Find wines and prices




Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2013 Tom Cannavan

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


david I think it's fair to say that David Trafford knows the Blaauwklippen Valley better than anyone else. His parents bought the farm, at that time virgin land, in the 70s as retirement project. In this disease-free, clean area protected by the once impassable mountains on either side, they established a rootstock farm - nurseries of disease-free rootstock to supply the wine industry. "But," says David, "cutting little sticks and selling little sticks was very boring so they decided to start making some wine."

The De Trafford farm is at the end of the road leading up through the valley, sitting at around 380 metres above sea level. Between 1984 and 1991 a little wine was made, mostly for the consumption of family and friends. It was in 1991 that quota restrictions affecting the whole of Cape wine production were lifted and the family immediately established a winery and began extensive plantings of red wine grape varieties and Chenin Blanc.

This is a determinedly boutique operation producing only 3,500 cases, and made by a man with a very clear idea of the style of wine this Valley does best. De Trafford's reds are big wines, weighing in with 15-15.5% alcohol on average and big in flavour, concentration and structure. Qualifying originally as an architect, he says "I never chose winemaking as a profession - it was thrust upon me. I live on land with such great vineyard potential that it was impossible not to get involved in the wine business." Indeed, despite the slightly 'blockbuster' nature of these wines, they are impeccably made. Since the start only natural yeasts have been used for fermentation, and the concentration is brought about through dense planting and careful management of the vines.

the wines

De Trafford's wines are imported by Bibendum. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

De Trafford, Chenin Blanc 2012, South Africa
The only dry white wine in the portfolio, this is barrel fermented and mixes grapes from Blaauwklippen and another farm near Somerset West. It has a lovely honeyed nose, and 15% ageing in new oak adds real nutty tones to the apple, just hints of vanilla too. The palate has lovely acidity (there is no malolactic fermentation) and fresh lemony cut to the richer style. A bit of orange and tropical fruit builds, but it has lovely purity and length. 90/100.

De Trafford, Merlot 2009, South Africa
In this vintage a huge fire might have affected the wines slightly. The 2009 vintage has 15% abv, and this wine has been made since De Trafford started in 1992 "The Merlot stood out as a complete wine on its own," says David, "so we decided to bottle it as a varietal." A touch of tomato-leaf green character, and yes a bit of smokiness. Clean, ripe black fruit. The palate has a lot of structure, a lot of ripe and creamy black fruit, a tight, fresh finish with the alcohol not too bothersome. 90-91/100.

De Trafford, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, South Africa
There's also "a little bit," of Merlot and Petit Verdot in this 15% abv wine blended from estate and some bought-in fruit. Delightful spice and tobacco character, that touch of cedar. Plenty of pure, silky cassis fruit and very clean and deliciously smooth and rich. The palate has a tight, juicy character, with lots of creamy and crisp, fresh flavour, quite aromatic with a little anise and liquorice and a long finish. 90/100.

De Trafford, Syrah 393 2010, South Africa
A lot of wind damage in 2010 reduced the crop in this wine from a vineyard planted at 393 metres around David's house. It has 15.5% abv and us aged in 50% new oak, "but very neutral, light toast," says David. The fruit is really to the fore here, with a little floral note, and a background showing a touch of resin from the oak only, no toast though. Nice and pure. Massive sweetness and ripeness on the palate, a great juiciness at the core of this, the fruit sweetness all encompassing and even a touch confiture, the tannins fine and ripe and well-balanced with a subtle acid core keeping it fresh despite a little alcoholic heat. 90-91/100.

De Trafford, Elevation 393 2007, South Africa
A more moderate 14.5% abv from a good vintage, this is Cabernet Sauvignon with 20% Shiraz,27% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc aged in 100% new oak. A leafy, herb and green herb and olive tinged nose with a lovely gaminess and the refined black fruit beneath is savoury and pure. The Palate is delicious, no sign of the greenness in the fruit or tannins, with a touch of coffee and game, the pure cassis and spice filling in to a long, deliciously balanced finish. Terrific and long. 93/100.

De Trafford, Straw Wine 2010, South Africa
All Chenin, dried on racks under the trees for three weeks before natural fermentation in older barrels. This took two years to ferment and ended up with 11% alcohol and 250g/l of residual sugar. A darker more caramel colour than the cordon cut wine from Keermont tasted alongside, this has a honey and lemon glycerine nose, with viscous, rich palate creaming over the tongue, that intense fruit sweetness, a touch of glacé fruits and the toast and a touch of coffee in the finish. delicious balance with the juicy tang of tangerine freshness. 93/100.

See all stockists on wine-searcher.

return to South Africa 2013