wine-pages.com
Tom Cannavan's wine-pages.com   

Profile of South Africa, Part III

©2002 Tom Cannavan

 part 1 - part 2 - part 3

This is part 3 of a major feature on South Africa, following my trip there recently as guest of Wines of South Africa. Listed here are 100 great South African wines, tasted on my visit. Part 1 offers an introduction to the Cape for the wine- and food-tourist, Part 2 features profiles a dozen top estates.

Part 3 - 100 great South African wines

I had several opportunities to taste older South African vintages on my trip, including a day at the famous Nederburg Auction tasting. I think the progress made in South African viticulture and winemaking over the past decade or so since the end of Apartheid is both striking and unmissable. To be brutally honest, whilst some of the wines from the 80's and first years of the 90's that I tasted were impressive (like 1984 Zonnenbloem Pinotage) others were rather green, old-fashioned and lacklustre. Without a doubt a major corner seems to have been turned in the last 10 to 15 years

Here is my selection of 100 favourite wines. Some highly regarded names are missing, but this is a purely personal selection. Not everything is fine wine either; the list contains several inexpensive bottles that offer tremendous value for money. Where known, UK prices are given in pounds sterling (£10 = $15US). There is a key to stockist abbreviations at the end of the article. One point to note - Booths supermarket online store, Everywine, features no less than 617 lines from South Africa, so try there if you can't find a local stockist.

10 great Sauvignons Blanc

Paul Clüver Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Sweet, compact, very appealing nose in an understated way. There is pear, melon, and a very cool profile to the fruit. The palate continues this theme, with good richness and herbal notes, a nice lemony acidity and plenty of firm, mineral character and zip. (ChP, £6.99)

Brampton Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Brimming with fruit and terrifically ostentatious, the nose is bursting with tropical fruit, lychee, citrus & a definite new-mown grassy edge. On the palate, a rich, mouth-filling texture has an edge of sweetness to ripe pineapple, pear & herbal fruit before bracing, deep lemon/mandarin orange acidity (GGC; Han; JN; L&S; LaR; NY; Vir, £5.99)

Groote Post Sauvignon Blanc 2001
This has a real elegance and minerality about it. A much leaner style, with hints of wet stones and quite intense herbal notes. The fruit on the palate is zippy and clean, with orchard fruits and nice weight. Balanced and harmonious, without being flamboyant. (Hai; Eve; Vic, £6.99 - £7.49)

Jordan Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Passionfruit and citrus aromas, with a little sherbet-lemon and a sense of minerality. The palate has a good weight of citrus fruit, perhaps lacking a touch of lushness that would improve the mouth-feel, but really lovely poise and length. Very grown-up. (ChP; Con; Lay; £7.99)

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Very modern, bright, tropical fruit with pear-drop snap and juicy asian pear fruit quality. There's a more herbal, gooseberry layer too which adds complexity. Very pungent, sparky fruit on the palate; a real depth and weight of ripe fruit that fills the mouth before integrated acidity sharpens the whole picture. I also tasted the 1997, which was drinking like a dream. Terrific. (Har; JA; P&S; Rob; Sel; Swi; WWC, £8.99 - £9.99)

Neil Ellis Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc 2001
From low-yielding vineyards, this has punchy, passionfruit and lychee aromas, with lots of luscious ripeness and a little freshening hint of green bean. The palate has apricot and tropical fruit character, with a broad, weighty mid-palate and a fine streak of lime-fresh acidity. Long, pure and oozing finesse, this is world class Sauvignon Blanc. (Evr; Luv; Saf; Swi; Vil, £7.99). Sainsbury's lists Neil Ellis "Sincerely" Sauvignon Blanc at £6.99

Nitida Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Sauvignon past master Bernhard Veller has made a wine with a herbal, nettly punch with green bean notes vying with pure, peachy fruit. Lovely quality on the palate, with a slightly oily weight of fruit and full, lush strikingly tropical flavours. Good balance with crisp acidity and length. (Ave, £7.49)

Scarborough Sauvignon Blanc 2001
From way, way down in Cape Point this is an extreme but excellent example of Sauvignon at its most pugnacious. It has a massive, pungent, herbal quality on the nose, loaded with green tomato, asparagus and string bean aromas. The palate is full and much more orthodox, with passionfruit flavours and juicy, lip-smacking acidity. Not for the faint-hearted, but very impressive. (FQ, £6.99)

Springfield Estate Sauvignon Blanc "Life from Stone" 2001
Gorgeous, opulent, tropical-fruited purity and ripeness beautifully tempered by a distinctive minerality and crisp lemon notes. The palate displays a fine citrus backbone to ripe, mouth-filling fruit, with plenty of vivacious zest, terrific poise, and impeccable balance. (Bib; Evr; Luv; M&S; Pec, £7.49). Springfield really are Sauvignon supremos, and the delicious Special Cuvée 2001 is a terrific alternative (FQ, Sai; Wai £6.99). Their entry-level Firefinch 2002, made from bought-in fruit, is simpler, but is a little cracker. (FQ; Tes, £4.99)

Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc 2001
Packs a huge, Marlborough-like punch of gooseberry, passionfruit and tropical mango fruit. At the same time it has a tight, mineral core - even a touch of flint. Lots of grapefruit on the palate which is zesty, waxy and rich, with some pithy acidity balancing the long finish. (Odd; Sai; Swi, £7.49 limited stock)

10 great Chardonnays

Bouchard Finlayson Chardonnay "Kaaimansgat" 2000
Elegantly oaked wine with creamy, soft, nutty and toasty overtones to citrus fruit. There's a lovely gentle impression of buttered toast that runs through the wine on the palate, with plenty of sweet-edged peachy fruit and a crisp citrus definition. Balanced and long. (Luv; Pec; Wai, £9.49)

Buitenverwachting Chardonnay 2000
Heavenly nose of honey, butterscotch, lemon and oatmeal. On the palate it is richly-textured and floods the mouth with ripe, spiced-apple fruit, cream and ground almonds, whilst a steely backbone of lemon and lime gives definition and length. A toasty, spicy layering is very classy and the finish is wonderfully pure and long. (Odd, £8.99)

Danie de Wet Chardonnay 'sur lie' 2001/2002
£4 buys a Chardonnay with no sign of blowsy, overripe tropical fruit, no smothering with oaky custard aromas, no overpowering alcohol that tires the senses. This 12.5% alcohol wine has enough creamy, biscuity richness from the lees ageing to counterbalance tingling fresh lemony fruit. The nose is citrussy, the palate broadens but stays sharp, adding a nutty, oatmeally quality. (FQ; Maj; Mor; Odd; Saf; Som; Vil, £3.99-£4.29)

de Wetshof "Bateleur" Chardonnay 2001
Light and elegant nose of melon and peach with just a background of toasty oak. There's a creaminess and even a lime note too. Lovely rich texture, with juicy, fresh fruit that is quite tangy and bright, showing plenty of vivacious character in the mouth and nice crisp finish. Complex and ageworthy. (F&M, M&S; Vil; Wel, £9.99)

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2001
50% new French oak adds plenty of toasty, brioche and hazelnut on the nose, with clean, juicy fruit that is limpid and tinged with honey. Delightful palate, with pear, apricot and juicy, savoury appeal. Lovely sense of complexity and elegance, with smoky notes and a little butterscotch before a long finish. (Ave; BBR; Evr; FQ; Har; Luv; Rob; Sel; Swi; Wai; Wim, £11.99 - £13.95)

Neil Ellis Chardonnay Stellenbosch 2000
Bags of high-toast, charry oak overlaid on sweet, peachy fruit. On the palate this is really ripe and forward, with a flattering high alcohol, full texture and bags of tropical fruit character. There's a nice kick of lemony acidity into the finish, against a softening pillow of creamy oak. (Tes; Vil, £8.99)

Rupert & Rothschild "Baroness Nadine" Chardonnay 2000
African/French collaboration making some of South Africa's most expensive wines. This has a lovely Burgundian nose of smoky, toasty, even Jack Daniels oak. Butterscotchy and alluring, the palate is elegant and juicy, with pear and peach fruit and lovely balancing lemon acidity. Very fine. (A&N; Swi; VH; Vin; Wad, £21 - £25)

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2000
Almonds, hazelnut, and all sorts of mellow influences against a restrained fruit nose of pear and orange peel. On the palate it is balanced, with lots of subtle interest; rich hazelnut and sesame-seed flavours and orchard fruit into a crisply-defined lemon-sharp finish. (GGC; Han; JN; L&S; LaR; NY; Vir, £8.99)

Springfield Estate Chardonnay Méthode Ancienne 1999
Gorgeous burnished gold colour. Fine, fine nose of butterscotch and honeysuckle, and a tiny hint of oxidised complexity. Deliciously juicy lime and lemon-meringue pie flavours on the palate, with good weight, mouth-filling texture and a terrific savoury depth. There are layers of marzipan, cashew nuts and concentrated fruit into a very long finish. Sensational. (Bib; Har; LaR, £14.95)

Vergelegen Chardonnay 2000
This is mellow and subtle, with some toasty butteriness on the nose over luxurious peach fruit and some lovely citrus undertones. The palate has a weighty texture and is buttery again, but crammed with summery fruit; lots of slightly sour green apple acidity keeps it fresh and savoury. Crystal-clear fruit persists through the finish. (Odd; Sai; Swi, £7.49 limited stock)

10 great other whites

Fairview "Oom Pagel" Sémillon 1999
Waxy, woolly, buttery nose. Hints of honey and fat, sweet fruit. A bit of oily richness on the palate, with a buttery, fruity quality that is very fine and some citrussy crispness. (Odd, £8.99)

Fairview Viognier 2001
A big kick of sweet, buttery oak with nutty undertones precedes delicate peachy fruit with aromatic floral notes. The palate is full, poised and has plenty of fruit, but fine acidity keeps it fresh and long despite 14.6% alcohol. (GWW; Odd; Sai; Wai, £8.99)

Flagstone Noon Gun 2001
Crisp and refreshing, though with plenty of weight and texture in the mouth. This sings on the nose with crunchy gooseberry notes, but there's a hint of floral, exotic, waxy lime-leaf too. On the palate creamy, full-bodied fruit is joined by juicy, crisp acidity and there is fine length. A seriously delicious and different white, and highly recommended. (Odd, £3.99)

Flagstone "Strata" Barrel Fermented Chenin 2000
Mealy-rich nose with butter, yeast, honey and wild-flower aromatics underpinned by toffee and butterscotch richness. The palate is sweet with rounded, weighty orchard and peach fruit and a very nice depth. Good balance and length. (Odd, £7.99)

Goiya Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc 2002
One of South Africa's big brands, this is simply a fantastic wine for under £4. The nose is beautifully balanced between ripe tropical fruitiness, a hint of gooseberry punch and lime-sharp verve. On the palate delicious ripe green fig flavours, a touch of honey, and plenty of crisp, yet rich fruit. Sensational stuff at the price. (Asd; Saf; Sai; Tes; Vil, £3.99)

Imbizo Cape White N.V.
Created for the First Quench group for the UK market, this is a really nice generic white wine that is modern and of high quality. Fresh and grassy, with waxy lemon on the nose, there is plenty of crunch and vibrancy with smooth, flavourful fruit on the palate. (FQ, £3.99)

Ken Forrester Scholtzenhof Chenin Blanc 2000
Terrifically toasty, coffee-bean oak nose. Nutty, roasted, espresso aromas leading onto a full palate where a green bean and nettly character comes through, then more tropical peachiness and a lengthening drive from lemony acidity. Complex and serious stuff. (Odd, £5.99). The Petit Chenin in Oddbins at £3.99 is another great buy.

Klein Constantia Rhine Riesling 1998
Oily, waxy nose. Apple and pear fruit follows through to palate, with a hint of residual sugar, but surrounded by citrus and green apple fruit and acidity. (Odd, £5.25)

Stellenzicht Reserve Semillon 2000
Distinctly toasty, charry oak over perfumed nectarine fruit. There's a nice waxy texture and weight on the palate, with seville orange, nuts and an undertone of tropical, pineapple sweetness. Toasty and a little hot in the finish, but impressive. (Pec, £11.49)

Van Loveren Red Muscadel Blanc de Noir 2001
Technically a "blush" wine I suppose, this is a real crowd-pleasing easy drinker, included because it is fun, user friendly, and a bit different. It has off-dry floral-tinged musky fruit and soft, strawberry tones. Well made and well balanced. (Mor; Saf; Sai; Tes; Vil, £3.99)

10 great Claret styles

de Toren "Fusion V" 1999
"V" because all five Bordeaux grapes are used. Massive, dusty, intense blue-black fruit on the nose, with cedary overtones and great, plummy, density. Big, powerhouse style with masses of fruit on the palate and a powerful tannin/acid backbone of endless depth. (P&S; Pea; JN; NY; Swi; TWS; Vir, £14.99)

Jordan "Cobbler's Hill" 1999
Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with 34% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc. Very spicy nose with a minty intensity and touch of eucalyptus. Glossy cassis fruit and touches of cedar wood and violet. The balanced palate has cool, pure black fruit and little nuances of almond and mineral. Fine length and complexity here. (Con; Lay; NY, £12.99)

Kanonkop Estate "Paul Sauer" 1997
This has delicious sweet fruit that is elegant and savoury with spiced plum and a touch of exotic spice or dried fruits. Fine black cherry and raspberry palate that is stylish and supple. Stays focused and silky into a long finish. Wonderful sense of finesse, and excellent stuff. (Swi; Vil; Vir, £11.99)

Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1997
Dense, deep ruby/purple. Real minty intensity to the fruit on the nose, leafy blackcurrant is very pure with sweet vanilla nuances. The palate is restrained and balanced, with fine silky tannins and lots of soft, lush fruit. There is a savoury edge from moderate oak and good supporting acidity keeps the finish long and clean. Lush fruit and classic restraint. (Win; MAW, £11.99)

Rupert & Rothschild "Baron Edmund" 1999
At £30 this is South Africa's most expensive new release table wine. It has an intense, concentrated nose, with plenty of cedar, leather, roasted meats and a well of deep, plummy fruit. It is big and impressive, with a rich, spicy palate. I thought this was a touch foursquare and needed to evolve. (A&N; ChH; Swi; VH; Vin; Wad, £26 - £30). I liked the baby brother of this wine, Rupert & Rothschild "Classique" almost as much (ChH; Swi; Vin; Wad, £11).

Rustenberg Peter Barlow Red 1998
100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Very dense, creamy, fudge nose with classy, gently toasty oak and a savoury, cedary quality. Firm tannins grip the palate and add a lot of backbone to tightly-structured liquorice, aniseed and black cherry fruit. Bittersweet, there's some deep blueberry character and a balanced finish. Rustenberg's John Merriman is a Bordeaux blend that is also terrific. (GGC; Han; JN; L&S; LaR; NY; Vir, £17.49 - £18.49)

Simonsig "Tiara" 1998
Bordeaux ringer with a nice vegetality and meatiness that is immediately complex and savoury. There is cedar and good, ripe fruit, and also a mineral nuance. Lovely balance, with fine acids and crisp tannins defining a palate of solid black fruit. (C&B; ChP; Cos; Evr; Pec; Sel; Wic; Wim, £12.99)

Veenwouden Merlot 1999
This has a structured, serious character on the nose, with gentle coffee oak, but a deep core of black fruit and subtle, toffeed spice. Very sweet and juicy black plum and bittersweet fruit on the palate. There is good acidity and a silky tannic mouth-feel. Concentrated, quite complex, with a long finish. (GGC; Han; LaR; NY; Swi; Vir, £13.99)

Vergelegen 1999
The nose is filled with dark, expressive, coffee-bean, tobacco, spice and chocolate. There is a great heart of ripe cassis fruit, with hints of plum and cedar. On the palate more cedar and herbal nuances, with earthy and liquorice complexity and lovely balance with savoury black fruit, olive and juicy acidity. There is fine depth and concentration, and ripe tannins add freshening length. Extremely impressive. (All stock of this is sold out in the UK, look out for new vintage, possibly in Odd; Sai; Wai at around £20)

Warwick Estate "Trilogy" 2000
Very deep, opaque colour with a toasty, dark, almost liquorice nose of berries and charry oak, yet with cedar and violet complexity. The palate is equally dark and sweet, with earthy, rich, damson, blackberry and tobacco, but there is definite elegance and poise here too, with savoury acidity lifting this wine beyond the "fruit bomb" category. (Hai; Han; Pec; Soh; Swi, £12.00 - £12.50)

10 great Pinots Noir

Avontuur Estate Pinot Noir 1999
Lovely, very fine nose of raspberry and cherry; elegant, though a nice earthiness too. Sweet, soft, jammy fruit on the palate with notes of clove spice and tobacco, and plenty of soft background tannin. Good balance and very elegant into the finish. (AB, £???)

Barefoot Pinot Noir 1998
This is a very nice Pinot in that richer, chunkier style. Lots of deep, sweet fruit on the nose and some spicy, aromatic notes. Palate is all ripe berry fruit, but there's a core of tannin and a little herbal, vegetal edge that adds interest. Very good of its style. (GGC, £8.99)

Bouchard Finlayson "Galpin's Peak" Pinot Noir 2001
Delightfully sweet, mint-humbuggy nose with little charcoal notes, toast and a density of berry fruit. The palate has lots of ripeness, with a glossy red cherry and raspberry quality, and plenty of power and flesh. There is finesse too, and fine balance. Better in a couple of years. (Pec; Luv; Swi; Wai, £14.99)

de Trafford Pinot Noir 2000
A very wild, earthy, mushroom and truffle nose here is instantly complex and attractive. The palate has a nice silky texture and savoury qualities of red fruit and leathery, animal nuances. Medium-bodied and nicely balanced by acids and tight tannins. (Not in UK)

de Wetshof Pinot Noir 2000
Chardonnay supremo Danie de Wet ventures into the red side of Burgundy territory with a wine from Dijon clones aged in French oak. Not commercially available as yet. Vibrant, deep, juicy, nutmeg and clove-tinged nose of berry fruits. The palate feels a little overpowered by the wood, but there is obvious fruit quality. One to watch. (Not in UK)

Glen Carlou Pinot Noir 2001
A really sumptuous, chocolate and rich berry style, with bags of charry oak and woodsmoke on the nose leading to a juicy, sweet palate of fruit with good body and a seamless support of tannins and acidity. (ChP; Odd; Rac, £7.99 - £8.99)

Goedvertouw Pinot Noir 2000
Octogenarian Arthur Pillman's Pinot needs no excuses: beautifully balanced and elegant, it has a svelte black fruit and gently tobacco-like quality on the nose, leading to a medium-weight palate of ripe, elegant fruit and a welcome truffly complexity. Gentle but ripe tannins and good acidity extend the finish. (Kni; Rae, £16.99)

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2001
This has a really fine nose with lovely elegance. Sweet berried fruit and a sumptuous, silky quality. On the palate it is tight and quite mineral at present, but that lovely quality of fruit is evident, with intelligent oak support and really classy balance and length. (Ave; BBR; Evr; Har; Pec; Luv; Rob; Odd; Sel; Swi; Wai; Wim, £16.99 - £18.95)

Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2001
Seems very lightly oaked, and has a bright, forward style with plenty of fruit. On the palate that focused, raspberry and strawberry fruit sings out, with elegant weight and texture and good all-round quality. (Cor; Sal; Wri, £9.79)

Sumaridge Pinot Noir 2000
Charcoally quality at first, with nicely judged oak giving spice to leafy, truffly fruit. The palate is a touch lean perhaps, but the fruit is good and the finish is filled-out by sweet oak. (only available from wineTRACK at £7.50)

10 great Shiraz

Barefoot Shiraz 1999
Really quite volatile at first, with high, minty, eucalyptus notes and a touch of sulphur. With agitation it calms down to reveal lots of coffee-bean and deep blue/black fruit that continues onto the palate in a rich seam of sweet fruit, pepper and decent tannin/acid balance. (GGC, £9.99)

Deetlefs Shiraz 2000
I enjoyed this higher-toned, raspberry and cherry pie Shiraz. The nose is fruity and punchy, with just a hint of deeper, plummy fruit. On the palate it is smooth, juicy and medium-bodied, with plenty of spice and power in a moderate, food-friendly style. (WRB, £7.99)

Fairview "Solitude" Shiraz 2001
New French clones were planted for this wine, which is farmed without irrigation. Very pungent, herbal nose, with notes of wintergreen before a deep-seated blueberry core. There's a mintiness too, and then a vibrant, spicy palate with bittersweet cherry, damson and tight, savoury tannins. (GWW, £9.99)

Glen Carlou Shiraz 2001
A little jamminess and confected quality can be forgiven as this was bottled only a week before I tasted it. Ripe, deep, sweet autumn berry fruit emerges, with a definite pepperiness. Lots of clean and pure blueberry and bittersweet dark chocolate on the palate, with hints of jammy strawberry and good balance. Should be very good. (Odd, approx £12.99 - available October 2002)

Graham Beck Shiraz 2000
From Graham Beck's Coastal vineyards, this concentrated, mulberry, plum and pepper-scented wine is underpinned by mellow, toasty oak. On the palate it is fat and powerful, with a chewy-textured raft of fruit and tannins, good balance and hints of tobacco, leather and earthy complexity. (Asd; FQ; L&W; Pec; Wai, £7.49 - £8.99)

Landskroon Shiraz 2000
Very dark, dusky, invitingly deep nose. Roasted spices and lots of sweet cherry and damson fruit lead on to a silky palate of black fruit, warm oak support and fine tannins roughing-up the finish quite nicely. (Saf; Vil, £6.99)

Neil Ellis Shiraz 2000
Deep vein of smoky, charry oak with a cappucino richness, spice and cracked black pepper. Solid black fruit. Rich on the palate, this has good concentration and weight, with lots of assertive structure but a real depth of fruit. (Swi; Vil; Wel, £14.99)

Radford Dale Shiraz 1999
Tiny production of a very rich, concentrated, ripe Shiraz. There's a jammy core of blackberry fruit that is densely packed and a real warmth of rich earth and berries. These dominate on the palate and the wine is quite complex with layers of fruit and long finish. (Odd, £9.49)

Slaley Shiraz 1997
Striking, paint-box colour of vivid crimson/purple. Nose is similarly intense with super-charged blackcurrant and mint aromas, brambles and a serious, earthy, more vegetal depth. Palate shows ripe, crunchy berries, sloes and damsons and a nice rounding out with creamy oak, but it is also grippy, even a little harsh on the attack.

Spice Route Shiraz 1998
Massive, dark, mulberry nose with sweet, ripe, velvety-deep fruit and a background of earthiness and spice. Silky textured palate, with pepper and a great depth of soft, sweet black fruit. Fine tannins and broad, juicy acidity complete a convincing picture. ()

10 great Pinotages

Ashanti Pinotage 2000/2001
The 2000 has a nose redolent of spice, berries and leather, with creamy nuances and hints of game and dusty earth. It has a full, soft palate, with ripe tannins and good balance. The 2001 is a little tighter at present, with a tight, black fruit quality and a little more backbone. (out of stock at present, but try AC; Bac; NY)

Beaumont "Jackals River" Pinotage 1999
This serious, barrel-matured wine comes from low yielding vines and has a wonderfully dark, essence of blackberry nose that is sweet and ripe, with a plummy depth and fantastic richness. Smooth plum and sloe fruit on the palate is wrapped in a cloak of dusty tannins and mellow, spicy oak. Seamless and long. (BBR; Odd, £8.49 - £10.75)

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2001
Lovely ripe, bright, blackcurrant pastille fruit with creamy notes and a little briarwood hint. On the palate there's a delicious sweetness to the fruit that suggests really ripe strawberries, or sweet damson plums, a soft, spicy underpinning and a smooth texture. Freshening acidity wraps up a lovely, easy-drinking picture. (Asd; Saf; Vil, £5.99)

Chiwara Pinotage 2001
Nose of toasty, coffee-bean oak and cocoa-dusted ripe berry fruit. The palate is flooded with intensely sweet blueberry and black cherry fruit, bags of spice and crisp tannins. Medium- to full-bodied, there's a rich, spicy weight that persists through to the finish in this thoroughly impressive and delicious, big-hearted red. (Spr, £4.99)

Clos Malverne Pinotage 2000
Sweet, spicy, almost minty quality through ripe black fruit and charry oak. Very soft, deep and rounded. The palate has a nice leathery, earthy quality, with spice and deep-set dark berry fruits. Soft tannic structure and acidity balances well into a stylish finish. (Byr; Evr, £6.99)

Graham Beck "Old Road" Pinotage 1999
Inky, dark crimson colour with a big, peppery, rich black fruit nose. Little notes of schisty minerals and woodsmoke. On the palate cherries and ripe black berries, with a stripe of leaner black olive savouriness, though nice and ripe with drying tannins into the finish. (Bib; Pec, £10.99)

Grangehurst Winery Pinotage 1997
Very aromatic. Fragrant bouquet of pastille fruit, vivid blueberry and blackcurrant. Ripe and fruit-driven, yet with a peppery, herbal edge. On the palate medicinal, cough-sweet notes, but sweet black fruit powers through. Some tannins in a long and very concentrated finish. (Bruce Burlington on 01268 562224 will supply by the case at £153 inc. VAT and delivery)

Neil Ellis Pinotage 2000
Lovely sweet, confectionery notes here, with floral nuances and cassis and violet-scented fruit. Some coffee-bean oak underpins. The palate has sweet, briary, cherryish fruit with smoke and tobacco tugging away underneath. Good ripe tannins. (Luv; Vil; Wel, £9.99)

Sylvan Vale Reserve Pinotage 1999
Big, stinky meat and rubber nose. Over the top, with ripe, creamy berry fruit and full-on ripeness. The palate is full-bodied and quite tannic, with plum and mulberry fruit and just a little metallic edge. This is a blockbuster, but has some structure and is quite fine. (small quantities in UK soon: Wtm, £7.75)

Uiterwyck "Top of the Hill" Pinotage 2000
Gorgeous, pure nose with fine definition of dark cherry, briarwood, liquorice and sweet, leathery notes. On the palate very full-bodied and sumptuous, with chocolate and dark plum flavours and terrific intensity. Deep and complex, this finishes stylishly with great length. Stunning Pinotage. (L&W, £9.99)

10 great other reds

Clos Malverne Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinotage 1999
Powerful, charry, toasty oak aromas layered over plum and blackcurrant fruit that is classy and tight. The palate is densely-textured and very powerful with a rich seam of glossy blackcurrant. Lots of stuffing here and spicy power into a long, focussed and fruit-driven finish. (Sai, £6.99)

Fairview "Goat's do Roam" 2001
Youthful, dense striking purple colour. Powerful, perfumed nose of exotic spices, earth and raspberry fruit. Sweet, brightly-focused fruit on the palate with a nice hint of something darker and more gamy. Plenty of fruit carries through into the finish, which is creamy and long. A commercially styled wine, but really lovely. (Co; Maj; Odd, Saf; Sai; Tes; Wai, £4.99)

Fairview Zinfandel 2000
Fine nose, with a little metallic tang, but then on to a punchy, peppery qualities with dark fruit and a hint of chocolate. The palate is big and dry, perhaps a touch inky, then black, velvety, almost fudge-like layers of fruit emerge. Very smooth and powerful, with a bit of bite in the finish. (Sai, £8.99)

Glen Carlou "Tortoise Hill" 2000
Unusual blend including Zinfandel, Touriga Nacional and Zinfandel. Nice gamy nose, with lots of minty complexity, spice and a bit of pepper. Good dark, sweet berries on the palate; lots of blueberry depth and a soft, sweet tannic background. Very drinkable. (ChP; Odd, £7.99 - £8.99)

Meinert Wines "Synchronicity" 2000
Selected parcels of old vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinotage aged in 75% new French oak. Superripe, minty, coffee, sweet black plum, mulberry and charred toast aromas. Succulent on the palate, with thick, sweet, dark fruit buttressed by ripe, chocolaty tannins and lovely acidity. Long and impressive.

Simonsig "Frans Malan Reserve" 1998
A Cape Blend of 50% Pinotage with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Big, impressive, solid and sweet black fruit character to the nose. Palate has a creamy texture, spicy notes and creamy cassis flavours. Sophisticated, and an extended finish with ripe tannins and good acidity. (C&B; ChP; Cos; Evr; Pec; Sel; Wic; Wim, £14.99)

Stonebuck Merlot/Pinotage 1999
There's a generosity of sumptuous berry and vanilla on the nose, with just a hint of herbal leafiness and leather. On the palate, a sweet attack of juicy red cherry, and red plum, with again that chocolate richness of fruit and ripe tannins. Long and smoothly-textured. (Saf; Vil, £6.99)

Uiterwyck Estate Red Wine 2000
Blends Pinotage from 60-year old vines with Bordeaux varietals. Lovely dark cherry nose of fine quality with herbal notes, tobacco and ripe fruit. Silky palate with ripe tannins and quite a deep, lush feel to the fruit. Good length. (L&W, £15.95)

Villiera "Down to Earth" 2001
Everything goes into this, including Shiraz, Pinotage, Merlot and Gamay. It has indeed a gentle earthiness, with plenty of clove spice and a sweet berry compote character. Very fresh and sweetly spicy on the palate, with a hint of chocolate and plum and enough tannin to really freshen the finish. (FQ, £5.99)

Warwick Estate "Three Cape Ladies" 1999
Masterful blend of Pinotage and Bordeaux varieties, this elegant yet toothsome wine is packed with toasted nut, black cherry and ripe, sweet damson plums on the nose. The savoury, dense, chewy palate has all sorts of earthy fruits and a lovely sweetness combined with drying tannins. Will age gracefully. (Hai; Han; Pec; Vic, £10.99).

10 great sweet wines
Until recently an EU trade ban meant many of these wines could not be imported into the UK. That ban has been eased, so expect to see more of these fine wines in future.

de Wetshof "Edeloes" Riesling 1998
A Beerenauslese style with only 9% alcohol. This has a thick, unctuous honey and lemon nose. Buttery with notes of toasty oak, fig and raisins. Sweet, thick palate with abundant toast and honeyed-fruit flavour. Delicious and long, with good balance into the finish. (Wel, £24.99 50cl)

Fairview "La Beryl" Straw Wine 2000
100% Chenin Blanc, aged in French oak. Absolutely lovely nose, with intense sweet apricot fruit and a touch of honey. Honey dominates the palate, with marzipan and apricot kernels and delightful purity. (GWW, £6.99 50cl)

Klein Constantia "Vin de Constance" 1997
Very distinctive, very alluring nose with nutty, almond aromas, spices, honey and a tangerine quality - even a hint of mint. In the mouth a similar complexity of flavours, with super-sweet tropical fruit, unctuous texture and a creamy, slightly toasty note joined by shimmering acidity into the finish. Lives up the hype, and just lovely. (Odd, £19.99, 1996 in BBR; Swi @ £25 50cl)

Nederburg "Edelkeur" Chenin Blanc 1999
Gentle botrytis notes of marmalade, honey and waxed lemon. Quite subtle on the palate, with plenty of silky, rich, honeyed fruit. Good sweetness which fills out into the mid palate. Long and pure finish. (not in UK)

Nederburg "Eminence" Muscadel 2000
Very attractive floral nose with jasmine, spring flowers and then nectarine and peach fruit. Lovely mid palate weight and ripe melon and nectarine sweetness. Balanced, with good acidity into the finish. (not in UK)

Neetlingshof Noble Late Harvest Riesling 1998
Produced only in exceptional years (no 1999 or 2000 for example) this is deep, rich and fantastically honeyed with apricot, sweet fig and marmalade aromas. On the palate it is buttery-textured and very rich and sweet, with lush, pure fruit and a very nice balance into a long finish. (Sou, £15.99 37.5cl)

Nuy Muskadel 1997
A fortified wine, this has a fresh and flowery nose, with aromatic components of musky grapes, honey and lime. Super-sweet on the palate it is smooth and easy-to-drink with a real kick of alcohol into the finish. Delicious. (not in UK)

Sylvan Vale Vine-Dried Chenin Blanc 2000
This has a lovely, delicate, tea-leaf quality with fine sweetness and notes apricot and vanilla. On the palate there is plenty of ripe, apple, peach and citrus peel, a glacé fruit quality and a charming, delicate sweetness. Lovely balance, and really quite delicious. (small quantities in UK soon: Wtm, £8.50 37.5cl)

Sylvan Vale Vine-Dried Pinotage 2000
Immense, 15.8% alcohol oddity, but serious stuff with an Amarone-like nose of dried fruit, nuts, wicker and lots of plump berry fruit beneath. There are little tobacco notes too. The palate has a fair deal of sweetness, both a little sugar and great fruit sweetness, then big, dry, dusty tannins power through. Very unusual, but successful. (small quantities in UK soon: Wtm, £8.50 37.5cl)

Villiera "Inspiration" 2000
100% Chenin Blanc, with a very deep, toasty, nutty nose with plenty of botrytis adding honey and deep figgy notes. Lovely palate. very honeyed and pure, with luscious nectarine fruit and a waxy, oily quality, a touch of muscavado sugar and excellent length. (not in UK)

10 great sparklers
This was the toughest "10 great" category to fill quite frankly. One or two exceptional estates like Graham Beck are blazing a quality trail, and there are decent wines from producers like Villiera and J.C. le Roux, but so far South African fizz doesn't challenge the best of Champagne or California.

Inada Brut N.V.
It would be churlish to complain about lack of complexity in a £5 fizz, and indeed this 100% Colombard wine has lots to shout about with a lovely fresh fruitiness, good rich mousse and a bit of length too. Excellent party stuff. (Mor; Saf; Sai; Som; Tes; Vil, £4.99)

Graham Beck Brut Non-vintage
Very fresh, lively, lemon-fruited nose with steady, small bubbles. Lively on the palate too, more of that waxy lemon fruit, some pear and apple character, and a streak of lemon acidity. Medium weight, and good length. (Pec; Saf; Sai, £7.99

Graham Beck Blanc de Blancs 1996
Good steady stream of tiny bubbles. Biscuity nose, with cream and peach character. A rolling richness in the mouth, with persistent mousse and a rich, creamy, mouth-filling mid-palate. Lovely notes of tangy citrus and tangerine into the long finish. Very fine indeed. (Pec; WiC, £9.99)

Graham Beck Sparkling Red 1999
The leather, spice and cherry nose of this wine is quite startling at first, with a jammy raspberry fruitiness and a hint of gamy, animal quality. Lovely rolling mousse, and tannins kick in on the palate, though there's a residual sweetness too. I find this Pinotage wine a little disjointed, but it is fascinating stuff that I know others love. (Pec; NY; Evr, £7.99)

Haute-Cabriére "Pierre Jourdan" Cuvée Belle Rose 1997
100% Pinot Noir rosé from Franschoek. This delicate salmon-pink wine is distinctly sherbetty and rather bubble-gummy, with strawberry fruit and a lively yeasty note. A palate of crisp herbal and red fruits stays rather confected, and is maybe a love it or hate it style.

JC le Roux "Pongrácz" Cap Classique NV
Possibly the best-known name in Cap Classique sparkling wine, this creamy, lightly biscuity wine is softly-styled and easy to drink. There's a hint of sweetness about it, with plenty of fruit and a bit of weight, with a stylish length. (Vin, £7.45)

Simonsig "Kaapse Vonkel" Cap Classique 1997
Nice herbal, nettly quality on the nose. Really distinctive, quality apple and pear fruit pushes through on the palate, with a nice persistent mousse and an overall bright, aperitif style. There's a touch of minerality and citrus acidity into the finish. (C&B; ChP; Cos; Evr; Pec; Sel; Wic; Wim, £9.99)

Tesco South African Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc
I'll confess that, for me, this is not a "great" wine, but it is certainly different - I know of no other sparkling Sauvignon on sale in the UK. It has a fresh and zesty nose, with grapefruit acidity on the palate overpowering traces of lemon and lime fruit. Perhaps you'll enjoy it more than me! (Tes, £5.25)

Villiera Brut Natural Blanc de Blancs NV
This is a "natural" a wine as possible, with absolutely no sulphur used at any stage of the winemaking process. It is gently yeasty and toasty with a crisp citrus and asian pear fruit quality, soft mousse and some creamy depth into the finish. (Not yet in UK)

Villiera Vintage Brut 1995
Pinot Noir dominates the blend (60%) with a bright colour and tiny, streaming bubbles. A suggestion of nettles, then orange and grapefruity aromas into a generous, full palate with good mousse and plenty of biscuity quality. Very nice mouthfeel and style into a moderately long finish. (Not yet in UK)

Key to stockist abbreviations

A&N = Army & Navy (020 7834 1234)
AB  = Anthony Byrne (01487 814555)
AC = Andrew Chapman (01235 550707)
Asd = Asda (0113 241 9172)
Ave = Averys (0117 9214146)
Bac = Bacchus (01234 711140)
BBR = Berry Bros & Rudd (01256 323566)
Bib  = Bibendum (020 7722 5577)
Byr = D. Byrne (01200 423152)
C&B = Corney & Barrow (020 7539 3200)
ChH = Chas. Hemmings (01798 872485)
ChP = Chris. Piper (01404 814139)
Co  = Co-op Stores (0161 834 1212)
Con = Connolly's (0121 236 9269)
Cor = Corkscrew Wines (01228 543033)
Cos = Costco (01923 225 449)
Eve = Everton's (01905 620144)
Evr = Everywine/Booths (01772251701)
F&M = Fortmum & Mason (020 7734 8040)
FQ  = First Quench (01707 387 200)
FQ  = BU, WR, VW, Thresher
GGC = Great Grog Co (0131 662 4777)
GWW = Great Western (01225 322810)
Hai = Hailsham Cellars (01323 441212)
Han = Handford (020 7221 9614)
Har = Harrods (020 7730 1234)
JA  = John Armit (020 7908 0650)
JN  = James Nicholson (028 44830091)
Kni = Knighton Wines (0207 293 5385)
L&S = Lea & Sandeman (020 7244 0522)
L&W = Lay & Wheeler (0845 330 1855)
LaR = La Reserve (020 7435 6845)
Luv = Luvians Bottleshop (01334 477752)
  Mad = Madrigal Wines (013 30826565)
Maj = Majestic (01923 298 226)
Michael Anthony Wines 01437 765004)
Mor = Wm Morrison (01274 494166)
NY  = Noel Young (01223 844744)
Odd = Oddbins (0800 328 2323)
OFW = Oddbins Fine Wine (0800 328 2323)
P&S = Philglass & Swiggot (020 7924 4494)
Pea = Thos. Peatling (01284 755 948)
Rac = A.H. Rackham (01483 358700)
Rae = Raeburn Fine Wines (0131 343 1159)
Rob = Roberson (020 7371 2121)
Sal = Saltaire Wines (01274 583629)
Sel = Selfridges (020 7318 3730)
Soh = Soho Wines (020 7636 8490)
Sou = Southern Wine Brands (01484 608898)
Spr = Spar (020 8426 3700)
Swi = Swig (020 7903 8311)
TWS = The Wine Society (01438 741177)
Unw = Unwins (01322 272711)
VH  = Vintage Hallmark (020-7408 1999)
Vic = Vicki's (01276 858374)
Vil = Villeneuve Wines (01721 722500)
Vin = Vintage House (020 7437 2592)
Vir  = Virginwines (0870 164 9593)
Was = Waddesdon Manor (01296 653247)
Wai = Waitrose (01344424680)
WiC = Wine Cellar (0800 838 251)
Wim = Wimbledon Wine Cellar (020 8540 9979)
Win = Thw Winecellar (01624 611793)
Wio = Winorama.com (0141 572 0446)
WRB = WineRack/Bottoms Up (01707 387 200)
Wri = T&A Wright (01204 697805)
Wtm - Winetime (015395 62030)

part 1 - visiting Cape Town and the Winelands
part 2 - profiles of the top estates
part 3 - 100 great South African wines