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L'Avenir, South Africa

by Tom Cannavan, 07/06

The Stellenbosch estate of L'Avenir was founded only in 1992, but rose rapidly through the ranks of South Africa's best wine producers to become something of an icon label, producing only around 25,000 cases of wine per year, but all of the highest quantity.

In October 2005 Chablis producer Michel Laroche staged quite of a coup when he purchased the domaine from its founder for an undisclosed sum. Laroche is partnered in the venture by AXA Insurance (who have wine interests around the globe) and it seems likely that even bigger and better things are on the cards for the L'Avenir estate.

This small tasting of L'Avenir's wines was extremely impressive. The wines are now being brought into the UK by Bibendum Wines, so availability of these very sought-after wines should also improve.
 

the wines

L'Avenir (South Africa) Chenin Blanc 2005
Dry-farmed Chenin from a 30-year-old vineyard, this shows what marvellous potential this grape has in the Cape when grown and handled carefully. It has a lovely nose: rich, mealy, with plenty of nutty and apple fruit and a sense of depth. On the palate there's an immediate sweetness, with plenty of racy, crisp pear and apple and a little hint of more tropical ripeness. Lovely acidity is crisp but integrated and supportive. Beautiful stuff. 89/100. £8.99.

L'Avenir (South Africa) Sauvignon Blanc 2005
Fine nose, with a sense of minerality and smoky, flinty character melding with more pungent, gooseberry and green fruit notes. On the palate a similar quality, with the juiciness and ripeness of fruit playing nicely against crisp, fine, mouth-watering acidity with plenty of verve and bite. 88/100. £9.99.

L'Avenir (South Africa) Pinotage 2004
Extremely ripe, plush nose with loads of spicy mulberry and dark, ripe fruit. The palate has charming fruit, with a great deal of spice and fresh, but sweet and mouthfilling fruit. Very nicely made, with a long, spicy finish. 88/100. £11.99.

L'Avenir (South Africa) Pinotage Grand Vin 2004
This is L'Avenir's top expression of the Pinotage grape, and it is deeper, darker, with a more cedary and leathery sense of structure and depth than their basic bottling. The palate has a layering of French oak that is somewhat impenetrable at present, but the depth and richness of fruit is certainly there, and this is packed with a taut, quite muscular presence, supple tannic framework and lots of plushness and spice. Very promising, but already outstanding. 91/100. Around £24.99