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Saturday, August 6, 2016


One of the most interesting events on the South African wine calendar is the annual Vinimark and Wine Worx Wine Trade Fair.

Vinimark, based in Stellenbosch, is South Africa’s biggest independent wine wholesale company. Every year it provides members of the liquor trade in our major cities with a display of its clients’ products, and in Durban this impressive presentation was given recently at the Hilton Hotel.

About 250 local wines and some imported champagnes were available for tasting (admission by invitation only!). Forty cellars were represented and they provided ample evidence of the high standards consistently achieved these days by our winemakers.

Confronted by an embarrassment of riches in a tasting such as this, one can sample only a few of the splendid wines available (bearing in mind the drive home). Here are some of those I sipped carefully and appreciatively.

The tasting catalogue gave trade prices. I am giving approximate retail prices based on a mark-up of about 25 percent.

Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2016. From a newcomer to the country’s oldest wine region, which dates back to 1685. The modern Constantia Glen farm was established 16 years ago below Constantia Nek, on part of Simon van der Stel’s original estate. Since 2005 it has produced high-class wines. This sauvignon blanc is subtle and complex, flinty with some tropical fruit flavours. A luxury wine at a retail price of about R125 a bottle.

Spier 21 Gables Sauvignon Blanc 2014. From the historic Stellenbosch estate Spier, which bottled its first wines in 1770. This is a special occasion wine at about R180 a bottle. For that you get a wine to remember, strongly flavoured, refreshing, aromatic, challenging (14 percent alcohol), with the classic grassy, asparagus, citrus tones of sauvignon.

Muratie Alberta Annemarie Merlot 2014. The Muratie wine estate at Stellenbosch is another veteran; it produced its first wines more than 300 years ago. This merlot is named after Alberta Annemarie Canitz, daughter of the artist George Paul Canitz, who owned Muratie about 60 years ago. She was a well-known character who rode a horse until she was in her eighties and gave up, she said, only because the horse was too old. With intense flavours of plums, cherry, blackcurrant and chocolate, this full-bodied red wine should age as well as she did. About R115.

Neil Ellis Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. Another Stellenbosch wine, from a cellar established 30 years ago by one of the best-known personalities in the Cape wine industry. This cabernet is 14 percent alcohol, a rich dark colour with aromas and flavours of blackberry, plum. It was matured in French oak barrels for 18 months before bottling. Excellent now, but should improve even further with a few years of bottle maturation. About R140.

And in the ranks of the less expensive, good value wines the Vinimark display included:

Robertson Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2015. An old favourite from a winery established by farmers at Robertson 75 years ago and still owned by farmers. A pleasant light sauvignon with flavours of apple and other fruits. About R40.

Landskroon Shiraz 2014. From an estate near Paarl. A medium-bodied red wine with smoky and berry bouquet and flavours. About R65.

Darling Cellars Arum Fields Chenin Blanc 2016. From another farmer-owned cellar, this one on the Cape West Coast. Cape chenin blanc wines have improved greatly in quality in recent years, and this one is a good example. A very attractive fruity white wine, pears, peaches and guava, 13 percent alcohol. About R40. – Michael Green