer their Sauvignons younger and more acidic than us Brits, a point evident in the Newton Johnson 2008 Sauvignon Blanc – A quite ‘green’ acidity being evident despite the addition of a little Semillon “to give firmness and a balance for food”. A second Sauvingon, also 2008, with a higher ratio of Semillon (25% against 7% in the first) was racey, firm and despite its youth delicious. Only 180 cases were made of this ‘yet to be released’ wine; when available in 2-3 months time it should retail for around £10 plus.

Two Chardonnay’s next. The Newton Johnson 2007 being the most beautiful of wines. Sourced from high altitude vineyards giving cool mornings and evenings results in some magical fruit. A lively citrus streak, minerality, weight, fig-led flavours with a walnut complexity. A touch of oak too. Superb. The 2008 vintage was elegant but tightly-young with a more oaky complexity evident. Nicely creamy mouthfeel.

To the delight of our female companion – Felicity of Fresh Escapes magazine – the next wine was the Newton Johnson Felicité Rosé, 2008. With a full palate and a lovely clean, fresh, palate this 75% Shiraz/25% Sauvignon Blanc blend comes across as a great food wine.
From a vineyard right under the tasting area the 2008 Newton Johnson Pinot Noir offered plenty of complexity and a tight, focused palate. Let down only by its slightly high price (a little under £20). A second Pinot – better value at under £15 – offered a smoky edge, a touch of restraint and a delicious, juicy finish. The difference between the two? The first comes from clay soils, the second from fruit grown in Elgin on quartz plus a cooler climate during the evenings. A great demonstration of terrior differences you could never hope to find for both wines were distinctively different.

Finally a Rhone-style blend that accompanied a ‘bit-too-hearty-for-lunchBobotie (declared the national dish of South Africa by the United Nations Women’s Organisation in 1954) – the Newton Johnson Shiraz Mourvèdre 2006. A delicious savoury edged, spicey wine with a lovely mouthfeel and, bearing in mind my penchant for blends (and Rhone style blends in particular) my favourite wine on display.

Bobotie Lunch at Heaven Restaurant, Newton Johnson

The following Newton Johnson wines are currently offered by Bibendum; approximate prices have been given per bottle, although you can only buy each in batches of six (or 12 for the dessert wine).

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Shiraz Mourvèdre, 2005, Western Cape, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £12.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Pinot Noir, 2007, Walker Bay, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £14.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Walker Bay, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Dessert  Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Newton Johnson Chenin Blanc Noble Late Harvest L’Illa, 2007, Walker Bay, South Africa.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £14.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Scribblings Rating – 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

  1. Dylan April 12, 2009

    I’m particularly interested by the fig-led flavours mentioned in the 2007 Chardonnay. I’ve surely grown a fond appreciation for the climate difference, and thus, characteristic differences of high-elevation grapes.

  2. The Winesleuth April 13, 2009

    Wow, sounds like the s. Africans are coming up in leaps and bounds. Esp. interesting to read about the pinot noirs, I didn’t know S. Africa did them.

  3. Andrew April 13, 2009

    Pinot Noirs certainly worth seeking out. The only main variety that doesn’t seem to work well in South Africa is Merlot…

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