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Hartenberg Estate, Stellenbosch

by Tom Cannavan, 11/04

Hartenberg Estate was a relatively new name to me when I tasted through their range in London earlier this year, courtesy of Hartenberg's new UK importer, H&H Bancroft, who have been bringing their wines into the UK since January 2009.

Owned by the Mackenzie family, the current incarnation of the Hartenberg label has existed only since 1985, though in fact this estate has been a wine growing farm since 1692, and has been in continuous grape production since then.

Hartenberg today

The Hartenberg estate lies in its own, self-contained valley in Stellenbosch, in the Bottelary hills, with a natural water source flowing through the property into a wetland system. This wetland occupies 65 of the farm's 170 hectares, and has never been cultivated. Winemaking practices seek to protect the wetland and there is an active conservation programme in place that involves both water management, the clearing of alien vegetation and the planting of cover crops between vine rows as a natural habitat for fauna.

Today, the estate is run by the daughters of Ken Mackenzie (a Bermuda-based businessman who bought the farm in 1986) along with winemaker Carl Schultz. A programme of investment has focused on replanting specific sites covering 55 hectares with premium grape varieties. Weather stations automatically monitor conditions, leading to a 50% reduction in the use of chemical sprays. Only French oak barrels are used in the cellar.
  

The profile of this estate has certainly been on the up as one the highest quality in South Africa, with five stars from John Platter for their top, Bordeaux-blend 'The Mackenzie', the trophy for 'Most Successful Producer' at the South African Airways Awards 2008 and the estate Merlot picking up the varietal Trophy at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

the wines

This is an impressive range of wines with modest prices for the quality on offer, and I have to say the top reds are amongst the best from South Africa in my experience. H&H Bancroft imports and retails these wines, but see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Lovely green pea pod and asparagus nose, hints of tropicality, the palate has great zest and life, with lovely clarity and intensity. Green bean and clear lime fruit. 89/100. £7.25

Weisser Riesling 2007
Clean, zesty, herbal nose with hints of wax and a touch of paraffin. The palate has a lovely hint of lemon rind, waxy fatness, with keen acidity and a juicy, concentrated finish. Dry, or just off-dry, but quite tangy and rich. 88/100. £6.65

Chardonnay 2006
Plenty of creamy, vanillin new oak. The fruit is good - ripe orchard fruits. The palate has a richness and weighty, creamy texture. Lovely zest here too, with touches of orange and grapefruit. Lovely quality here. 90/100. £7.75

Eleanor Chardonnay 2005
Again more creamy, lightly toasty oak of very good quality. Refined tropical fruit and lime beneath. The palate has lovely texture and concentration, with a clean, lime-like acidity giving an edge to sweet, tropical, quite unctuous fruit. Stays very clean and focused. 91/100. £15.20

Pinotage 2005
Very nice, creamy black fruit nose, with a chocolate and espresso background, but very subtle. The palate has more of that super-sweet black fruit, that is ripe and creamy, with a nice bite of tannin and spice. Very long and full of flavour - and alcohol at 15.5%. 90/100. £8.40

Merlot 2006
Quite earthy, schisty and smoky. Fruit is cool and seems lean. Bursts into life on the palate, with quite decisive cherry and blackberry fruit, but tempered with some tight, juicy tannins and spice, and good acidity. £11.75

Cabernet Shiraz 2005
Nice nose with cedar and earth and cool restraint. On the palate the spice and tannins slightly out-punch the fruit, but it is savoury and chewy, and is a good food wine. 87/100. £6.90

Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Tight, refined, cedar, sweet spice and black fruit. The palate has plenty of biting, juicy, vital black fruit with both glossy sweetness and crisp, lithe energy. Tight and sinewy tannins adding texture and grip. 92/100. £9.95

Shiraz 2005
Schisty and cool, with blue/black fruit quality. Subtle background oak supports and a hint of juicy ripeness. Lovely, elegant, medium-bodied stuff on the palate with a creamy texture and nice nipping tannins and acidity adding freshness. 90/100. £12.10

The Mackenzie Cabernet Merlot 2005
Lovely nose, brimming with ripe, spicy, creamy black fruits with plenty of gloss and succulent depth. The palate has a cool, pure, restrained black fruit quality with a nice tang and life about it. Lovely composure and balance of richness and restraint. 93/100. £23.10

The Stork Shiraz 2004
From a specific vineyard on red clay soils. Hugely intense, creamy, black fruit and meat stock nose, yet has roundness and fat. The palate has great presence too, the meaty, bacon fat richness suffused through thick, sweet black fruit. Lovely balance here, with very good concentration and a huge finish. 94/100. £24.65

H&H Bancroft imports and retails these wines, but see all stockists on wine-searcher.com.