Hand-picked South African wines from Roger Harris

Roger Harris Wines is a family business based in Norfolk. Founded in 1974, they initially carved out a name for themselves as real Beaujolais specialists, with the most comprehensive range of quality, small-grower Beaujolais wines available in the UK; “the majority of the growers are now close friends and their wines have a tremendous following”, says Roger Harris. Over the ensuing years Roger Harris has built up his portfolio, and the range now includes wines from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand following his research and buying trips there. The pattern remains the same, of getting to know individual smaller producers on a personal level, with Roger’s wife and children now the other main players in the business.

Roger Harris sent me this small selection of their latest South African wines to try, and I must say they are very impressive. I hadn’t come across any of these small estates before, and though from three different growers, these wines struck me as a very homogenous group. Each has a distinctly Old World aspect to its character, with the emphasis on balance, a certain restraint and adequate acidity, yet each is as fruity and approachable as you could possibly want.

Quando (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc 2002
xFrom the baking-hot inland region of Robertson, where Sauvignon supremos Springfield Estate are also based, this has a very pale green colour and an enticing nose of mineral, salts and lime-zest, with undertones of nettle and gooseberry. On the palate this offers a really punchy, vivid lemon and grapefruit-packed palate, with masses of verve and a piercing quality of fruit and acidity. Much more Loire-like than anything remotely tropical, this is elegant and has plenty of fruit, yet also an unapoligetically austere mineral and citrus tautness. This is my kind of Sauvignon Blanc, and a really nice, well-balanced wine with fine purity and length. Excellent. £7.55

Glenwood (South Africa) Semillon 2002
xThe Glenwood estate was established in 1989, in the Robertsvlei district, south of the town of Franschhoek, and is specialising in white wines for now. Semillon is rarely seen as a single varietal on South African labels, though excellent examples like Fairview’s “Oom Pagel” prove the grape’s potential. This has a pale, translucent green/gold colour. It has a powerful, yet crisp nose of crunchy green apple and lemon, with a background suggestion of toastiness and leesy rich, waxy quality. On the palate this is full-bodied and really rich, with fine varietal character expressing waxy lemon and lime fruit and hints of gentle spice and rounded, orangy acidity. With lovely clarity and good length, this is a delightful semillon which should also cellar for a few years. When I try wines like this I do wonder why I don’t drink more Semillon I must say. Very good indeed/excellent. £7.20.

Posthouse (South Africa) Merlot 2001
This Stellenbosch estate has been in production for six years, with only 36 hectares under vine, devoted to old-vine Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This has a rich, dark, ruby colour and a sensational nose that evokes roasting chestnuts and Christmas spices. Far removed from jammy styles of Merlot, the aromas here are of plum, cedar and chocolate, with cinammon and mulled wine notes. On the palate that dense, rich flavour continues, with toast and coffee notes flooding over the tongue, and bittersweet plum and cherry fruit. The tannins are soft and fine, which together with lowish acidity adds to a creamy, dense mouthfeel and warming character. Lovely stuff for long winter nights and matching with casseroles and char-grilled meats. Very good indeed/excellent. £8.80.