Drunk, Wine Reviews

Crystallum New Releases and/or Launch


Pinot Noir is the cliche grape. No other variety gets bombarded with more hackneyed descriptions, casually sexist metaphors, and marketing nonsense. Seriously. Is there nothing more we can say about Pinot Noir than it being a feminine, heartbreaking, difficult, expensive, steel-fisted, velvet-gloved, grape? Of course we can. Burgundy. And South African wine people say it over and over and over.

I think I’ve written before about how South African wine people are too damn worried about how our wines taste compared to more famous international examples. We have a huge inferiority complex. Whether this has come from years of burnt rubber accusations, hundred and thousands of litres of shitty bulk wine, or apartheid, I don’t know. But it is there.  Continue reading “Crystallum New Releases and/or Launch”


Wine of the week/fortnight/month didn’t work. So now I present Wines of the World Cup

I have still been lacking inspiration of late, so what better way to find something to write about than an obvious tie in with the World Cup. At least I wont be alone, I bet my bottom Bhutanese ngultrum that all around the country teachers are using the world cup as a way to improve their classes’ geography skills.

I am not normally one to catch a lift on every passing bandwagon, but the world cup is the Death Star of bandwagons. (I am not sure how great a description that is, but I like thinking of Sepp Blatter as Darth Vader).

Darthblatter…all your everything are belong to us

Or possibly:

Sepp vader (1) Listen here Sepp, the more you tighten your grip, the more soccer fans will slip through your fingers.*

Right, that was fun. So as I was saying the world cup is the biggest bandwagon of them all. I am, obviously, far more used to falling off the wagon than jumping on, so I am not too sure what to expect.

Whilst perusing the Wheel of Fortune of June and July I noticed that  the majority of teams competing come from wine producing nations. It would be lovely to taste a wine from each of the nations who produce, but unfortunately budget constraints that have been implemented here at Wine & I due to recessions, repressions, oil spills, dying pandas and polar bears, Julius Malema and Darth Blatter mean that I will have to pick and choose based on price and availability. I would love a Swiss wine, or something tasty from Serbia, but these are like hens teeth in a mountain of pins buried under a ton of hay on top of a camel trying to fit through the eye of a needle.

I will be purchasing (unless I score some foreign freebies) from Caroline’s Fine Wine Cellar and the Wine Cellar in Obs, hopefully scoring some value wines along the way.

I have set the price cap for this vinous escapade at R250 per bottle.

I did consider – for a millisecond – of going about this in a competitive style. You know the clichéd ‘Us and Them’ idea, tasting a local wine alongside a foreign one to see who is better. But this is a wholly moronic idea. Only on the broadest levels of quality or assessing differences in style do I see a point in comparing wines from different countries (although it looks like a good way to sell imported wines. See Wine Magazine, June 2010, page 32) . Also I am not a judge. And finally I do not like wine competitions. So what I will really be doing is simply exploring the foreign wines that are available in Cape Town for prices that will not result in you having to buy a red light and suck off horny soccer louts to make rent.

I will be trying to tie in the wines with a match that is being played. So today’s (yesterday’s) wine is from New Zealand seeing as they played Slovakia and drew one all.

Grape vines were first planted in New Zealand by missionaries in 1819 but the first recorded wine to be produced was in 1836 which was sold to British troops. It took another 150yrs before everyone cottoned on that New Zealand’s cool maritime climate was right for making high quality wines of distinction.

NZ is best known for its full on Sauvignon Blancs, with Cloudy Bay being the most famous (In terms of style I prefer our own to be honest) but increasingly their Pinot Noir has been getting great write ups from all over the interwebs. I was hoping to find one from Otago, specifically wines from Felton Road, unfortunately Caroline’s didn’t have any so I went with

Lawson Lawson’s Dry Hills Pinot Noir 2005 from Marlborough.

Marlborough is situated at the North-east end of the South Island and is the largest wine producing region in the country. Top wineries such as Wither Hills, Cloudy Bay, Waipara, Dog Point Vineyards and Koru are all situated here. 

According to Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine, Marlborough is made up “of a large, flat, river valley with deep deposits of silt and gravel.” There are many different types of soil patterns throughout the region “even within single vineyards” resulting in wines of varying style and quality depending on the source of the grapes. Marlborough is best known for its pungent Sauvignon Blancs, although Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling have also been successful. For more info on wines from Marlborough check out http://www.wine-marlborough.co.nz/ or go drink some yourself.

I was very happy the wine was sealed with a screwcap as I didn’t feel like the hassles of having to replace the bottle if it were corked.

*I typed as I drank so please excuse the changes of tense*

I have decanted the wine and poured my first glass. Initially there is some strawberry and raspberry on the nose with a touch of earthiness . The sweet fruits follow through to the palate. The wine seems just a tad tired. The acidity is there, but the tannins have faded. It has a very long finish that is dominated by a gentle raisiney flavour.  It all ends up being a tad underwhelming, no balls left, and no elegant suit to wear to its funeral.

It is good, although I think I prefer…NO DON’T START COMPARING.. sorry my blogging conscious intervened.

The wine has been open about an hour now. The oak is showing predominantly on the nose now with dark chocolate and coffee. The fruits are fading fast, and there’s the slightest touch of bitter tea leaves on the back of the palate. There was no late reprieve – like Winston Reid’s goal in the dying minutes of the Slovakia match – to save this wine.

The wine makers notes suggest keeping for three to four years. I think he or she was spot on . Although there is some developed barnyardy character here, it seems to have lost structure with age. An old man hankering after a brighter youth. For R222 from Carolines this is not offering much value.

Next up: France, Germany, or Argentina. I am not sure yet.

*Princess Leia, circa a long, long time ago

Drunk, General

Some Chenins, a Serbian, and a late night

Last Thursday I was at another tasting with Under the Influence at The Roundhouse. Remember The Roundhouse? This place:

roundhouse  Yup, the one with the awful view.

I was there for a Chenin Blanc tasting, which was excellent and we were treated to some really top class examples. In all the excitement (read: drinking) that happened afterwards I lost my tasting notes. So I’m just going to quickly mention some that stood out. The Teddy Hall ‘Summer Moments’ Chenin Blanc 2009 is  a super value wine. At around R30 ex-cellar, it over delivers on quality. Typical Chenin qualities of a tropical fruit, with some weight on the palate and a cleansing acidity; all the elements were  pretty straight forward in the Teddy Hall, but in fine balance.

The Beaumont 2009 was my favourite of the unwooded. It had a complex and delicate nose of fragrant spices, rose water, and dried fruit. The palate was elegant and restrained. It was drinking beautifully.

I had decided to bring a bottle of Chenin with me. It was one that I have been enjoying immensely the last couple of months, and it has a gentle price-tag of R75 from Vino Pronto.  The Crios Bride 2009 is made by Carla Pauw using grapes grown from about 30yr old Swartland vines. The production is quite small. I loved the waxy texture and flavour concentration. It went down well at the table and stood up to the better known Chenins. Harry’s taste in Chenin: un point.

The last four we had were all superb: we had the Raats, De Trafford, De Morgenzon, and Robusto. And when I have a little more energy I’ll try write some tasting notes. Which could be difficult because I lost them. The notes were proabably not that helpful with expletives followed by something like, ‘awsome’, ‘terrific’, or ‘long’ and a few flavour descriptors. Thus a note would read something like:

Fuck me this is ridiculous. So long. Good lord

fruit punch, some honey. great acidity.

Fucking brilliant.

Not going to be a wine judge just yet.

Now to the ‘after party’ but first a Comixed version of the events.


reaction wine

You gotta love the reaction guys.

I am kind of understating it a little, as we had two of the Shannon Pinot Noirs not just the one. It was all thanks to our Serbian friend and wine lover Dusan Jelic who, as a sort of going away party before he returns home this week, decided that we should all drink exceptional wines until late in the night. Dusan led by example and found himself getting rather intimate with a bush later that night, but that, as they say, is another story.  A further reason he ordered all these fantastic wines was because, in his words, “I don’t give a fuck about what the critics say, I have only understood a wine when I have drunk it with friends.”  Fair enough.

The wines? Truly superb. The Mount Bullet 2007 was just as good last time, but it really deserves a bit of decanting. Actually all the wines did. The Shannon Pinot Noir 2007 was also excellent with an earthy nose underneath the bright cherry and strawberry fruit. The palate was very good with very concentrated fruit flavours mingling well with the toast and vanilla from the oak. The tannins were very smooth and the finish long and sensual.This is a very complex wine and a short tasting note like this is almost insulting.

And if that was almost an insult this will be a slap in the face with a halibut, because the next wine was the Columella  2007 made by that most charismatic of gentleman Eben Sadie. A blend of Syrah (80%) and Mouvedre (20%) it was dark and dense with flavours and smells abounding. I remember an earthy character, with notes of aniseed, bacon, sour cherry, a lean mineral edge, did I say complex? I meant fucking complex. It kept on evolving in the glass and getting better and better. The tannin and acid structure was exquisite and I wish I had a cellar full of it to drink for the next good few years.

As the moon casually made its way across the sky we enjoyed the last bottle of the Pinot Noir and listened to Dusan shouting various Vivas to all and sundry. I would have loved to have been at a table inside the restaurant  when, from the murky depths of the garden, there boomed a loud Serbian voice: “Viva Eben Sadie! Viva!”




Pinot Noir Tasting at Caveau

Here are my tasting notes (some, I left a couple out) from the Pinot Noir tasting held at Caveau Newlands organised by Jörg Pfützner. We tasted 12 Pinots in total with one or two Rieslings thrown in by Jorg before and after, he is a Riesling fanatic, and his Riesling Festival at the beginning was excellent. We also had a surprise at the end, but I’ll leave that until end as well.

All the Pinots except the Newton Johnson were decanted about 4-6 hours prior to the tasting, and all were served blind.

2006 Burnt Spur Pinot Noir, Martinborough New Zealand

A rich smoky nose that was somewhat reserved. The savoury character followed through onto the palate with a tinge of bacon. Was a little short for me with a fleeting raspberry moment. Good structure but on the whole quite one dimensional.

2007 Paul Cluver, Elgin Valley South Africa

A pale ruby with a touch of brick on the rim, a little worrisome for an 07. A sweaty nose with cherries quite prominent. The palate was all sour red cherries and juice. I love the width and length of the palate, a bit disjointed, but enjoyable. The acidity was very refreshing, couple people called the Paul Cluver as being from New Zealand and the Burnt Spear as South African

2007 Domaine Fourrier Morey St Denis ‘ Clos Solon’, Burgundy

A dense rich savoury nose, with a mineral nature underneath. Like a thick gravy that has been dropped on a gravel driveway. Lovely linear taught palate, slightly grainy like a poor TV picture not grain from a field. Savoury character is also present on the palate, superb balance and elegance. Really enjoyed this one.

Newton Johnson 2008, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

This bottle had recently been opened and the group as a whole felt it wasn’t showing well. Quite a few of us had tasted it recently and found this experience to be very different. The nose had an initial strong aroma of burnt rubber, that blew off quickly (thank god, there were foreigners in the room). The palate was quite closed in comparison to my tasting it last week. The winemaker, who was present, said he’s been seeing the wine go through ups and downs from week to week, and as it is their first Pinot vintage they did not know what to expect, a case of "’let’s wait and see’.

Radford Dale Freedom Pinot Noir 2008, Elgin, South Africa

I really liked the nose on this wine, there was an initial level of red berries, strawberry and red cherries with an attractive oatmeal layer underneath. A strawberry oatmeal biscuit. The palate, however, disappointed with some strawberry showing. It was alright but seemed to lack assurance. The nose and palate seemed at odds with each other. 

2005 Domaine Robert Chevillon Nuits Saint George, Burgundy 

A wine that divided the table. I enjoyed the aniseed and date nose which really came through on the palate. The acidity was tart and drew it all together for me. But Remington Norman, author and Burgundy expert, didn’t like it at all, but knowing the producer well he said it would turn out fine, but now it is just too rustic. He wasn’t sure if it even was Burgundian. On a technical analysis I have absolutely no doubt he is right, my ability to judge wines on that level is miniscule, but I enjoyed the character of the wine, its funk. It was a wine that was unquestionably not the best on the evening, but (going to personify now) it was the one I would go party with, it would wear a hat jauntily, tell the best stories, the ladies would love it, and it would probably piss of the establishment.

2006 Craggy Range Te Muna, Martinborough New Zealand

Looked like it was from a warmer climate, I picked it as South African. Remington nailed it and called it Craggy almost straight away. Ripe fruit on the nose, almost a touch confected. Red sour cherry on the palate with some oak spice showing a bit too much for me. A solid wine, that (this is Remington not me) will age well.

2007 Sumaridge, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa 

Remington loved this wine. And at around R140 cellar door it is a bargain. It was too meaty for me and felt a bit over weight. I’ll listen to Remington though and buy a case for 4-5 years time.


So I get to the last flight and I have become lazy at my note taking and obviously more chatty. These are remembrances rather than written perceptions I had at the time.

2001 Wither Hill, Martinborough New Zealand

I had dine a bit of reading before I went to the tasting and this wine was only supposed to last 4-6 years according to the wine maker, however even from the colour you could see it was very fresh. Vibrant bright nose, bits of farmy stink with good red fruits. The palate was wonderfully fresh and pure. I really liked this wine. It turns out that it had been kept for a couple years in a large cold house used for storing meat, the low temperature meant that is hadn’t developed.

2000 Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa

Corked. Had a strange nose of apples left in a box for too long.

2002 Domaine Hubert de Montille Volnay Les Champans 1er Cru, Burgundy

Undoubtedly the main act of the night. With the others doing a great job at getting the crowd ready, this Pinot stole the show. A pale colour that flowed together from core to rim. Can’t give exact flavours but it was just an incredibly sexy wine with various levels of flavours and aromas changing and evolving in the glass. In my short drinking life so far, this is one of the best Pinots I have tasted.


Once most of the people had left and there were about six of us left, Jorg got out a bottle he had been given for his Birthday: a 1977 Cote-Rotie La Mouline by Guigal. 1977 is known to be a terrible vintage for the Rhone, but Guigal is a great producer and Jorg said that we would probably find he has made a decent wine from a very difficult year.

1977 Cote-Rotie La Mouline, Rhone

The nose was a changing blend of loamy rich earth and dark olives. The earthiness followed onto the palate with a touch of the olives as well. Not much fruit left but there were hints of dark berries. I loved the earthy aspect of the wine. The acidity was still there and wonderfully fresh. For a difficult vintage this was a wonderful wine.