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wine of the week 17/08/2008

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  Julien Schaal (S. Africa) Merlot Petit Verdot 2006
This is an intriguing wine from an intriguing estate. Young winemaker Julien Schaal produces wines both in Alsace, northern France, and in South Africa's Cape. In South Africa his wines are made at the Newton Johnson winery in the cool, coastal Hermanus region, but he uses fruit from various other cool climate areas, including Elgin, the Cape's Riesling heartland. This blend (80% of which is Merlot) is aged in large, 900-litre barrels from Burgundy. Nicely schisty and smoky on the nose, there is a racy black fruit quality that has a suggestion of complex depth, showing some tobacco and fennel notes. It is quite racy and crisp on the palate too, with refined tannins and a taut core of acidity, but the plummier depth of the fruit swells on the mid-palate, and the warming background depth of oak also adds a more plump, mellow appeal. Lovely stuff this, and very carefully thought through. 10.85, Handford, Ethical Wines, Ballantynes, Everywine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com