LIQUID INVESTMENTS: White wines edge reds, WineX shows
TASTING my way through a small selection of the 800 mainly current-release wines at WineX in Sandton last month, I was treated to a bird’s-eye view of the country’s indisputably dynamic wine industry.
Allowing that only about 250 of the country’s producers are big enough to justify attending a consumer wine show, the presence of 60% of them means that the line-up reflected an important overview of the country’s production. There was very little of the high-volume industrial wine.
There was also only a very small representation from the ultraboutique and garagiste end of the spectrum. The one to five barrel batches produced by the more adventurous winemakers contribute excitement to the debate. The finest examples are presold on allocation or within weeks of release.
National pride rather than statistical analysis drives the South African belief that the Springboks face the All Blacks on almost equal terms.
The wine industry has its own sustaining myth — the idea that our red wines are better than our whites, and are worth more money (and more emotional energy). Most critics and wine writers disagree. Where there are competitive judging environments (the Six Nations Challenge comes to mind) there is more objective evidence to support the strangely unfashionable view that the whites are significantly better than the reds.
That was certainly my impression from my WineX tastings. The 2014 vintage of the Vondeling Babiana is probably the best yet produced by the cellar. While the 2012 Erica Shiraz bagged a Platter five star, I’d rather be drinking the beautifully textured, delicately aromatic white blend. (I’d also happily destroy a platter of oysters with the cellar’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc — crisp, zesty and with distinct passion-fruit aromas.)
The 2014 Viognier from Lynx was another standout wine. Fresh (13.5%) and fragrant, but with lovely savoury textures on the palate, it was different from the oily, rich examples that have turned wine drinkers off the cultivar.
The Oak Valley Mountain Reserve 2010 was a splendid sauvignon-semillon blend. The Oak Valley Chardonnay — which has a Veritas Double Gold to its name — was showing rather too much oak, but should be fabulous in a few years.
Reyneke’s well-priced (R55) Sauvignon-Semillon 2015 blend was delicious, though the wooded Sauvignon (R85) was more complex.
For those seeking something more adventurous, the Leeuwenkuil Marsanne 2014 is delicious and refined, offering almost tangy mid-palate textures.
A new range of hand-crafted wines produced by BLANKBottle for Woolworths — exotic cultivars and blends — includes Nothing to Declare. It contains some marsanne, with roussanne, grenache blanc, viognier and clairette blanche. Unshowy, but with weight and texture in the mouth, it’s worth the effort of tracking down.
Several chardonnays impressed. The 2013 Richard Kershaw has a fabulous fruit weight and lovely intensity, with the oak perfectly in balance. The Meerlust 2014 is lighter, more citrus-like, less chunky. The 2014 Paul Cluver is beautifully expressive and has all the attributes of the 2009, that collected bagfuls of medals.