(2021) A label of the Hamilton-Russell family, only nine barrels of this wine are made. It is grown on ancient shale soils over clay in Hemel-en-Aarde, three kilometres from the ocean, but separated by hills, so maybe not so much ocean influence. This is from 60-year-old trellised vines. 10% of stems are dried in the sun and added to the fermentaion, the wine made in a small basket press. Big, super-heavy statemnet bottle. Vinous nose of dark cherry and plum, all about dark savoury fruit at first, but a little glimpse of something floral and some espresso barrel component comes through. Powerful, sweet-fruited and concentrated on the palate, very firm in its blue/black fruit and tannins, well-judged acid also adds a touch of saline in the finish.
(2021) From a single vineyard on decomposed shale which is subject to ocean winds, and which Dirk believes shows some kelp character from that. Planted in 1994 as dryland bush vines. Made with 50% whole bunches, and partly matured in barrel. A very fragrant wine this, a lovely floral character, touched by old roses and pure red and black fruits. Fine sense of minerality, and the palate has a chalky tannin character, elegant and quite soft, but beautifully balanced, the fruit sweet and central to the finish.
(2021) From the Roibos tea growing area of Piekenierskloof, around 400 metres above sea level and 300 kilometres north of Stellenbosch. Pure sand soils, this is from dry-farmed old bush vines. A particularly fragrant wine, lots of exotic spices and ripe red berries and cherries. A very charming wine this, the palate too, medium-bodied and sweet-fruited, but those garrigue (or fynbos) notes, dried herbs and a solid background of creamy, dark oak etched by grainy tannins.
(2021) From 300 million-year-old red/black volcanic soils, and a vineyard planted in 2001, this is organically grown and was made with 80% whole bunches. It matured for six months in 5,000-litre French oak foudres. Opaque, almost black in colour, there is a real Rhône sensibility about this, lower in alcohol (13.5%) and with a lean, mineral and stony edge to quite floral red fruits. The palate continues with that pure and relatively cool expression of Syrah, the fruit so tangy and juicy, bittersweet flavours flirt with kumquat and bitter orange, raspberry too. The finish shows a tight but creamy tannin and acid structure, with fruit concentrated but not extracted through to the finish.
(2021) From a plot of 4.81 hectares on rocky, calcium-rich soils, the vines are 40- to 50-years old, harvested 11 - 13 September. Slightly more new oak (25%) in this cuvée than the others tasted. Lovely bright red fruit aromas, bold cherries and, a hint of raspberry moving into briar and touching clove and cinammon. A finely-wrought graphite element. Nicely fleshy ripe berries, the tannins here are powerful but also very ripe and creamy, along with that light herbal/spice note and the gentle tobacco smokiness of the barrels. The impression is powerful, but svelte and full, with excellent freshess. Delightful.
(2021) This wine is a blend of all of the plots of Marey-Monge. The complex soils cover limestone, clay, sand and gravel. Vines are up to 120 years old, and harvesting spanned 11 - 18 September. Again, new barrels accounted for 20% here. The intensity and vinosity is more concentrated, that elegant cherry and briarwood freshness, and somehow a little more mineral character too. There's something quite steely in here. Great spiciness and edge on the palate, a real rapier-like sense of taut tannins and acids, and that tart edge to the berry fruit that is very grown-up. A lick of sour cherry acidity, this is long and serious. Tasted again a day after opening, the floral lift to the nose is accentuated and the wine drinks very well indeed. Decant if drinking now perhaps.
(2021) A three hectare plot on limestone with red clay, the vines are 20- to 80-year-old. It spent 18 months in 20% new barrels and was harvested 14th - 16th September 2019. A lovely and relatively pale garnet colour here, the nose is so attractive, a little truffle and woodland forest floor against ripe and mellow red fruits. A little floral lift too. gives a gentler impression than the Grands Esprits, but in the mouth there is the chocolaty support of the oak and the very ripe tannins. It has great juiciness and an edge of tart raspberry against the deep cherry and plum fruit. Supple, well-balanced and quite a powerful style. Very much approachable now, though with substantial potential.
(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.
(2021) From Lisboa, the wine region close to the city of Lisbon and once known as Estremadura, this is a blend of local grapes Arinto and Viosinho, with Viognier and Chardonnay. It's a very nice little wine, and versatile too, medium-bodied with good acidity and a zesty, sparky personality. The fruit dances between ripe apple and pear and something more tropical, but with zip and a herby twang of brightness for easy drinking, on it's own or versatile with food. Watch the video for more information and food-matching recommendations.
(2021) A proportion of this Pinot Noir-dominated wine (72%, Chardonnay, 26% Chardonnay, 2% Pinot Meunier) was vinified and aged in oak barrels. It is based on the 2016 vintage, but with 35% of reserve wines in the blend. The dosage is 9g/l and around 7-8% of the blend was vinified as red wine. It has a relatively deep, bronze-pink colour and there is a definite biscuity depth to the strawberries and cream of the nose. Something just a little bit truffly adds extra interest. In the mouth the mousse is rich and cushioning, and the bite of raspberry and a little spicy nuance makes for attracive and balanced drinking. Both savoury and sippable, with good intensity into a long finish, it's a very fine and characterful rosé from Philipponnat.