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Seven Springs, South Africa

by Tom Cannavan, 07/14

bottle It's a couple of years since I last reported on the wines of Seven Springs vineyard from South Africa, the project of British husband and wife team, Tim and Vaughan Pearson. Since buying the land in 2006, the Seven Springs team has made great progress. Though immediately impressive, the wines have been improving steadily under young winemaker Riana van der Merwe and vineyard manager Peter Davison. Tim contacted me recently to let me know how delighted he was that the wines had picked up Bronze medals in the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards (for their two Chardonnays) and a Gold medal for their Syrah.

Subsequently, Tim arranged for samples of their latest releases to be sent to me by their English importer Great Estates (in Scotland the wines are distributed by L'Art du Vin). It is an impressive portfolio of wines without a doubt, each well-made but also very nicely pitched between savoury, serious and food-friendly character and very vivid and highly drinkable varietal expressions. The Seven Springs vineyard is in the Hemel en Aarde Valley, between the towns of Hermanus and Caledon, with ocean influence and the typical 'Bokkeveld' shale soils of the region. "When we think of how much progress we have made since buying the land in 2006 we have to pinch ourselves," says Tim. "It is the effort, skills and hard work of Riana and Peter that have made this happen. Having a vision is one thing, taking a risk another, but without the abilities of everyone involved none of this would be possible."

the wines

white wines

Seven Springs Vineyard, Sauvignon Blanc 2012, South Africa
As with their earlier releases, this is a Sauvignon Blanc that nods towards Europe as much as it does towards New Zealand in terms of its pitch and style. The nose is relatively subdued, offering citrus and a creamy suggestion of roundness and concentration. On the palate there is only a trace of elderflower or gooseberry herbaceousness - this Sauvignon seems to be more about texture and cool orchard fruit character, with a lovely freshening thrust of lemon and lime in the finish. 89/100. £10.75, Amps Fine Wine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Seven Springs Vineyard, Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, South Africa
This wine vied with others in the Seven Springs portfolio as my most enjoyable. Fermented and aged in stainless steel, it is its ripeness and lees contact that gives such a lovely aroma: crushed almond melds with lemon-meringue pie, all sorts of luscious hints, but with a core of steely precision. On the palate it is full-textured and weighty, with fat lemon and lime fruit and fruit-skin tang, lots of those waxy peel notes and lovely length and concentration. Hints of spices and honeyed sweetness play against savoury and decisive, dry acidity in the finish. 91/100. £12.99, Wineyard & Deli (Lancashire). See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Seven Springs Vineyard, Chardonnay 2011, South Africa
This cuvée was fermented in second- and third-fill, 300-litre barrels, 20% American and 80% French, using a combination of wild and commercial yeasts. It aged a further 11 months on the lees in barrel. There is more overt oak influence than on the 2010, with toast and a whisper of Jack Daniels, all nicely nutty with a rounded lime and apple fruitiness beneath. On the palate it is a big wine with over 14% alcohol, but the acidity tempers that, and there is no sense of tropical über ripeness. There is good fruit sweetness through the mid-palate, and the oak does not dominate the finish, it adds only a gentle spice and buttery toast to the clean, mineral-etched flavours. A very different wine from the unoaked 2012, and delicious. 91/100. £15.25, Amps Fine Wine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

red wines

Seven Springs Vineyard, Syrah 2012, South Africa
Seven Springs Syrah was excellent in the previous 2010 vintage, but I confess that this Gold Medal winner is even better and is a hugely promising portent as the vines age. Deep and vibrant in colour, the nose is just gorgeous, the wisp of cracked stone, the slick of black fruit and the background of flowers - violet creams even - white pepper and gentle earthiness. The palate is flooded with ripe, silky black fruit, but not at all jammy or overblown. Despite 14.5% alcohol, this has genuine freshness with a crispness to the tannin and acid framework, and the pin-point precision of the black fruit pushing through in a finely-tuned finish. 92/100. £14.50, bouchonwinebar.com. See all current stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Seven Springs Vineyard, Young Vines Pinot Noir 2012, South Africa
Fear not that this is boldly declared as 'young vines'. 'Old Vines' doesn't necessarily guarantee quality, and believe me, this second vintage of wild yeast-fermented Pinot is fragrant and rich, with a touch of game and blood, solid plummy fruit and just a glimpse of more delicate floral and woodland nuances. It is juicy and savoury, the 10 months in older oak adding some clove and smokiness to really sweet fruit, a glimpse of raspberry ripple softness, but that plum and briar character and the 14% alcohol give it flesh and substance. Finishing on natural spice and deep-set fruit, it is a lovely Pinot in a more solid style, but not without elegance. 90-91/100. £15.75, Amps Fine Wine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

7springs.co.za