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Friday, November 16, 2012


Six distinctly superior white wines were served by Peter and Annette Hoyer when our private tasting group met at their house at La Lucia Ridge.

The tasting was, as usual blind; we were given descriptions of the wines but did not their identity. Each was a different type so … it must be easy to tell one from another! Not so easy. The tasting seemed to bear out a theory we have that if the wines are of exceptionally high quality it is not always easy to identify them.

The wines provided were semillon, chenin blanc, viognier, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and gewurtztraminer. The best we could do was to get four out of six right, a score achieved by only two tasters, your humble scribe and Dennis Banks.

In our defence I should point out that these were not everyday wines, and I don’t think any of us had tasted any of them before. We had all thought that identifying gewurtztraminer, a spicy, heavy, sweetish wine that has its home in Alsace, eastern France, would be easy. But some tasters confused this with the chardonnay, the reason being that we were given an unusually dry gewurtz and an unusually heavy, strong chardonnay.

Ah well, at least we gave top marks to the most expensive wine. This was indeed the chardonnay, a Hamilton Russell 2010 vintage which sells for R270 a bottle. Hamilton Russell Vineyards near Hermanus have been making quality wines for the past 30 years. This chardonnay is a powerful wine with pear and lime aromas, plus a certain spiciness that misled some of our tasters into thinking that it was a gewurtztraminer. A lovely elegant, intense wine.

Second in our scoring was the Fleur du Cap Unfiltered Semillon 2009, made at Stellenbosch by the big Distell wine company. This is a creamy wine with quite a marked mineral character, bottled without filtration to enhance the fruit flavours . Price: R100.

Third was the Paul Cluver Gewurtztraminer 2011, from an Elgin cellar that was established about 15 years ago by a distinguished neurosurgeon. This well-known wine is a drier style of gewurtz, highly fragrant with litchi, rose petal and lime aromas. Delightful, with a long, lingering aftertaste.  R95.

Then came, in order of our judgment:
-       Altydgedacht Sauvignon blanc 2011, from a Durbanville farm that dates back 300 years and has been bottling wine for 30 years.  Straw-coloured, typical green pepper, fig and guava flavours. R69.
-       The Foundry Viognier 2009, from a relatively new cellar at Stellenbosch, ripe fruit flavours, peaches, apricots. R115.
-       Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2011, from Badenhorst Family Wines, established five years ago in the Malmesbury district. This wine comes from old bush vines, and it has honey and orange blossom aromas.  R70.

As is often the case these days, nearly all these white wines had a high alcohol content, 13 percent or more. Visitors from Europe are sometimes surprised by this characteristic, but the tasters in our group don’t object. – Michael Green