February 6, 2009

Two Wines From South Africa

By Andrew Barrow In Wine Notes

Flagstone Dragon Tree 2005

Being at the forefront of wine tasting and involved in the trade for an ever lengthening number of years it is often a surprise and a grounding to discover that not everyone is as clued up as oneself. Just the other day, in conversation, a friend expressed interest in South Africa but admitted that they had never drunk a wine from the country. A surprise? You betcha.

As an introductory sampler then, of the types of vino South Africa is producing, two wines from the supermarket aisles

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Flagstone Dragon Tree, 2005, Western Cape, South Africa.
Stockist: Tesco Price: £10.19 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
What a mix! Cabernet Sauvignon 49%, Pinotage 21%, Merlot 10%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Shiraz 6% and Petit Verdot 4%. And just to complete the percentages there is 14% alcohol. Really though would anyone miss the 4% Petit Verdot? Or even notice the absence of 10% Cabernet Franc?
As the rear label states this mix is the result of the challenge of blending Pinotage. The great P is much like Marmite, you either love it or you don’t. Plenty of examples in the past were barely drinkable – those with a rusty nail edge to the palate being particularly nasty.
Richly smooth, full, plentiful tannins. Complex flavours (maybe that mix of six has something after all). Warming alcohol on the finish. Very approachable. Creamy edge. While only accounting for 21% the Pinotage peaks through with a distinctive twist on the finish that you don’t get with Cabernet alone. It is almost ‘rusty’ but seems to work here, rather than being a criticism.

Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa.
Stockist: Sainsbury’s Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
To counter the rich tannic Dragon Tree hows about a punchy Sauvignon Blanc? Where the Loire and New Zealand are usually offered as the two quality extremes of Sauvignon (one textural, the other extreme punchiness) South Africa is touted as a mid-point.
The Vergelegen edges towards the New Zealand in aroma with a clean, green, pea-shoot smell with a touch of fennel and lemon pith. The palate, as Sauvignon should be, is fresh, crisp and squeaky clean. The intensity will get that palate a-quivering via the acidic backbone. Hints of straw, green peppers, peas and a slight touch of sweetness lessens that firm acidic crispness.

Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2008

  1. Dylan February 9, 2009

    The 2005 DragonTree is quite the percentage party indeed. I find the balancing act to be such an impressive feat. It must take years before you get the balance right, and even then, there must be outside variables on an annual basis. I do not know from experience, but as you said too much Pinotage could result in a misbalance and a rusty quality. I can appreciate the work that goes into a product like that.

  2. Chris Townend February 9, 2009

    I too have recently acknowledged my own weakness when it comes to cape wines. I think this stems from a rather extreme reaction to a bottle of SA plonk in 1997. I have, however, only this week picked up a bottle of Man Vintners Pinotage 2007 recommended to me by Lindley Fine Wines of Huddersfield (www.lindleyfinewines.co.uk) and I am, right now, thoroughly enjoying it!

  3. TheWinesleuth February 15, 2009

    Hmmm, I’m still not convinced about the merits of SA wine. I have had some servicable wines at the 20 pound mark but were they worth it? I don’t think so.You can get better stuff from Chile for less. Still waiting for some standout wines from SA that are worth it!

  4. Andrew February 15, 2009

    Time then Wine Sluth for a South African tasting to see if we can find something you like!


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