This skinny Syrah is aptly named and labelled for Africa's famously skinny Nguni cattle. “Beeste” is the Afrikaans word for cattle, and “Wandering Beeste” was sourced from a farm high on Swartland’s Kasteelberg Mountain, sharing the steep, stony slopes with the wandering beestes. Young, lauded South African winemaker Donovan Rall oversees this line of wines from Boutinot, devoted to single-vineyard, terroir-expressive and low-intervention wines from around the Cape. This charming, bright, peppery red is half whole-berry, half whole-bunch, with sapid, resinous notes, perfumed blackberry, black cherry and a slate/stone base. Tannins are gritty but fine and the acidity is brisk. Anise lingers on the end. A lovely, fresh, authentic, charming, medium-bodied Syrah that speaks of place.
This is one of the Anthonij Rupert projects, now owned by the Rupert family and based on the L'Ormarins Farm in Franschhoek, dating back to the 17th century. This is a blend of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne from the decomposed Malmesbury shale slopes of the Riebeek-Kasteel mountains. 60-year-old Chenin bush vines make up the majority of this blend, one that was 10% new French oak-fermented and spent 9 months on the lees. Perfumed and full-bodied, with heady pear, quince paste and cream on a waxy base, propped with toasty oak. The finish is equally perfumed and polished, with a lingering honeyed grapefruit note. Reflections of richer Rhône.
Relatively young by South African standards (and a winemaking tradition more than 350 years old), Glen Carlou was founded in 1985 and is now in the hands of Hess Family Estates. This Chardonnay was sourced from 10 different sites in Paarl and picked over 3 weeks. After ferment, the wine spent an additional 10 months in barrel to knit. Rich and creamy, with waves of lemon curd, tangerine and sun-ripened pear. Acidity is lemon-lined and works to swell the weight. All this intensity is packaged in a 13.5% form, with a glow of warmth on the finish. A fuller style set to take on richer seafood or poultry.
Similar to last year, this remains a value gem on our market, a varietally true Chenin at a killer price. And that's not even considering this is from 20- to 40-year-old Swartland vines, partially dry-farmed and partially wild-fermented. There's also parts of this wine that were fermented and aged in stainless, some with French oak staves and some with a good swath of earthy, funky lees and a long, slow ferment for mouthfeel and texture. Did I mention the price? Shiny and bright, with juicy pear, apple, light herbal lees and ample tight citrus on a well-cushioned palate. A splash of 10% Chardonnay seems redundant, but it works. Youthful, vibrant and likeable — stock up.
Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier from 7 sites, some quite old, in Wellington; this was wild-fermented in very old French oak where it aged for 1 year on the lees before being blended and bottled. Creamy, expansive and textural, but with an effortless and gentle lightness from the thin, driving vein of acidity that streams along. Lovely ripe pear, quince and pear skin is balanced well with lees and the comfort of older wood. There is a kelp/saline note that weaves throughout the weighted, lees-lined palate, up to the fantastic buzzy lemon thistle along the warming (14%) finish. Chenin clearly rules here, with the rivet of acidity throughout to the slight bump of warmth on the finish.
Biodynamic beauty. Reyneke was South Africa’s first certified biodynamic vineyard and winery, and all their wines are made without additives (yeasts, enzymes acidity or settling agents). Young RSA star winemaker John Reyneke's old vine (50+ years) Chenin Blanc on decomposed granite loans is harvested from a single vineyard in the Polkadraai Hills, just west of Stellenbosch. Whole-bunch pressed, this was fermented in both 300 L barrels (second fill) and a 2500 L foudré, and spent 10 months on the lees followed by a 2-month stint in stainless for tightening. Serious and savoury, this vibrates the length with a flinty mineral hum, with savoury meadow herbs, lemon thistle and quince lining the medium-plus palate. There's a gentle but streaming wild bergamot/Earl Grey tea that lingers on the finish. A striking Chenin.
Duncan Savage is one of the unofficial/official leaders of the Zoo Biscuits collective, and he seeks and sources vineyards from around the Cape for his namesake wines. The 2014 Savage Red is predominantly Syrah, with the balance Grenache, Cinsault and — singularly — Touriga Nacional. Fragrant, peppery raspberry, plums and ripe cherry is freshened with brisk acidity, livening the juicy palate. The whole is framed with hugging, sapid tannins, up to the lingering violets on the stony finish. The Touriga gives this wine a slight brooding curve, underlying the bright, peppery Cinsault and Syrah. Drinking beautifully now, and a great example of what an authentic "red blend" from South Africa can be.