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Cloof Wines, South Africa

by Tom Cannavan, 09/08

Vineyards were first planted at Cloof in the Cape's Darling region in 1966, with additional plantings in 1976 and 1987. At the time darling was better known as a wheat farming region. A cellar was completed in time for the 1998 harvest, which allowed the first release of Cloof wines during the course of 1999, and more planting followed in subsequent years bringing the total planted to 145 hectares, with 220 hectares at neighbouring Burghers Post under the same ownership. In 2003 Darling was declared a wine region in its own right

Quoting from Cloof's web site, they say: "There are easier ways of making wine, but we believe that - under local conditions - bush vines are not only necessary, but also integral to the unique style and quality of Cloof wines. The prevailing south-easterly wind protects the fruit from rot, and at night cloaks the vineyards in chilly, flavour-preserving air blown in from the Atlantic Ocean. The bush vines provide a canopy which shades the grapes from direct sunlight. The smaller crop results in smaller berries with thicker skins, and much more concentrated flavours."

Cloof's wines have impressed me in the past (including a couple of 'Wine of the Week awards) and they recently sent me this selection to try

All of Cloof's wines are available through their direct selling arm in the UK, winesulike.co.uk

  

white

Cloof Daisy Darling Chenin Sauvignon 2007
Cloof's Daisy Darling is named in honour of the Cape's biodiversity, and is a 60% Chenin Blanc and 40% Sauvignon Blanc blend, with some of the Chenin vines over 40 years old. It pours a pale lemony straw colour with a nose of crunchy green apple backed up by a grassy, herbal streak. On the palate the character of both varieties comes through, with more of that green-tinged, nettle and herb quality of the Sauvignon, and a solidly fruity but sharp and tangy Chenin. Though the fruit is ripe and adds a certain mid-palate sweetness, this finishes with stylish, dry acidity. £6.67, winesulike.co.uk

red

Cloof Inkspot Vin Noir 2005
A blend of 78% Pinotage, 12% Shiraz and 10% Cinsault, just 12% of the blend was aged in French oak barriques for 12 months. The colour is a vibrant garnet, and the nose offers intriguing, fairly high-toned notes of dried cherry fruit and herbs, with touches of menthol and just a background gaminess. On the palate this has sweet, ripe cherry and red plum fruit, with that herbal edge still showing through, but not in an unpleasant way. There's quite a tight, liquoricy quality to the finish of this wine, with dry tannins and keen cherry skin acidity, and a leathery component that is savoury to the end. Unusual and enjoyable. £7.49, winesulike.co.uk.

Cloof The Dark Side 2005
A blend of 89% Cabernet Sauvignon with some Shiraz, about 54% of the blend was aged in French Oak barriques for 12 months. It has a deep ruby colour and a nose of overripe fruit, with a touch of gravy browning and Italian tomato from very ripe Cabernet Sauvignon. An infill of vanilla and richness of black berries comes through. On the palate the fruit is powerful and spicy, with the sweet-edge of ripeness on the front-palate soon giving way to more liquoricy concentration and grip. In the finish the wine shows plenty of tannin and acidity, with a dry, savoury character that stops just short of over-extraction. Quite a lot of bang for the buck here. £7.49, winesulike.co.uk

Cloof Cellar Blend 2005
I enjoyed the previous release of Cloof's chunky Cellar Blend, a wine made from press wine - the strongest must, squeezed from the grapes - in this case Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cinsault. This 2005 edition has a typically robust nose, crammed with berry fruits and an earthy spiciness. There's a touch of eucalyptus here, and a smoky quality from 15% new French oak in the barrel ageing. On the palate this is bold, bloody and chewy, with a welter-weight of flavour and those big, rustic, chunky tannins adding an almost medicinal grip. This is great stuff, that's as honest as the day is long, and packed full of brawny personality. £8.33, winesulike.co.uk.

Cloof The Very Sexy Shiraz 2005
This Shiraz spent 14 months in barrel, all French Oak, of which 50% was new. It has a very dark, vibrant crimson colour, and a nose that is peppery and spicy, with a hint of nutmeg before lifted red fruit and blackberry aromas come through. On the palate there's a silkiness about the texture here, with very sweet and ripe, mouth-filling berry fruit that is plush and svelte. There's a dark edge of chocolate and plum skins, and then the smokiness of the oak joins in. Tannins are firm here and pretty chunky and powerful, but they are ripe and rich, and together with a cherry skin acidity, freshen the finish of this wine. It is quite a big, full-on style (with 15% alcohol), but is a bit of an iron first in a velvet glove. £8.33, winesulike.co.uk.