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- SOUTH AFRICA
- LAIBACH VINEYARDS, Stellenbosch
- ELGIN RIDGE, BRIAN MARION SMITH, Elgin – Biodynamic
- TESTALONGA, CRAIG HAWKINS, Swartland – Organic
GOOD HOPE, Stellenbosch
Or Wine of Good Hope. I’m getting itchy palms so I must have found a bargain. This is about as good a unoaked
Chardonnay as you could wish to find in this price bracket.
From mature, trellised vineyards right on the bank of the Breede River the Chardonnay grapes are selected from four
vineyard blocks, on a gentle slope, bedded on several metres of large, oval sandstone river stones. Generally, a hot
region, this spot benefits in fact from the moderating factor of the river, as well as an altitude of 350 – 370m above sea
level. Green harvest thinning is carried out sufficiently early in the growing cycle, allowing for focused development of
a smaller yield (around 55hl/ha) than customary in this region. Attention is paid to retaining natural acidity and
minerality whilst manipulating the canopy to promote phenolic ripeness, without developing high sugars and thus
excessive alcohol. The grapes are vinified with minimum skin contact, using free run juice only and reductively handled
to obtain fresh, clear juice. After a cool fermentation in stainless steel tank the wine is kept on lees for 2 months, with
regular batonnage. Overall the focus is on fruit retention, natural amplification of flavours through lees work and fresh,
natural minerality and acidity. Crunchy apple flavours, a hint of flint with good length, it is hopefully good value and
The Chenin Blanc is something quite special and was recently voted “Best South African Unwooded Chenin” by Wine
Enthusiast Magazine. The wine is made from low yielding old bush vines located in the Helderberg area. Kept on the
lees with regular batonnage it is at once rich, spicy and honeyed but also balanced with a mineral undertow. Honeyed
apples swarm out of the glass followed by poire William and sweet quince; the texture of the wine is admirable – mouth-
coating beeswaxy fruit with sweet cinnamon.
The Pinot Noir ticks all the right boxes. Several parcels over four individual vineyard sites are used in producing this wine.
The first two at altitude on the cooler mountain slopes of Elgin, the second two on the ocean-facing hilltops in the
Stellenbosch-Helderberg area, facing directly into the False Bay Atlantic breezes. The vines are mostly Dijon clones and
density, trellising and canopy management conducted in such a manner that the subtler characters of Pinot could be best
expressed. Green harvest thinning was carried-out sufficiently early in the growing cycle, allowing for focused development of
a smaller yield (+/- 38hl / ha). Fragrant, bright and refreshing Pinot with wonderful succulence and expressive fruitiness. The
successful combination of its earthy, mineral & red berry characters make for a really lovely drinking Pinot, at a very
As with the Chardonnay green harvest thinning is carried-out sufficiently early in the growing cycle, allowing for
focused development of a smaller yield (38hl/ha). The fruit is rigorously hand-sorted and tiny parcels are vinified
separately in small open-top tanks with traditional Burgundian methods.
Pump-overs and punch-downs are kept to a minimum as elegance is sought rather than superstructured Pinot. Taking
the wine off the skins right after completion of fermentation, the free run juice was placed directly into small, 2
Burgundian barrels – previously used for Chardonnay. The pressings are matured separately and ultimately discarded
from the final blend. Each of the vineyards gives a particular component to the final blend –the Darling Hills fruit has
typical earthy Pinot character, the Stellenbosch fruit displays wonderful raspberry flavours and the Simondium fruit
exudes a clean, mineral acidity.
The Pinotage comes from beautiful old bushvines on the Helderberg Mountain at the heart of the estate in Stellenbosch.
These bushvines are over 30 years old and are of an age that allows for spice and fruit to impact on equal terms. Green
harvest thinning was carried-out early in the growing cycle, allowing for enhanced focus of flavours and the restriction
to a lower yield (+/- 35 hl / ha).
filtration or fining this wine focuses of the good aspects of Pinotage’s heritage (cherry fruit related to Pinot, spiciness
related to Cinsault) and avoids all of those that have so often made Pinotage infamously awful. Using free-run juice
only is reflected in the red cherries, violets and juicy palate, which finishes with balance, length, a touch of minerality
and some really funky spice. A Pinotage for pleasure. Even slightly chilled
pleasure in the same sentence – except as deadly adversaries
Lastly we come to a hand-harvested Shiraz from the Western Cape (sourced from two mature vineyards). Plenty of
natural ripeness here, blue-and-blackberry fruit, refreshing acidity and a lick of spice.
GOOD HOPE (UNOAKED) CHARDONNAY – stelvin
GOOD HOPE (BUSH VINE) CHENIN BLANC – stelvin
GOOD HOPE (MOUNTAINSIDE) SHIRAZ – stelvin
GOOD HOPE CABERNET MERLOT - stelvin
GOOD HOPE (BUSH VINE) PINOTAGE – stelvin
GOOD HOPE (RESERVE) PINOT NOIR – stelvin
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The Chardonnay fruit for this estate comes from two parcels. The first is from the ocean-facing, easterly and westerly slopes
of Helderberg Mountain, one of the coolest microclimates in Stellenbosch. The vines, grown in Clovely soil (decomposed
granite), are mature and virus free, usually yielding 40 hl/ha and providing wonderful fruit depth. The second, a beautiful
limestone-based vineyard on the western slope of the Simonsberg Mountain, provides rare flinty and mineral flavours. 2005
was a perfect vintage with even flowering, optimal rainfall at the right times and hot days with cool nights. The grapes were
all hand-picked at dawn into small lug-bins, chilled for 24 hours, then hand-fed over a sorting table. The quality of fruit was
immaculate which resulted in very little bunch rejection at all. It was then whole bunch pressed, with the free-run juice
settled for two days before being gravity-fed into barrel. Alcoholic fermentation was entirely carried out in barrel for 8 – 10
weeks. The must had particularly lively and intense flavours this vintage, with better natural acidity than normal and greater
fruit complexity, due to the season of cool evenings coupled with the longer hang-time for the fruit. Batonnage was applied
weekly during the first two months, then monthly for the following eight and finally the wine was racked out of barrel after
eleven months, assembled, and left to settle for six weeks with a light bentonite fining and no filtration until bottling. The oak
is 100% French: Allier & Vosges 228 L barrels. 30% 3
fill, 50% 2
fill and 20% new. This superb Chardonnay combines
fine restraining acidity, citrus flavours and gentle oaking with ripeness, length and great depth. Genuinely mineral, with a
crisp lime-citrus edge and an elegant yet intense length on the palate. “A Chardonnay daring to be individual, focused on
backbone not butter.” A classy wine, deserving of yer best Lobster Thermostat, as the great Arthur Daley would say.
Radford Dale Nudity is from a single vineyard, rooted in ancient granite soils on the east facing slope of the famed Paardeberg
mountain. 2014 marked 10 years of organic cultivation and the effects are being seen more and more in the health of the
vineyard and the clarity and purity of the wine. Harvesting took place only by hand into 15kg lug boxes in the early morning so
that cool, intact grapes could be transported to the cellar and to protect the purity of the fruit. Bunches were then individually
hand sorted before being destemmed and lightly crushed. Fermentation occurred spontaneously through natural yeast in a
large open-top fermenter. No additions of any kind were made during the vinification of this wine. The result is a wonderfully
expressive, complex and elegant wine. The nose beams dark red fruits, and intriguing fynbos aromas. With pure and weightless
intensity of fruit, as well as graphite like minerality, the palate delights before leading into a fresh and wholesome finish.
Finally, to the seriously serious Gravity (but seriously), a beautifully harmonious three way blend of Merlot, Shiraz and
Cabernet. Each parcel of these vines is situated on ocean-facing, mountainous slopes of the premium Stellenbosch appellation.
These considerably cooler maritime areas of Stellenbosch benefit thus from the cooling influence of the ocean, the sanitizing
breezes and the temperate altitude. Yields are low, at around 37 hl /ha, all grapes are handpicked and rigorously selected over
a sorting table. Following the triage process, each batch of grapes is entirely de-stemmed then pre-fermentation cold-soaked,
all individually. Pump-over is made once, maximum twice a day, as is punching down. Left on skins for two weeks after
fermentation before racking off the free-run juice subsequently goes to barrel (small Allier oak, new & first fill, using only fine
artisan French coopers), again each batch separately, and entirely by gravity. The pomace and skins are left over-night to
drip-drain – this time into new “demi-muids” (600-litre French oak vats),
far more integrated and supple tannins in the final wine, thereby achieving equilibrium between natural sweetness of fruit and
integration of structure. Each varietal contributes its unique facets; the Merlot its deep red-berry fruit and suave mouth-feel,
the Shiraz its persevering spiciness and its gutsy, supple body; the Cabernet its blueberry backbone and dense, ripe tannins.
All knitted together by patient, careful maturation. This wine bears the hallmark of the region it was reared in and the mineral
soils in which it has its roots
Which leads me to write:
Gravity, Gravity, there’s nothing quite like Gravity
There never was a wine of such elegance and suavity
It may be Merlot, it may be Shiraz, you’re really not too sure
But whatever it is, with all that flavour, you know Gravity’s a damn good pour!
(With apologies to T.S. Eliot)
RADFORD DALE CHARDONNAY
RADFORD DALE RENAISSANCE CHENIN
RADFORD DALE THIRST GAMAY
RADFORD DALE THIRST CINSAULT
RADFORD DALE BLACK ROCK RED
RADFORD DALE FRANKENSTEIN PINOTAGE
RADFORD DALE FREEDOM PINOT NOIR
RADFORD DALE NUDITY
RADFORD DALE GRAVITY
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X –cess – as in “Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, /The appetite may sicken, and so die”. Obvious, vulgar, over-acidified, over-oaked,
heavily alcoholic, cloying wines tend to be indigestible and resistible. Three-piled hyperbole in wine tends to batter our critical faculties into
submission; not only can’t you taste the fruit for the trees; but you get jaw-ache trying to ingest slowly the pneumatic properties of the Dolly
The Alternative Wine Glossary
LAIBACH VINEYARDS, Stellenbosch
Laibach Vineyards is situated on the slopes of the Simonsberg in the Muldersvlei bowl, one of the prime red wine
growing areas in South Africa.
The history of this wine farm can be traced back until the year of 1818. Originally named “Good Success”, owned by
Daniel Johannes van Ryneveld from Amsterdam, this vast farm extended to most of the catchment area in the valley
enclosed by the Simonsberg, Kanonkop and Klapmutsberg. Later on it was divided into three farms: Warwick, De
Goede Suces and the remainder of the farm Good Success, which was from 1895 until 1994 in the possession of the
du Plessis family, until it was taken over by the Laibach family.
The fruit is normally picked early February from a seven- year-old bush vine Pinotage block. No irrigation is used
and the yield is about 4-5 tons / hectare. Picking is done in the early morning so that no warm fruit is allowed into the
cellar. After crushing and destemming the skins are pumped to five ton open fermentation tanks. Traditional punch
downs (“pigeage”) are used to extract tannins, colour and fruit. This is done every two hours and fermentation takes
about 5-7 days to finish. Skins are separated from the juice before fermentation is completed. Malolactic fermentation
proceeds in French oak barrels. This particular wine was aged in oak for 15 months (75% new) and bottled with
filtration after fining with egg white.
The Inkawu Pinotage is a great example of this unique variety. Lovely ripe flavours with banana, lavender and red
berry characters prominent. On the palate great balance and complexity, well supported by classic oak aromas. What
you smell is what you get and the mouth feel is rich and lively with different dimensions of flavour. This medium to
full-bodied wine can be enjoyed now, but will develop in to something very special in 4-8 years.
ELGIN RIDGE, BRIAN & MARION SMITH, Elgin – Biodynamic
Marion and Brian Smith sold their business in the UK, and after scouring the wine regions of Europe for the perfect place to
buy a property, ended up finding it here in Elgin. Their small farm is planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot
Noir… and some apples. Their intention is to keep things small and focused at Elgin Ridge, using no chemicals and letting the
ducks (which they hatch on the farm, and hence feature in their label) play a prominent role in pest control. Organic
certification has been acquired and The Elgin Valley is one the South Africa’s ideal wine-growing regions for many reasons: A
unique confluence of diverse micro-climates with close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean; cooling cloud cover and high altitude
and cold winters and adequate rainfall with complex, ancient soils. Grapes in Elgin take longer to ripen on the vines, which
means low pH, good natural acidity and perfectly balanced ripe flavours. Very dry Sauvignon (about 2g/l RS), crisp, clean and
fresh, with that trademark Elgin minerality. Latest news... Elgin are in conversion to biodynamic viticulture (Marion’s ducks
will have some cows for company.)
Chaois is a project to make a more natural style of wine. A blend of Sauvignon (60%), Semillon (40%). The Sauvignon is
pressed, fermented with native yeasts in barrel and malo is stopped. The Semillon undergoes three days skin contact, part
carbonic, part oxidative, some hand punching – a real mish-mash. Blended together.u Unfiltered, unfined. Starts off with
gunpowder flintiness and opens up to a stonefruit core bursting with ripe pear and apricot. The stone fruit core is
complemented by an uplifting undertone of white blossom, and apple cider. Lively, lemon like acidity that finishes with a long
saline and rounded texture.
ELGIN RIDGE 282 SAUVIGNON BLANC
ELGIN RIDGE CHAOS WHITE BLEND ~ Sauvignon, Semillon
ELGIN RIDGE PINOT NOIR
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“I can't bear art that you can walk round and admire. A book should be either a bandit or a rebel or a man in the
crowd." (DH Lawrence)
Craig Hawkins is a young winemaker who has travelled extensively in Europe and worked in Portugal and Austria. He makes
two white wines under his own Testalonga label and has taken over the winemaking at Lammershoek. He experiments in each
In 2009 vintage he used 100% undestemmed bunches and the wine did carbonic maceration on the stems for three to four
weeks. The same block of Chenin was used from Lammershoek.
His other wine, called Cortez, is also from Chenin, but in this case the grapes are sourced from an adjacent valley from a
farm called The Observatory (which is also on granitic soils).
Craig did the pruning and composting of the vineyards to try and restore some life and will only make Cortez when he can
obtain the grapes. The old vines were never sprayed and didn’t yield very much but he managed to get a few tons to make a
few barrels of very pure Chenin. In 2010 there was no vintage as the grapes were taken by mildew. However the 2009 was
pressed by foot in a basket press and then placed in old oak barrels, where it remained until the end of 2010 until it was
racked off its lees for the first time, spending close to twenty four months on its original lees. The wine is 12.5 % alcohol and
has no sulphur added with a clean ripe acid, which is the focus of Craig’s wines. Craig says that it smells like the garrigue or
surrounding natural vegetation.
Of the two cuvées the carbo Chenin (as I call it) has amazing vivacity and attack with that fresh apple bite you are always
looking for from the grape. There is a wonderful underlying minerality that gives the wine its essential composure. This skin
contact Chenin has more texture than the Cortez but still brims with energy. Both the wines have terrific ageing potential, but
such are the tiny quantities made we would struggle to hold back even a few bottles in the interests of experimentation.
“Lees for me is the life of the wine. And I keep the wines for as long as possible on the original fermentation lees to retain the
character of the vintage/grape/mood I was in. so far this has always been until I bottle the wines that I remove them from the
original lees. Every vintage I blend back a portion of the older years lees into the new vintage wine, to keep this “essence”, I
bought back 2 litres of lees from the Douro El Bandito 08 in Portugal and blended it into the 2010 vintage. In the 09 vintage
there is some of the 2008 lees and then in the 2010 wines there is a mixture of both the 08 and 09 lees, it’s kind of a reverse
solera system with the wines, from the inside out. Something I love and something I will always do to retain my wines identity
from vintage to vintage. Lees is the soul.”
King of Grapes is from 0.7ha Grenache Noir planted in 2001 on the Lammershoek property. The slope is westerly facing on
decomposed granite with a high percentage of quartz. The vines are dry-farmed organically and hand-harvested (yields are
approximateluy 30 hl/ha). Cover crops are planted and the vineyard is ploughed once or twice to retain natural moisture in
the soil from the natural vegetation. The area underneath the vines is either mowed by hand or ploughed in the springtime
depending on the vintage.
100% whole bunch fermented in 2000 litre foudre for roughly 8-9 days, basket-pressed and aged for a further 6-7 months
(also in foudre) before bottling. No racking at any stage, no filtering, no fining, no sulphur additions.
The Grenache has deep earth notes on the nose which eventually give way to bright red berry flavours. A light red/opaque
colour not too dissimilar to a red from the Jura in appearance. Flavour is very spicy with a hint of stem tannin to give some
balance to the spice.
The Grenache vineyard is planted from “massale” selection cuttings from Craig’s neighbour’s old Grenache vineyard. It is
one of the original clones of Grenache to come to South Africa, it has a very light coloured skin compared to European
Grenache noir. This is often seen as a negative in South Africa and it has often tended to be over worked to try and extract
colour. As Craig sasy: “I love the opacity that this variety gives on our soils and am looking forward to see how this vineyard
develops in time.”
TESTALONGA EL BANDITO “CORTEZ”
TESTALONGA EL BANDITO “CORTEZ” SKIN CONTACT
TESTALONGA EL BANDITO “SWEET CHEEKS”
TESTALONGA EL BANDITO “MANGALIZA”
TESTALONGA EL BANDITO “KING OF GRAPES”
TESTALONGA EL BANDITO “THE DARK SIDE” SYRAH
BABY BANDITO KEEP ON PUNCHING WHITE
BABY BANDITO FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS RED
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