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Tasting notes from South Africa

text and photographs © 2013 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on South Africa 2013.


gunter The Kleinood farm is the third name of the Blaauwklippen Valley, the land purchased and planted only in 2000 by Gerard de Villiers and their first release in 2005. Gerard is a direct descendant of Jacob de Villiers, a name synonymous with the birth of the Cape Wine industry when he set up the Boschendal wine farm in 1688. Gerard and his wife Libby say they found "a piece of land that stole our hearts," when they discovered Kleinood complete with its river and a pristine indigenous forest. Kleinood is an Afrikaans word meaning 'small and precious'.

Wines from the estate appear under the Tamboerskloof label. Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Roussanne and Viognier were planted on the sunny North and West facing slopes, which winemaker Gunter Schultz (right) told me were mostly sandstone with some red clay. Once again, the planting here has been informed by South Africa's current obsession with getting the match of vine to soil perfectly aligned. For their Shiraz for example, four different French Syrah clones were selected for each plot. "We're trying to make the wines more terroir based," says Gunter, adding "There's not a lot of new wood in our cellar - and that's not a budget issue." Indeed, before planting 150 inspection pits were dug across the 13-hectare estate in order to really understand the soils.

Gerard de Villiers has a parallel career as a successful winery engineer around the world. In day to day charge of the operation, Gunter Schultz also oversees the olive oil production from two hectares of trees, and clearly loves this land. He appears to have encyclopaedic knowledge of the fynbos, and stresses the importance of biodiversity on the farm. Gunter's overseas experience has included working at Miranda Wines in the Barossa, Australia, Sonoma Cutrer in California and Delgats in New Zealand. "Wine must taste of where it comes from, not what you have done to it," he says. "Making wine is never simple and there are no shortcuts."

the wines

Tamboerskloof's wines are imported by Marc Fine Wines. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Tamboerskloof, Katharine Rosé 2012, South Africa
100% Syrah grown specifically for rosé, this is "picked an pressed almost straight away," according to Gunter and is a natural yeast ferment. It has a light colour from short skin contact in the press, and 13% abv. Delicate, herb and dry mineral quality, a nice fresh raspberry fruit but not too jammy. Very dry on the palate, with lovely savoury character, has that food-friendly bite and juicy savour. 88/100.

Tamboerskloof, Viognier 2012, South Africa
Almost all steel fermentation with natural yeast, but a little bit in older barrels. Three different pickings, one for acid "like a Champagne base wine", says Gunter, then a medium and a super-ripe portion. Delightfully fragrant nose but not too floral, with a mineral freshness and good pear and apricot fruit, but dry and has that natural yeast savour. The palate has lovely balance, with good fruit and a bit of savoury leanness. Fresh and nicely taut. 89/100.

Tamboerskloof, Syrah 2008, South Africa
With 4% Mourvèdre and 1% Viognier, all vinified in 300 litre and 500 litre barrels, around 20% new. Seventeen different vineyard blocks were fermented separately. Fairly dense colour but with light on the rim. Delightfully ripe, cherry and cranberry, lots of spice and lovely floral, light notes. The palate is deliciously smooth and ripe, with a chocolaty richness, 20 months in oak adding a smoky, creamy depth, and lovely freshness in the finish. The tannins give a fine, precise grip and the acidity freshens. 14.5% abv. 91/100.

Tamboerskloof, Syrah 2009, South Africa
14.5% abv again, this has a much brighter, more primary colour. A little reduced at this stage, but airing releases lovely and similar aromas to the 2008, with a little more chocolate and black fruit, a little more spice. There's a refined touch of gamines and leather adding extra complex, a smoother and richer palate with delicious depth. Will be the better wine with time I think. 92/100.

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