(2021) From an historic and important estate just outside Stellenbosch, and winemaker André van Rensburg, one of the Cape's best, this is the first time I have tasted a certified Fairtrade wine from them, audited to ensure farm workers are treated fairly. It's a Bordeaux-like blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec, spending 18 months in barrels, 20% of them new French oak barrels. That's an expensive recipe for a £9 wine, and I am pleased to say it delivers with smoky, spicy, tobacco-infused black fruit on the nose. The plate has an espresso touch of dark, bittersweetness, good black fruits and again spices into a finish that is perked up by cherry-skin acidity and some tannin structure too. Good value this. Watch the video for more information.
(2020) The Pinotage component of this wine was strikingly obvious to me on tasting, but in fact the blend is 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Pinotage, with the remaining 26% made up of Cinsaut, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Shiraz. It sees a little oak. Blackcurrant, brambles and lots of fruit on the nose, a touch of leather and yes, a little touch of the 'rubbery' character of Pinotage, but crucially not too much, actually adding additional interest here. In the mouth sweet and slick black fruit, a nicely rustic grip of tannin to give savoury appeal and very good balance too in an easy-drinking and enjoyable red, perfect for pizza, chilli con carne or lasgne.
(2018) I once stood in Jordan's vineyard with owner Gary Jordan, when he reached into the foliage of a vine and gently lifted out a chameleon, so I know exactly where this brand name comes from! A classic Bordeaux blend, aged 16 months in barrels, it epitomises the Jordans' refined and classical approach, notes of graphite and dried herbs over plentiful black berry fruit are convincingly 'Old World' in style. So much savoury blackcurrant and plum packed in here, an umami sense of meatiness, and an agile combination of silky tannin and cherry acidity, making for a seriously good value Bordeaux lookalike.
(2017) A much-loved Bordeaux blend from the historic Rustenberg estate, this is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged for 20 months in French oak barriques, 35% of which were new. Fragrant with Sandalwood and cedar, it has a lovely nose, blackcurrant and fat black cherry aromas and a touch of menthol. In the mouth the sweetness of the ripe, fleshy and juicy fruit is nicely balanced by the smoke and gentle charriness of the oak, and despite the 14.5% alcohol, something about the spicy freshness of the tannins and good acidity gives it clean, finely balanced finish. The designated Cabernet Sauvignon chocolate from 'The Chief Chocolate Officer' collection has peppercorn, blueberry and vanilla, and what a superb match (and chocolate) it is: the spiciness of peppercorn dominates, but then the depth of the blueberry merges beautifully mid-palate, adding extra sweetness. A 10/10 match.
(2016) Named in hounour of Warwick's founder and winemaker Norma Ratcliffe, this is a Cape Cabernet Sauvignon that walks a very nice line between easy-drinking approachability and a bit of seriousness. Flooded with cherry and plum fruit it also has a nice smooth tannin background and balanced acidity. Intelligently done. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2015) >From Stellenbosch and made by Simonsig, the closure is synthetic, the alcohol is 14%, but the blend of grape varieties is unknown. Pinotage I'd guess, but beyond that who knows? It is smooth and warming on the nose, a little pepper and spice lift suggesting some Shiraz element perhaps, and a solid, ripe black fruit. In the mouth it is really very pleasing: there's an inkiness to this, very dark, savoury plum and the tart skins of blueberries, giving this a bit of grip and power, the sweetness and ripeness of the fruit adding to the enjoyment. A lovely wine: big, but balanced and savoury.
(2012) Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, in older barrels and alcohol adjusted slightly. Quite a generic black fruit nose with a touch of cedar and charcoal, just an echo of a slightly burnt character. The palate has a juiciness - black fruit and cherry, not as vibrant, but savoury and perhaps a touch too lean.
(2012) 100% Cabernet Franc is matured in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak barrels for 14 months. Lovely fragrance, the lifted, floral and cherry-edged side of Cabernet Franc with some spice and green herb notes, but fruity too. The palate has a juicy, fresh fruit vitality, the crunch of the fruit staying focused and fresh despite a little toast and grippy richness. Lovely.
(2012) A Wine of the Week before Christmas, the Mourvèdre is a grape rarely seen on labels as a single variety, as it is often parts of a southern Rhône-style blend. The aromas here are classically meaty and deep, with plenty of dark bramble fruit but some spices, leather, old polished wood and little floral nuances too in a quite complex profile. The palate delivers a big, substantially meaty and full mouthful, with a stripe of grippy tannin and a little softening edge from ageing in large oak barrels. Robust, chewy, but not without sweet fruit ripeness and charm, it's a lovely wine.
(2010) A blend of 80% Shiraz with 15% Mourvèdre and 5% Viognier, this was a Decanter Trophy Winner despite its modest price. Twelve months in older French oak means this retains a fruity, open nose with lots of creamy blackcurrant. The palate has a bit of grip and savoury, tight structure, the very fresh acidity adding a pleasing crispness to the finish.