Great New Wines From The Cape

16th February 2016

It’s a quiet time of year at SVS for sales: the fun is seeing what’s arriving in the warehouse, and in particular lots of new wines from South Africa.  In the autumn I did a buying trip to the Cape, the first for four years, and wow, did I notice a change for the (even) better.  We have long championed South African wine, winning the International Wine Challenge award for Specialist Wine Merchant in 2010, but now the country has become a perfect hunting ground for Stone, Vine & Sun, buzzing with bright young men and women crafting intriguing, small volume wines. Just outside Cape Town, back in September, I kicked off with The Young & The Restless Tasting (presented by the weirdly named Zoo Biscuits), a select but stimulating tasting of some twenty of the Cape’s young stars. We will be working with two of them, Gavin Brand at Cape Rock (wait for the Capa Roca, a blend of Portuguese varieties); and Leon Coetzee at The Fledge & Co (as in a fledgling, soon to fly).  Like many of this gang Leon doesn’t own vineyards, but he is adept at sourcing great grapes, in some cases from unlikely places.  I believe Leon’s wines will create the same buzz as Pieter Walser’s from Blankbottle did when we introduced them five years ago. We are shipping a superb old-vine Chenin, a white Rhonish blend, a terrific single vineyard Pinot Noir and a cool, understated Syrah (definitely not Shiraz) from shale soils in Tradauw in the Klein Karoo, which comes in at a refreshing 13.2 degrees.

But that’s not all we have coming.  We have sung the virtues of the great Chardonnays from Chamonix and Ataraxia, but as these have rightfully become more expensive, we were determined to find a classy cool climate Cape Chardonnay that we could sell more reasonably: so step forward Domaine des Dieux, a small estate just above Ataraxia at the top of the valley in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge zone. Their 2012 Chardonnay arrives any day now, and at £12.95 this is stunning, a full-flavoured, perfectly ready to drink oaked Chardonnay of concentration and length. We are going to sell a lot of this…and their Pinot isn’t bad either!

From the classic to the off-beat: already here are wines from Lemberg in Tulbagh: Pinotage, to be sure, but also two remarkable whites: a dry, mildly oxydised, and almost savoury Harslevelu  (the grape of Tokay); and Lady, a Viognier and Harslevelu blend, creamy, rounded, intriguing and persistent. We are not wilful – we don’t buy wines for their weirdness alone,  but we are not frightened of the unusal so long as it tastes great!  

So….  Await our big South African offer at the end of March: as wines from a whole new bunch of growers join the old favourites like Cederberg, Chamonix and Ataraxia.

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