Serious Saffers – Mystere Wine Club,a South African wine tastings.

After a run of moderately popular posts, I thought I would bring things back to normal with a wine post – South African this time. Always wildly popular these sort of posts 🙄.

I remember from many years ago a rather infamous Spitting Image song called “I’ve never met a nice South African“, which is  rather to the contrary of my experience as I know a number of South Africans and they are all nice enough. I certainly think their wines can be really rather nice.

I have attended very few wine tastings this year, due to various reasons, so wines posts have be few and far between. I am, however, back in the game (so to speak) so expect more wildly popular wine posts over the remainder of the year (you know you love em really).

This brings me to the subject matter of this post in the form of a South African wine tasting (stop yawning at the back) at the Mystere Wine Club, led by the club’s very nice and esteemed chair (a South African).

I don’t drink as much South African wine as I would like, mainly due to ignorance.  I really should drink more, as those that I have tried have been excellent quality (most introduced to me by the club’s resident South African expert, including making me being a huge fan of Thorne and Daughers’ wines). A lot of South African wines seem to really punch above their weight on the price to quality front and what’s not to like about that.

The wine industry in South Africa has also really been through the proverbial wringer in recent years with devastating wildfires and then Covid (with the booze ban is South Africa really hitting producers hard), so it was nice to see a tasting of South African wines in the Mystere Wine Club calender. One at last (I have missed 3 on the bounce since Febuary, including an apparently superlative Quintarilli tasting ) I could attend.

On paper it certainly looked a doozy of a line up and promised to be a real treat.

I was especially looking forward to the Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013, as I have a bottle of that wine and vintage stashed in the wine room.

So (very quickly for me) to the wines.

Wine 1 – Spioenkop Riesling 2017

Regarded by many (and certainly many of  the good and the great of the wine world) as South Africa’s best riesling (albeit from not that expensive a list), this wine is from the Elgin region (a cool climate area in South Africa).

Light gold, with a green tinge on the rim,

the nose screamed riesling (even I could call this in a blind tasting).

Really pungent aromas, with classic riesling notes of petrol followed by zesty lime.

On the palate it was robustly dry, but with a really refreshing juicy acidity and just a hint of sweetness creeping in as it lingered. I commented that I could happy drink this all day long.

Lovely wine, which blind I think I would have said was a quality Rheingau riesling. No way would I have pegged it as from the New World.

A great start to the tasting and I have already procured a couple of bottles of this wine from the chap behind Blindfaith.online.

Price: £28 ish

Wine 2 – Ken Forrester “Dirty Little Secret” Chenin Blanc 2015

Always thought this was a rather odd name for a wine – what secret, whose and what’s the dirt? In reality (and rather disappointingly I have to say) it seems it is merely a reference to it being a very, very low intervention wine (having has no cold stablisation or fining) rather than any debauchery. Not sure why that is a secret, let alone a dirty little one, if I am honest.

The vines were planted back in 1959/60s at an altitude of around 650m, with the wine aged in very old 400 litre (only 7) French oak barrels.

Lovely fresh vibrant rich colour,

with a golden core.

The nose was orchard fruits, with honeyed notes and a touch of nuttiness.

On the palate there is just a hit of oxidisation (deliberate rather than a fault), with yeasty and nutty notes. This is followed by pear drop, butteriness and a touch of sweetness. It still, however, had a very pleasant mouthwatering acidity to it.

One of the best chenins I have encountered this, if a touch pricey (for the likes of me)

Price: £76 ish

Wine 3 – Richard Kershaw  Elgin Clonal Selection Chardonnay  2015

100% Chardonnay from a small number parcels in various vineyards in the Elgin wine region.

Golden with tinges of green.

On the nose, it was quite difficult to pin down. Not because the aromas were muted (far from it), but rather due to my brain struggled to identify them. After much thought I came up with kaffir lime leaves, with someone adding (then I got it) a touch of caramel.

On the palate there was an initial hit of smokiness followed by nutmeg then stone fruit (apricot) and finally citrus as it lingered.

On paper sounds great, but it got my joint lowest score (lowest white) of the night (it still got a good score – 14/20 for me, as I am notoriously mean with my scoring out of 20 and very rarely give scores over 15). So a good wine, but outshone in the company it keep on the night.

Price: £ 45 ish

Wine 4 – Boekenhoutskloof Porseleinberg Syrah 2016

On to the reds and I was very glad I didn’t have to pronounce this one. Gawd knows what my dyspraxic brain would have come up with.

I know labels shouldn’t influence, but I love a different/inventive wine label and this all white after just exuded class.

Tbe wine inside is 100% syrah from Swartland, with the grapes coming from two vineyards (Porseleinberg 80%, Goldmine 20% – the latter younger vines).

Decent garnet colour,

with an interesting nose. Initial wafts of saline, followed by baking spice and plum. As it sat in the glass, I got smoke and singed BBQ’d meat notes.

On the palate, it was rich and creamy with fine tannins and distinct olive notes. My notes said tapenade, followed by black pepper and black tea.

Still a touch young this, with edges to smooth out, but very nice none the less.

Price: £65

Wine 5 – Stark-Conde Oude Nektar 2017

This predominate cab sauv blend (tiny amounts of petit verdot and merlot in the mix) is made from grapes fron Stark Conde’s highest vineyard (550m) in Stellenbosch.

Rich deep colour,

with an inital rather lean herbal/leafy nose. This gave way to graphite and a touch of cedar.

On the palate, there was earthy blueberry, oatmeal, black cherry and tea leaf.

Nice but (for me at least) not quite on a par with the Boekenhoutskloof (easy for you to say) that proceeded it.

As with the Porseleinberg this needs a bit more bottle time.

Price: £60 ish

Wine 6 – Kanankop Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2015

2015 was a superlative vintage in South Africa and this fully cab sauv wine has garnered much praise from the great and the good of the wine world. So did it live up to its stellar ratings?

In the glass it had a dark, almost black, core and a lighter rim.

On the nose there were earthy loamy notes, graphite and charred red pepper.

On the palate there were silky tannins, layers of black and red fruit and a touch of mokka and cedar spice.

Absolutely glorious wine and one that (certainly for me) lived up to the hype. Great price too.

Price: £36 ish

Wine 7 – MR de Compostella 2012

This wine is the product of a collaboration between Mzokhina Mvemve and Bruwer Raats and is Stellenbosch wine is widely regarded as one of South Africa’s top red blends.

The blend is 28% cab franc, 23% cab sauv, 21% malbec, 18% petit verdot, 10 % merlot- so a case of everyone in the pool.

It has a deep rich ruby colour, with little signs of age.

On the nose, I got an initial hit of milk chocolate and raspberry. This was followed by smokey, charcoal notes.

On the palate, whilst those around me raved about its complexity, I was rather puzzled. There were elements of spice there (clove and allspice), but it felt all a bit edgy and unbalanced to me. It was quite hot on the palate and the enduring memory of this wine for me was a backnote of creosote.

Maybe, given more time, it will knit together better for my palate (or more likely my palate is just not refined enough to appreciate its nuances after the previous 6 wines)?

The club has members who have considerable better and more refined palates than me and they loved it. It was not for me though in the company it kept and got my joint lowest score (still a good 14/20) of the night. Quitebpricey I thought.

Price: £75 ish

Wine 8 – Klein Constantia, Vin de Constance 2013

This was a wine I was excited to try as I have it in the wine room (it is aways good to see how a wine you have is ageing and great when you can do so without dipping into your own collection – one of many benefits of the Mystere Wine Club).

Incredibly dating back to the 1680s, Klein Constantia is regarding by many as one of the most scenic vineyards in the world. It sits in the foothills of the Constantiaberg and overlooks False Bay.

Whilst they make many other wines, the winery is most famous for its naturally sweet muscat de frontignan Vin de Constance. This is (rightly in my view) regarded as one of the great sweet wines of the world and I do love a sweetie.

Lovely rich, golden, amber colour to this wine.

On nose it was heavenly with heady notes of apricot, mandarin, orange marmalade and orange blossom.

On the palate, it had sweetness, but this was beautifully balance by a line of citrus acidity. In addition to the stone and citrus fruit, it had quince and a lovely zing of ginger.

Gorgeous silky texture in the mouth, with it lingering on the palate for an absolute age.

My on the night tasting notes for this wine concluded with a simple ” PHWOAR”.

Pricey, but worth every pemny in my opinion.

Price: £86+

The verdict

An excellent tasting with some of my highest scores at a Mystere tasting. Even my bottom scoring wines scored 14/20, which for me denotes a pretty darn good wine.

The quality really is there in South Africa and it is a wine region (not least off the back of this tasting) that I will increasingly turn my gaze to.

In terms of the top three wine on the night, mind were as follows:

  1. Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2017
  2. Kanankop Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2015
  3. Spioenkop Riesling 2017

As ever the overall vote of attending members was somewhat different to mine with it being as follows:

  1. MR de Compestella 2012
  2. Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2013
  3. Boekenhoutskloof Porseleinberg Syrah 2016

The MR de Compestella was the clear winner of WOTN when the votes were totted up.

On value for money the Spioenkop and the Kanankop were my clear winners. Both definetely “kop” value for money.

Next tasting is 2012 Aussie shiraz, with another crackerjack line up.

Promises to be another great tasting.

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