6th February 2016 : "South Africa vs. South America - a comparative tasting" hosted by Jill & Bryan in Worthing
Bryan worked very hard to put together this comparative tasting between two New World regions, South Africa and South America. His main criteria in selecting the evening's wines were initially vinification method and grape variety - in most cases the wines were of a single variety unblended - followed by an attempt to closely match price/bottle for each example. The wines were sourced from four different suppliers as noted below.
After the evening Bryan very helpfully summed up the event with some notes, these are reproduced near the bottom of this page
The White Wines:
1. Marques de Casa Concha 2012, Chile; Chardonnay 14%; £12.00 from Tesco Wines
Supplier's Notes: "Some florality over yellow summer fruits. Good attack with ripe acidity – a bold style that is concentrated, spicy and quite toasty. This wine featured in Decanter Magazine's "Best Chardonnays Outside Burgundy". Read more at http://www.decanter.com/wine/grape-varieties/chardonnay/best-chardonnays-outside-burgundy-best-value-wines-51239/"
2. Vergelegen Chardonnay 2013, Stellenbosch; 14%; £10.00 from Majestic Wines
Flavours: Citrus, Biscuit, Vanilla
Origin: Sourced from Vergelegen's premium vineyards located on south-southwest facing slopes, fruit for the Chardonnay is grown on Helderberg granite or Clovelly soils. Grapes were whole bunch pressed prior to fermentation and 40% aged in French oak.
Taste: Pale golden coloured with powerful and intense citrus and biscuit aromas. A concentrated palate of ripe stone-fruit, toasty vanillin oak and fresh acidity. A long and fruity finish.
Enjoy: Drinking well over the next three years as an accompaniment to grilled seafood, fresh oysters or roasted poultry.
Moving on to the Reds selected by Bryan:
3. Secano Maiten Vinyard Block 1, 2013, Leyda Valley, Chile; 14%; £13.00 from Marks & Spencer
Supplier's Notes: "Aromas of redberries are combined with spice and a hint of truffle, whilst the palate shows lovely silky tannins, soft acidity and a long concentrated finish. Typical Pinot Noir characters leap out of the glass in this vibrant, fine example of cooler climate wine making from Chile. Maiten Pinot Noir is a special selection of a specific block from a single vineyard in the emerging Leyda valley. Winemaker Viviana Navarrete has sculpted a classic Pinot Noir with medium palate weight, subtle use of oak and complex spicy notes."
4. Paul Cluver Ferricrete 2014, Elgin Region, SA, 100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% alc; £12.00 from Marks & Spencer
Supplier's Notes: "Beautiful aromas of red fruits intermingle with roasted spices followed by a delicious, elegant silky palate of poached ripe plums resulting in a medium bodied wine with soft edges. The Paul Cluver family diversified from apple farmers to spearheading winemaking in the gloriously cool Elgin Valley adjacent to the Atlantic ocean. Ferricrete is the iron rich soil which gives the mineral grip to the wine. Working together, winemakers Adries Burger from Cluver and Sue Daniels from M&S matured the wine in French oak for three months to give complexity and silkiness, resulting in a finely balanced Pinot Noir to complete on the world stage."
5. Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012/2013, Mendoza, Argentina; 13.5%; £10.00 from Majestic Wines
Flavours: Bramble, Cassis, Spice
Origin: Catena’s Agrelo vineyards possess ideal soil and micro-climatic conditions for growing classic varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and are renowned for producing wines of great finesse and elegance.
Taste: Full bodied, with rich, dark, supremely concentrated cassis-scented black fruit and a warm, spicy finish.
Enjoy: Excellent with steaks, roast beef or, if you are feeling adventurous, haggis.
6. Jordan Stellenbosch 2011, Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot; 14.5%; £9.50 from Majestic Wines
Flavours: Blackcurrant, Redcurrant, Cocoa
Origin: Ted and Sheelagh Jordan took over their spectacular 146-hectare Stellenbosch estate in 1982, and set about replanting it with international grape varieties. Now run by their son Gary and his wife, Kathy, who built the new winery, developing the modern Jordan range.
Taste: A bright, juicy and straightforward wine, offering a mixture of jammy red and black berry fruit, with subtle notes of menthol and cocoa. Soft, middleweight tannins make for an easy-going feel.
Enjoy: Ideal partner for a meaty lasagne.
7. Montes Alpha 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile; 14.5%; £10.00 from Majestic Wines
Notes by Jancis Robinson: "Tasted Dec 2014 - This is the first vintage of the pioneering dry-farming project that Montes Alpha began in 2009. To date they have reduced their water usage in the vineyards by a staggering 65%. To quote: 'The basic premise behind Dry Farming is to allow nature to take its course as much as possible, topping up with irrigation as required depending on conditions to compensate for any shortage in rainfall - a significant development in Chile, where it is the norm to irrigate. With now three years of data under its belt, Montes has made dramatic findings, illustrating that less irrigation results in lower yields of higher quality grapes.' Dark deep crimson. So staggeringly rich and silky and sensuous that for the first couple of tastes I didn't know quite what to write. Molten plums, milk chocolate, mocha, and a dried-apricot tang which turns all the opulence and plump boudoir fruit into dramatic fireworks with a freshness that practically crackles across the tongue. It certainly has all the density and concentration of a dark chocolate truffle, and is verging on just-too-sumptuous, but the fine tannins and that tense acidity manage to rein it back just in time. You could sink into an armchair and sip this slowly by the fire, but a food match would need to be carefully thought out: perhaps slow-cooked pork belly in a sweet-soy marinade?"
8. Groote Post, Merlot 2013, Darling Hills, SA; 14.5%; £15.00 from Majestic Wines
Tasting Note: A hint of smoked beef and mint on the nose. An explosion of blackberries, plum and chocolate on the palate. The firm tannin and mint structure adding to the complexity of this wine.
Suggested Food Match: Red meat and game dishes
9. Emiliana Coyam Los Robles Estate, Valle de Colchagua , Chile; 14.5%; £15.00 from Hennings Wine
Supplier's Notes: Rich and sumptuous with intense cherry, mulberry, vanilla, sweet spice and savoury hints. This organic flagship blend of Syrah, Carmenère and Merlot from Emiliana is an absolute turbo-charged belter!
10. Rustenberg John X Merriman 2013 Stellenbosch, SA; 14.5%; £14.00 from Majestic Wines
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
Flavours: Blackberry, Blackcurrant, Cedar
Origin: The name commemorates John Xavier Merriman (1841 - 1926), who purchased a farm in 1892 which later became Rustenberg Wines. He was the last Prime Minister of the Cape Colony before the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910.
Taste: Intense blackberry, blackcurrant, undertones of mint, spice and cigar box on the nose. On the palate are plenty of blackcurrant and cassis, fresh mint, subtle oak and soft tannins.
Enjoy: This wine suits robust meat dishes, especially beef and lamb.
After the tasting Jill served us Home-baked Ham with Quince & Orange Sauce, Roasted Charlotte Potatoes and Cauliflower Cheese, followed by Mince Tart and Cream and splendid individual Lemon Pots, then Bread & Cheese and tea or coffee.
The Raffle Wines:
1. Kumala "Reserve" 2014, Shiraz, Swartland, SA - won by David
2. Cono Sur "Bicicleta" 2015, Viognier, Chile - won by Janis
Bryan's notes on the Tasting:
Just a few observations on the evening. My thoughts prior to the event was that the wines would be roughly equally liked as I had tried to get a reasonable balance based on my criteria of method of vinification/age of the wines etc. but South America would have the edge. But having looked at the results I was surprised by the actual outcome. There were 70 votes to be allocated (5 wine varieties X 14 guests ) 26 were allocated to South Africa but 44 to South America, almost double !!
The pinot noirs were both disappointing. The outright winner was the Montes Alpha merlot from Chile. Only one person preferred the South African merlot. There were two equal wines in second place: the South American Cabernet and the South American Bordeaux blend, one of my recent purchases.
Jill & Bryan