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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.

CAPE POINT / SAVAGE WINES

duncan-savage Last time I met up with Duncan Savage, winemaker at Cape Point Vineyards, was for a tasting and lunch at the nearby Food Barn restaurant where chef Franck Dangereux cooks up a storm. So it was a pleasure to visit the estate this time to see the vineyards and the unexpectedly popular visitor facilities that were thronging with scores of people tasting wines and enjoying the stunning views to False Bay on my visit. "We have just built this new cellar, and the tasting facilities and a restaurant," Duncan told me, and its success as a destination for Cape Town's wine lovers has been instant with the traffic jams for their Friday night barbecue almost closing the main road leading to the winery.

Duncan sites the four months he spent working with the late Didier Dagueneau in the Loire Valley as his inspiration for a career at Cape Point which has seen him seeking to make South Africa's most profound expression of Sauvignon Blanc. To that end he uses some Semillon in his blends and ferments and ages proportions of wine in barrels and in amphorae to add complexity to his various cuvées.

Duncan says 2013 is "looking amazing," and will be up there with the best recent vintages like 2005, 2010 and 2012. "It's bloody nice fruit and the biggest crop," he tells me. A man with an eager, restless mind, Duncan also plays constantly with the style of his wines. For the top cuvée called Isliedh he says "We're keeping the canopies much tighter and giving much more sun exposure than we used to. That will get really ripe, physiological and fruit sweetness without losing any acidity. I don't want the pyrozene or thiol character of a shaded canopy."

My visit also coincided with the release of Duncan's own side project, called Savage Wines. Initially a very small release of just two wines, a white and a red blend, there was much excitement around these wines which sell for 180 Rand locally, and which Duncan hopes will come to the UK eventually.

Cape Point Wines

UK importer of Cape Point is Swig. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Cape Point, Sauvignon Blanc 2011, South Africa
There's a little Semillon blended in (10%) and this was 20% barrel fermented in 600-litre old barrels. There's a lovely juiciness and passionfruit to this, some lychee and mango tropicality, the herbaceous character in the background, and plenty of fruit and freshness on the palate, a really nice, tight, mineral acidity and lemon squirt of acidity. 89/100.

Cape Point, Sauvignon Blanc 2012, South Africa
Tank fermented, with just 4% in barrel. Lovely fragrance here, the passionfruit and gooseberry again, the tropical subsumed by a little more pyrozene green too, but not at all overdone. Very tangy, lovely acidity again cutting through the nectarine and guava fruit. 90/100.

Cape Point, Sauvignon Reserve 2012, South Africa
Just taken out of the older barrels where it had been "for a year or so." Whole bunch pressed, and fermented with 50/50 natural and inoculated yeasts. Has more wild yeast character, with a gently earthy note, perhaps from the stems too, with a touch of clove and wheat, the palate showing a really tight lime fruit. 90-91/100.

Cape Point, Isliedh 2012, South Africa
25% Semillon here, along with a specific block of Sauvignon Blanc, blended straight after fermentation. It spent 10 months in 600-litre barrels, half new and half second fill. Much more open and passionfruity, delicious notes of guava and a lightly almondy, creamy character in the background. The palate has superb precision but balanced with a really lovely, poised, svelte character showing that blend of creamy richness and mineral precision and grapefruit cut. 93-94/100.

Cape Point, Chardonnay 2012, South Africa
"We were going to yank out the Chardonnay," says Duncan, "but we have such a big following here." Big, creamy, hazelnut nose, with lots of creaminess to the orchard fruits and lemon peel, lots of lime and tangerine to the acidity, the oak creamy and round and those hints of pineapple and riper, tropical fruit are delicious and it has good length. 91/100. This wine doesn't come to the UK.

Savage Wines

Savage Wines, White 2012, South Africa
From more inland vineyards, this blends 70% Sauvignon Blanc from vineyards that are 700 metres above sea level in Kaimansgaat, Walker Bay, with 30% Semillon from 50-year-old vineyards in Clanwilliam on the west coast. Lovely thin layer of cashew or almond over ripe and apple fruit, but with a little spice and a little gooseberry, tight and mineral. The palate has superb clarity and freshness, but there's a limpid, racy fruit quality to the acidity as opposed to the Isliedh's overt minerality, and that lovely gentle nuttiness. 92-93/100.

Savage Wines, Red 2011, South Africa
With only 12.5% abv, this blends 71% Syrah, 21% Grenache and 8% Cinsault from maritime properties in Darling, Piekenierskloof and a small vineyard near Cape Point. Plenty of herbaceous, olive and lightly green and earthy aromas, a touch of something resiny, but very pleasing and inviting. The fruit has a fine, dry, tight black cherry and blackcurrant fruit, but very tight. Really brightly focused fruit, the Cinsault giving a real tight, red fruit cut, then the riper, more svelte black fruit takes over, the acidity crunchy and juicy, the gentle spice and then lovely cherry ripe note to the fruit is what lingers. 91-92/100.

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