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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.


Journey's End is a new wine name with vineyards just five kilometres from the sea at False Bay, with wonderful views over to Cape Point.

It is owned by Roger Gabb, who owned Western Wines and its Kumala brand, which he sold to the Canadian company Vincor (before it in turn was acquired by the giant Constellation Brands). Originally the farm supplied a £14.99 wine to Kumala, but when Roger sold the company he kept this farm and re-launched under the Journey's End label.
   sa-journey-sea (32K)

The focus here is on single vineyard wines from estate fruit. Though not organic, there are minimum treatments: "We sprayed four times this year when most guys are spraying 14 or 15 times," says viticulturist Paul Fourie. A big barley cover crop helps reduce soil erosion on steep slopes and controls weeds. Paul also uses a concoction that includes molasses and chilli sauce that he paints onto vines to stop ants from going onto the vines, which in turn stops mealy bug, the creatures that spread virus between vines.

sa-journeys (27K)    Along with winemaker Leon Esterhuizen, Paul is also working with local environmentalists to reintroduce owls and ducks to control snails and other pests, and light quad-bikes are used around the vineyards which have less impact and use less fuel than tractors. There's a programme to eradicate blue gums (imported from Australia in the past) and allow the native fynbos to re-establish.

In terms of the wines, Leon Esterhuizen (left) grew up in Robertson before graduating in winemaking from Stellenbosch, then moving to Napa to work at Chappelle Estate, then to Yecla in Spain to work with Bodegas Castaño before starting at Journey's End in 2006. All of these influences are being used to coax distinct expressions from the various varieties and vineyard plots.

the wines

UK Agent is Bibendum Wines, but see all stockists on wine-searcher.

Journey's End Haystack Chardonnay 2009
Barrel aged for seven months in older oak. Nice layering of gentle vanilla and spice. Impression of sweetness from oak, ripe fruit and a touch of residual sugar. I find the sweetness perhaps slightly overdone, but this has class and a very drinkable style. £9.99. 88/100

Journey's End Chardonnay 2008
New French oak, nine months with battonage. More subtle nose in many ways, with discreet oak and a melony quality, a touch of green herbs. The palate has a big lemony core of fruit and acidity. The palate has lots of pithy acidity, and the quite complex, layered burnt orange and toast notes coming though into a long finish. 90/100. £12.99

Journey's End 'Pastor's Blend' 2007
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% merlot, 10% Shiraz. Named after a small church at the bottom of the farm where they can hear the singing on a Sunday. Now 15c of every bottle goes to the church. Aged 16 - 24 months in French oak, only 5% new. Touch of minty herb quality with nice blackcurrant. Gamy notes too and plenty of spice. Chocolate and plum and cherry fruit, a touch of cedar. Fresh and appetising. 88/100. £9.99

Journey's End Merlot 2006
Second vintage from a single block outside the winery. Mix of French and American oak, mostly older barrels. 10% Cabernet. Made in open fermenters. Dusty, spicy bramble fruit. Plenty of cedar and coffee. Nice rich, plumy fruit, lots of that spice and cedary character, but does have sweetness and again that coffeeish toast comes through. Quite long and chewily dense. 89/100. £12.99

Journey's End Shiraz 2005
All French oak, around 30% new. A slightly resinous quality with a little herbaceous note and cedary oak. Firm, quite herbaceous style, with plenty of spicy and leathery tones and a big, bold, quite rustic finish. 87/100.

Journey's End Cape Doctor Shiraz 2005
100% new French oak and a special part of the Shiraz block that is protected from the wind. Much more sweetness on the nose, from both the fragrant oak and the much riper fruit. There is a touch of the herbal notes, but a purer black fruit too. Lovely lip-smacking freshness on the palate, a bite of bitter cherry and plum skin and nicely silky tannins: smoother than the Shiraz. 91/100. £16.99

Journey's End Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Open fermenters on a very cool ferment, barrel aged. Very much spice driven, with tobacco and leafy notes and a dustiness to the black fruit. The palate has a little sweetness, with a sour cherry and bittersweet plum skins character, again retaining that juiciness and nicely balanced acid and tannins, in a very savoury style. 89/100.

return to South Africa 2010