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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.


I was delighted that Willie and Tania de Waal met for lunch with myself and Chris Mullineux to present their wines. The de Waal's are a no-nonsense couple who in 1999 added a wine operation to their family, which was founded by Willie's great-grandfather in 1877 on the proceeds of a huge 44 carat diamond he had uncovered.

Willie and Tanya had grown grapes for years, and indeed made a little wine for home consumption and the enjoyment of friends, but their success, particularly with Pinotage, led then to pursue a quality dream. Today production is still only around 1,000 cases, and three wines are produced: a white blend, a Pinotage, and accounting for the bulk of production, a Syrah with fermentation in large oak vats, and ageing in French barriques. Farming is sustainable.
   sa-scali (40K)

A commitment in London meant that neither Eben Sadie nor Adi Badenhorst where in the area at the time of my visit, so with huge generosity Chris Mullineux gathered up wines from them and the region's other estates for a tasting in his cellars.

the wines of Scali

Scali's importer is Stewart Rankine Imports, but see all stockists on wine-searcher.

2007 Scali Blanc
A Chenin-dominant blend with Chardonnay and Viognier. Some of the fruit was raisined, then de-stemmed and given a long, skin contact. Willie says it was "made in open top fermenters in a red wine style." It has a bold, yellow colour, and nice, rich, honey and wax notes, great sultan richness. Lovely fruit sweetness here, with a palate-filling, waxy weight. Interesting style, almost like Josko Gravner. 89/100

2006 Scali Pinotage
Cold soaked with carbon dioxide to extract colour and flavour before alcoholic fermentation in open top French oak fermenters, with extended skin contact post-ferment, for around 30 days in total. There's a touch of spice on the nose as well as copious, smooth, juicy black fruit. The palate has cedar and a certain spicy richness, with a lovely silkiness and chocolate-rich tannins. 91/100

2006 Scali Syrah
Same winemaking as the Pinotage, though aged in oak for a little longer. From a decomposed granite soil. Lovely lifted, clear, almost floral perfume here. The ripe black fruit comes through, with a certain chocolaty smoothness. 91/100.

the wines of other producers

2009 Babylon's Peak Chenin Blanc
The highest vineyards in the area at 350 metres. Bright green apple fruit and a definite zing here. Bold and juicy, with plenty of herbal, leafy fresh fruit. 88. With Alliance Wines in the UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher

2008 Sequillo by Eben Sadie White
Chenin dominates with lots of Mediterranean varieties in small quantities. Very aromatic, with lightly oxidised, Rhôney entry, with lots of richness and honey. Snaps together on the palate, with delicious tang and vibrancy - big orangey blast with citrus and mineral acidity coming through. 92/100. With Richards Walford in the UK, around £14. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

2008 Lammershoek Roulette Blanc
Lammershoek are a very important name in Swartland, not only as one of the biggest producers, but as suppliers of grapes to many other people from their old vines. Quite a mellow, Chardonnay dominated nose (blended with Chenin and Viognier) with a gently toasty character. Lovely sweet fruit becomes quite peachy, and the toasty oak fills the finish. 90/100. With Richards Walford. See all stockists on wine-searcher

2008 Palladius by Eben Sadie
Sadly a corked bottle and the only one sent along. See all stockists on wine-searcher

2007 AA Badenhorst White
Adi Badenhorst was ex-winemaker at Rustenburg. Roussanne with Grenache, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc. Lovely fat and peachy nose with buttery qualities and fine fruit sweetness. Great presence here, with fabulous perfume and rich, sweet mouthful of fruit. Delicious stuff with dazzling acidity. 93/100. With Swig in the UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher

2008 Babylon's Peak Shiraz Carignan
A tiny green note here, a little resinous but decent fruit beneath. Big and rich, with a robust, chunky fruit and quite a full, fleshy mouthful with good definition of tannins and acids. 89

2007 Babylon's Peak Syrah
Italian tinned tomato quality, a touch baked perhaps. Good fruit and balance, but that slightly stewed quality detracts.

2006 Sequillo Red by Eben Sadie
Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan and Grenache aged in 500-litre barrels. Quite schisty and smoky, a touch of reduction, but the black fruit on the palate is clearly very sophisticated with fantastic length and precision ion the finish. 92/100

2006 AA Badenhorst Red
Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Cinsault. Big, open, smoky and schisty nose with a dry extract quality that is a touch ashy. The palate has fine, juicy fruit, but then it seems a touch extracted - a touch - ashy. Still a really nice wine with great black fruit. I would have liked it a tiny bit less extracted. 90/100.

2007 Columella by Eben Sadie
Around 85% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre. Beautifully fleshy and dense, with loads of chocolate and meaty quality. Great density and natural extraction here, soaks up the 100% new wood. Very impressive palate, with a juicy sweetness to the fruit, but savoury, dense and beautifully structured. Big, but really beautiful. 95/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

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