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south africa

Nouveau Riche

[leaf]Le Riche 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – Concentrated and round, showing plum, blueberry, and some herbality. Eucalyptus is also present. Long and dense, especially on the finish. Nicely formed, with good aging potential. (2/08)


[winemaker]Sizanani 2006 Pinotage (Bottelary) – Good, fruity aromatics, mixed chocolates, some drying paint. Spice, with a highly milky, lactic note, form the finish. Makeup has been applied, but the bad old pinotage characteristics remain. (2/08)


[estate]Bellevue Estate “Tumara” 2002 “Titan” (Stellenbosch) – Chocolate, bitter leaves, black dirt, and endless green lines. No good. (2/08)

Today or Tumara

[vineyards]Bellevue Estate “Tumara” 2004 Pinotage (Stellenbosch) – Chocolate, big fruit, smoked chocolate, and thick, sludgy structure. OK, if you like tar. (2/08)

MM MM good

Signal Hill 2000 “Old Vines” Cabernet Sauvignon “Antica MM” (Western Cape) – Strikingly raw, with zings and abraded cuts of acidity. This tastes like it’s actually made from true wild vines, with a feral sort of black-hearted, untamed fruit and exotic herbs and spices. There’s a bit of chalky-textured chocolate as well, with a bitter, twisted, yet not actually unpleasant finish of somewhat insufficient length. An utterly fascinating wine. I can’t decide if I like it or not. Worth special mention: the label, which is…well, it depicts what appears, at first glance, to be a man in affectionate congress with the hindquarters of a swine. Is that what it actually is? I have no idea, and I’m not sure I want to know. (4/08)

Ernie, no Bert

[vineyard]Engelbrecht Els 2004 “Proprietor’s Blend” (Western Cape) – 50% cabernet sauvignon, 23% shiraz, 12% merlot, 5% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot, 5% malbec. Extremely thick and oaky, like a shiraz (and that’s what dominates the blend at first opening) démiglace. Recorked and left to stew in its own wood for a day, it improves, bringing forth the slightly rawer, more vegetal edge of the rest of the grapes. But it’s still soupy. Maybe a long, long time in the cellar will improve things, but I just don’t think there’s enough structure for all this Pb. (4/08)

Bosch dishwashers

[vineyard]Neil Ellis 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch) – Unmistakably cabernet, with tobacco, bell pepper, cedar, and a lot of militaristic structure. But nothing is overblown or overdone, the oak has almost totally integrated, and there’s a great deal of promise here…though despisers of all that is green probably won’t be impressed. It’s not a generous wine by any means, and the finish continues to dash and dust various forms of pepper, but it’s a very creditable effort, with medium-term aging likely to bring rewards. (4/08)

Goenekloof under the weight

[vineyard]Neil Ellis 2006 Sauvignon Blanc (Groenekloof) – Varietally true, with an extra heft of stark greenness over a firm slate foundation; this wine is sharp, almost razor-like, yet simultaneously elevated and almost airy. It’s definitely not shy. (3/08)

Cluver honey

[vineyard]Paul Cluver 2005 Gewurztraminer (Elgin) – Aromatic and promising, leaning towards the vegetative expression of gewürztraminer (curry leaves, Makrut, coriander seed pods, whole lychee on the stem), but with enough of the usual spice to provide varietal consistency. I’m less enthusiastic about the rest, though, as the palate seems a little wan despite a lot of promising entrances from the usual array of nut oils, Indian spices, and stone fruits, and the finish tails off and disappears rather more quickly than I’d like. (3/08)

When you taste the Southern Right for the first time

Southern Right 2006 Pinotage (Walker Bay) – Big, explosive fruit that presses and shoves its way onto the palate. Dark berries and smokier chocolate notes are paired with the usual unfortunate furniture polish aromas, but here they’re more subversive than irritating, and seem to drift all the way into the background with food. I rather like this, though it’s no good as a cocktail. (2/08)