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Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2010 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on South Africa 2010.


Though Creation say their story is "as old as the hills," in fact this is a new, boutique operation on the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge that is for now off the beaten track along a dirt road that rises through increasingly cooler temperatures. Vineyards were planted here in 2003, with virus-free stock on virgin land. Winemaker JC Martin (right) says he has planted "A lot of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, a bit less Chardonnay," though there is also some Semillon and, for red wines, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Grenache.   

In fact Creation's story leads back to Neuchâtel, Switzerland, where winemaker JC and viticulturist Christoph Kaser met and first dreamed up the idea of making wines in the Cape. Creation wines does have a funky, welcoming tasting room and cafe, so a visit is well worth the trek, but then so are the wines which at this stage show real promise without competing with the Hemel-en-Aarde's best. On this tasting, the cool conditions of the Ridge make their plantings of Bordeaux varieties somewhat ambitious in my opinion. During tasting, I questioned their decision to plant Cabernet Sauvignon in particular: "We strongly believe in Merlot for this region," says JC, "and despite being a very popular cultivar, South Africa has almost no Merlot. I admit Cabernet is challenging, but maybe we need the vineyards to age to get the best from the variety."

the wines

Wines not in UK as of May 2010. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Creation Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Five clones of Sauvignon from estate vineyards with a touch of Semillon. Nice passionfruit notes, with a certain salty minerality and some leafy lime and lemon notes. Nice complexity on the palate, with lots of crowd-pleasing punch and verve. 88/100

Creation Chardonnay 2009
20% Vosges oak, 100% malolactic and no acid added. Only very gentle oak adding a little nutty edge, though not a fantastically aromatic nose. Nicely buttery and orange palate, with a strong mineral streak of acidity. Seems like a wine that needs to come together a little, but has very good components. 89/100

Creation Pinot Noir 2009
Picked fully ripe, but still has minerality and acidity. Lovely fragrance here, with floral notes and just a little hint of truffly earthiness over the spicy red fruit. The palate has a definite freshness and cut, with plenty of red fruit acidity and the spice coming through, giving this a firm finish, touched with liquorice and gravelly minerality. 90/100.

Creation Syrah Grenache 2008
14.5% alcohol, 12 months in barrels, 25% new. About 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. Picked fully ripe, but still had to remove some acidity. Chocolaty and ripe, with a rounded cherryish and blackcurrant fruit and some charry oak notes. A big wine, huge and chocolaty, with the big espresso and thick, glossy black fruit New World character. Huge, but balanced and delicious of its style. 89/100.

Creation Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2008
A little touch of earthiness and a herbal background note, but nicely ashy and graphite qualities. The palate has a juiciness and nice supple roundness, maybe the sweet fruit butting against the tannin and oak a little, but should gain a little more integration and harmony in time. 89/100.

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