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Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2013 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on South Africa 2013.


This tasting features the wines of Fleur du Cap, plus three other labels within the 'Cape Legends' portfolio. It took place in the historic Bergkelder cellars of Fleur du Cap in Stellenbosch, hence it features in the Stellenbosch section of my South Africa 2013 report, though the other labels are based in different regions: Plaisir de Merle in Paarl, Lomond Estate in Cape Agulhas and the eponymous Durbanville Hills. The tasting features premium wines from each estate's portfolio.

Fleur du Cap, Stellenbosch

Fleur du Cap's wines are imported by Crush Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Fleur du Cap, Unfiltered Sauvignon Blanc 2012, South Africa
The Unfiltered is the reserve range from Fleur du Cap, cleared by sedimentation. Lovely fresh, crisp nose, a touch of leafy herbs, but clean, fresh and lemony. The palate adds a little more vibrant, fresh, but quite exotic fruit with hints of mango and lychee exoticism, and good racy acidity. Nice spark of freshness and orange and grapefruit freshness. 89/100. In this vintage there was fruit from Cape Agulhas and Elgin in the blend.

Fleur du Cap, Unfiltered Chardonnay 2012, South Africa
Racked straight to barrel. Nine months in barrel with battonage. Creamy with a touch of toast and a little buttered cabbage Burgundian character, with some real apple dryness but sense of richness too. The palate has intense, sweet fruit, flooding the palate with exotic flavours, the oak and lees adding a layer of almond and oatmeal silkiness, and a powerful wine though with a clean, quite lemony finish. 89-90/100.

Fleur du Cap, Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, South Africa
Malolactic in barrel and cleared by racking. From two Stellenbosch vineyards, 18 months in new French oak. Creamy black cherry and cassis on the nose, the oak adding creaminess rather than toast and charry character. Complex, creamy nose with good fruit. The palate has a big biting, plum skin tang as well as the sweet fruit, with a nicely dry finish and quite refined tannin quality. Tangy, pure and has some length. 90/100.

Fleur du Cap, Noble Late Harvest 2010, South Africa
10% alcohol and 235g/l residual sugar, 84% Chenin from Stellenbosch, 22% Semillon from Darling and 5% Muscadelle from Plaisir de Merle estate. Beautiful tea leaf and nettle notes adding to the glycerine and barley sugar, the pineapple and lychee richness is there too - a glace fruit quality too. "Will keep for 50 years". Superb toast and coffee, deliciously rich and vanilla laden, but the tang of tangerine and mandarin really cuts through, the delicious focus, magical length and vibrant finish. Superb and no oak - richness all comes from complex lees and skin contact in early stages of fermentation. 94/100.

Lomond Estate, Cape Agulhas

Lomond Estate's wines are imported by Crush Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Lomond, Pincushion Sauvignon Blanc 2011, South Africa
Tight, fresh, crisply fruited with citrus and apple, and has a touch of salty character. The palate is pin-sharp, with a real ripeness to the fruit hinting at tangerine, with really zippy, long finish and plenty of shimmering mineral acidity. Stays on lees for 9 - 11 months with stirring. 89-90/100.

Lomond, Sugarbush Sauvignon Blanc 2011, South Africa
Seems to have a little more creaminess on the nose, a touch more fat, but a fine precise fruit quality. The palate has a really dry character - not so much of the tropical hint, a little more direct, but tantalisingly long and fresh again. A cooler, more dry and apple character. 89-90/100.

Lomond, Cat's Tail Syrah 2011, South Africa
26 months in barrel. Big, ripe, very glossy nose of full black fruit, with chocolate and a touch mint, very big, very Barossa. The palate has mouth-coating extract, the tannins creamy and rich, with smoke, char and chocolate adding lots of depth and plush weight, but very long and full. 90/100.

Lomond, Conebush Syrah 2010, South Africa
24 months in barrel. A touch of eucalypt quality here, a touch of gaminess too. Lots of pepper and liquorice, lots of garrigue aromas. The palate has weight and depth, but there is just a bit more bite and a bit more energy in this cuvee, with tangy acids and the grippy, nicely roughening tannins adding some grip and some texture. 91-92/100.

Plaisir de Merle, Paarl

Plaisir de Merle's wines are imported by Crush Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Plaisir de Merle, Petit Plaisir 2011, South Africa
65% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot. Lovely meat-stock touched black fruit, with some smokiness and though solid and foursquare, seems quite cedary and refined. Very nice sweet fruit, lots of depth, lots of silky texture and weight, with rich chocolaty tannins and a fine acidity keeping it crisp. 88-89/100. In M&S at £8.99.

Plaisir de Merle, Malbec 2008, South Africa
Rounded, lots of violetty, bright fruit and a touch of kirsch as well as a touch of tobacco, but lovely sweetness of fruit comes through. The palate has very nice, sweet and bountiful fruit, lots of power and concentration, lovely long finish with lots of density and power here, a big wine and plum-rich and sweet, but the coffee and big structure is there. 88/100.

Plaisir de Merle, Shiraz 2009, South Africa
Seems to be a quite a lot of chocolate and char on this, as guessed and confirmed, more American oak used, a big creamy nose of dark, ripe black fruit. Quite creamy and chunky, with plenty of fruit depth, loads of spice and mocha, but it does have plummy sweet fruit and juiciness, the tang of the finish is good. Quite long, the oak is prominent. 88-89/100.

Plaisir de Merle, Grand Plaisir 2007, South Africa
40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Shiraz, 15% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot. 24 months in barrel, all new. Subtle, refined nose, with very refined fruit, the depth and concentration of fruit shrugging off the oak, which adds just a creamy background, a suede like caressing coffee in the background. The palate has lovely fresh, energetic fruit and tannin, lots dry extract, but lovely balance. Juicy enough and long, and seems very stylish and long. 92/100.

Durbanville Hills

Durbanville Hills' wines are imported by Crush Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Durbanville Hills, Biesjes Craal Sauvignon Blanc 2011, South Africa
Quite subtle, a little floral, with a touch of mango or lychee, leading on to very ripe fruit with nectarine and passionfruit spectrum, again finishing dry but perhaps with a touch of sweet and sour character with that ripe fruit making it seem a little cloying, even though there's only a touch of RS. 86-87/100.

Durbanville Hills, Rhinofields Sauvignon Blanc 2012, South Africa
Quite ripe and tropical on the nose, with more fruity character and less green, maybe just an undertow of nettle. Quite a rich palate - lots of texture and weight, the tropical fruit ripeness coming through on the palate. Quite big and sweet fruited this, finishing again with that slightly overwhelming character for me that flirts with sweet and sour character. 88/100.

Durbanville Hills, Rhinofields Chardonnay 2011, South Africa
Fine nose, the oak adding a little almond and cashew. Masses of fruit, plenty of fruit sweetness, the oak adding a coffeeish touch to the palate, playing against that sweetness, and finishing with good acidity, but once again the style seems a touch cloying too me, not sweet, but perhaps needing just a touch more absolute freshness. 87/100.

Durbanville Hills, Caapmans Cabernet Merlot 2008, South Africa
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 24 months in oak then 12 more in bottle before release. Attractive cedary, with fine black fruit, dry and savoury, with a touch of leathery, earthy quality and quite cool, spicy black fruit. Nice palate, lots of savoury quality and hinting at plush ripeness as well as those olive and cedar hints that give a juicy length. Good tannins but relatively soft, adding to the spicy, black fruited and quite easy drinking appeal. 88-89/100.

return to South Africa 2013