Wine Reviews

Nitida Wines and Some Scoring Clarification

Before I get into the wines, I thought it best to clear up something on scoring. While I think scoring wine is problematic, I have found it is not without its uses. I have started using the kak an lekker scale. This is quite obviously silly. But it feels sad-clown silly, rather than monty-python silly. Now I think about it, a sad clown trying to get through a massive blind tasting shouting “kak” and “lekker kak” could be an amusing skit. The point is, calling wines kak and lekker, and fokken kak has already got old. It’s juvenile, and I’m not grinning even a little.

If too much emphasis is placed on scores, then we have a problem. If words give a little context and the scores are the main idea then we have a bigger problem. But if scores can give some context to words, then I think we have something useful.  If, for example, I am being persnickety with a wine – like I did with the Iona Chardonnay – I can give it 17 and those reading will know I am nitpicking rather than panning. So from now on I am going to use the 20 point scale to give a little context to reviews. Please remember they are here only to give context to my comments – THEY ARE NOT TOTAL ABSOLUTES. I AM NOT A MACHINE. The comments are way more important. And that’s using ‘important’ in its most relative sense. Argh. All those words about scoring. I need a drink.

Nitida is a Durbanville property that’s always held a Sauvignon Blanc place in my head. I had the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc on a wine list at a restaurant I used to manage. When I think of Durbanville Sauvignon Blanc I think of nettles, grassy fields, perfect zippy wines for outside at a picnic. It’s where green works on Sauvignon Blanc. It’s where we can tell Frenchmen who don’t like a little Pyrazine with their oysters to go stuff themselves.

DSC_0039This is pretty much straight out the box. Too new in fact for proper enjoyment. While this didn’t stop us from finishing the bottle, it’s completely obvious that this wine needs another year for it to come together for real drinking.

On the nose there was typical grassy, green-pepper notes. But not so much that you want to sneeze. There was a dusty quality as well. It’s hard to explain. But I find this rather typical of the area. Like opening a can of asparagus on a dirt road as a bakkie screams past. Also pea pods, and some citrus. Very pleasing.

The palate is where the fun happens – “that’s what she said” said no one in particular- as this Sauvignon I reckon has, like the previous vintages, a little splash of Semillon. It goes a long way here, giving the wine a fuller, waxier mouthfeel than most Sauvignon Blancs. The pea greens and grassiness follow through to the palate. Good fresh aciditiy that wont have you calling for antacids.  The finish is worthwhile. Look. It’s a brand new Sauvignon Blanc. It’s hard to get that excited but it is a very good example. 16.5/20

Sorry no tech stuff yet. Will update as soon as I receive it.

Price: R74


To use the parlance of the internet age, BOOM! This is a rather large, forceful but beguiling blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. The wine has taken on a golden hue due to the barrel fermentation of the Semillon. It has all the green peas, green pepper of the sauvignon Blanc, but with added layers of citrus, ginger, spice, and lime.

The texture is rich. It’s a very round and full wine. The ginger/lime combo follows through to the palate. The finish is persistant. Thankfully the acidity is fresh and present enough to carry all the waxiness and weight. The wine is already quite complex, even if the flavours are a little separate now. They’ll come together in time promising far more enjoyment in a few years. This is on the more muscular Sauvignon/Semillon blends out there. But it is no doubt also one of the best. 18/20

Tech stuff

  • OAK: 40% Sem 12 wks new Fr oak. Blended then 8 mnths 7th fill Fr oak.
  • ALCOHOL: 12.09%
  • SUGAR: 2.61 g/l
  • ACID: 5.87 g/l
  • PH: 3.33
  • Price: R115


Red wines from Durbanville can be problematic. Where a green herbacious, grassiness on the whites adds character, on reds it can be a bloody nightmare. Not, “waiter there is a fly in my soup,” but more “waiter there is a goddamned family of tarantulas in my salad”.

Sod burnt rubber, South African reds have a problem with greeness. Leafy, herbal, whatever you want to call it, it seems to be more wrong than right in red wines. Sometimes it adds complexity, sometimes it is used as a marketing strategy, and sometimes it is called terroir. But for me, the majority of the time it tastes underripe. The cheaper you get per bottle the worse it gets.

Nitida’s medium bodied blend of 55% Merlot; 27% Cabernet franc; 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 8% Petit verdot is already quite drinkable and thankfully didn’t taste underripe, despite some herbal notes.

It started off fresh, fruity and seemingly balanced, but it had no wow, no pizzazz. Too much of a wallflower. This made me a sad Harry.

On the palate bright red fruits followed, with a sort of milky note on the nose, a pleasant, decent and rather typical wine. The tannins were fine and the finish a little short with a touch of bitterness. To be honest I was a little disappointed at this point. And I would have scored it around 14.5 or 15.

I left the decanter half-full and came back to it the following day. While it didn’t transform into something crazy, it did develop wonderfully. There was a whole new side to this wine, a floral, violet character that complimented both the fresh bright red fruits, creaminess and herbal side of the wine. It felt more complete. The finish was longer, and the bitterness while still there felt inconsequential. It was as if while I was sleeping someone had played Eye of the Tiger and the wine had run up a bunch of stairs. Glad I missed the montage, but result was great. 16.5/20

Another win for decanting.

Tech Stuff

  • OAK: 12 months, 100% French (25% new)
  • ALCOHOL: 14.82%
  • SUGAR: 2.0 g/l
  • ACID: 5.5 g/l
  • PH: 3.71
  • Price: R150

10 thoughts on “Nitida Wines and Some Scoring Clarification”

  1. I like your take on scoring, Harry. Firstly, using the preposterous 20-point system, instead of the far more preposterous 100-point farce. Secondly, having the score simply as a non-absolute nuance to the tasting note. An aside: the 2012 Coronata’s tech analysis and reputation alone, makes me want to go out and buy it.

  2. +1 to Kwisp:

    As far as analysis goes, the pH and sugar seem encouraging but the alcohol does concern.

    Anyway I don’t know much for tech analysis but I have enjoyed aged Nitida Semillons. Any tasting notes for those perhaps?

    And based on your recent tweets, a vertical of Webersburg Cab, with vintage recommendations / guesses?

    1. I’ll be writing up my trip there soon (by the end of the week) and my notes on the 2008. Vertical in the not too distant future I hope.

      Unfortunately I haven’t got any notes on older Nitida Semillons.

      There will be a write up of a vertical Thelema Cab’s coming soon. Thanks for reading.

  3. Not to be nitpicky, but if you’re including half-marks in a 20-point scoring system, isn’t it effectively a 40-point system..? Totally agree on the need for full context of any scores, though; lots of people have a ‘skip to the end’ approach to reading wine reviews.

    1. Sure. But that’s what it is generally called and it’s what I am most used to using. Also, at the end of the day the score is out of 20. So I could make it out of forty and not give half marks, but then that’s confusing. Or I could use the 100pt scale. Maybe I will one day. But really, it’s the comments that matter more.

  4. The low ABV on the Coronata doesn’t bother me at all – it’s one of the reasons I’m excited. High alcohol wines are not nearly as much fun to drink than low alcohol wines. They’re also generally more food friendly. Durbanville is a cool region, which means that the slower ripening period generally results in better physiological ripeness at lower sugar (thus, alcohol) levels. Low alcohol is only really suspect from warm regions, where it may be the result of grapes that weren’t properly ripe (let it also be said that 12% is only low by today’s standards). But tasting a whole host of excellent wines with between 10.5% and 13.5% ABV from the warm Swartland region lately, it’s patently clear that good winemakers, using good quality grapes, don’t have any of the excuses that others offer concerning ripeness and alcohol levels. Some people may have pyrazine concerns from 12% ABV Sauvignons/Semillons, but I’m far from a pyrazine Nazi and have found that it often helps a wine (otherwise balanced ones, of course) to mature better. And though I have not had any older Coronatas, I’ve had plenty of properly old Nitida Sauvignons and Semillons, which is the reason I would never open one of my bottles when they’re young.

      1. I’m sorry (since a reply is a bit juvenile) but isn’t ALCOHOL: 14.82% high? Or do I have the wrong information?

      2. Wait, juvenile how?

        The 14.82 is the Calligraphy’s ABV. That is on the high side, but it really doesn’t show at all; it’s a well balanced wine. The Coronata Integration (Sauv/Sem) is 12%.

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