The 2009 Best Value Wine Guide recommends bargain buys aplenty at under R60 a bottle. Guide editor Mike Froud singles out some of the best for even less.
Every year at this time, WINE magazine recommends hundreds of good-quality, affordable wines by way of the Best Value Wine Guide, based on the results of the annual Value Awards competition. There are over 400 wines reviewed in the 2009 edition of the guide – 422 Best Value wines, to be precise, selected from 1 029 entries, ranging in quality from appealing to very good, priced from less than R20 a bottle to R59.95, and with 30 qualifying for special mention as Value Award winners on the basis of their quality/price ratio.
Of the Value Award winners, 11 scored 3 Stars or better as good to very good quality. In fact, overall, there were 58 wines rated 3 Stars, 14 rated 3 Stars and one rated 4 Stars. And of the 73 top-scoring wines on quality at under R60 a bottle, there were a number that also stand out as interesting for various reasons over and above good drinkability at affordable price levels.
For example, there’s the Value Award winner Bergwater Rendezvous Red 2006, from Prince Albert, with Bergwater Vineyards the first and only winery in the Great Karoo. There’s also the Cape Tawny Port from De Krans, the only wine in the book to pick up a rating of 4 Stars.
The Value Award winners – including Koelenhof Winery as the Best Value Cellar Overall this year – are showcased in the 2009 Best Value Wine Guide, free with this issue of the magazine. Here we focus on a different shopping list: 10 wines besides the Value Award winners, five whites and five reds of particular interest, all rated 3 Stars or more, all priced at under R50 a bottle and presented in alphabetical order – R50 being what the majority of respondents to WINE’s 2007 reader poll said was the most they were prepared to pay for everyday-drinking wines.
BADSBERG BELLADONNA 2006
Cellar Price: R45
Turns out it’s not named after a special woman as some of us might have thought, but after a pretty flower that grows in the mountains around Rawsonville. Made from 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 11% Petit Verdot, this Bordeaux-style blend is the maiden vintage of the flagship red from the Breedekloof co-operative. According to winemaker Henri Swiegers, the “beautiful lady” is indicative of what this producer is capable of with the wines it bottles under its own label – small volumes relative to the bulk wines that account for the main part of the business. Matured in oak barrels for 14 months.
DOOLHOF CAPE BOAR 2006
Cellar Price: R35
Apparently there are wild boars that occasionally wander onto Dennis and Dorothy Kerrison’s estate in Wellington Then again, although this is a blend of 48% Merlot, 24% Malbec and 28% Shiraz (following the equally highly rated 2004 from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz), the yet-to-bereleased 2007 vintage is a “Boardeaux”- style combo According to winemaker Therese de Beer, among Doolhof’s entry-level reds, the Cape Boar is a little more serious than the Cape Roan and the wooding is gentle (12 months in second- and third-fill barrels). There’s much building going on at the farm at present, involving renovations and a new tasting room
FLAT ROOF MANOR
Uitkyk Cellar Price: R45
It’s fun packaging for these second-tier wines from Uitkyk Estate, “home of fine wine and a cat” on the western slopes at the foot of the Simonsberg in Stellenbosch, with the labels bearing illustrations of a feline on the flat roof of the Georgian manor house. Yet, despite the light-hearted presentation and price positioning, these wines can be as interesting – if not more so – than some of the wines under the Uitkyk label. What we have here is a bright ruby blend led by Cabernet Sauvignon (70%) with strong support from Italian variety Sangiovese. Low alcohol: 13.5%.
CHENIN BLANC 2007
Approx Retail Price: R34.95
Ronell Wiid, the winemaker at this Russian-owned cellar in Bottelary, Stellenbosch, has long been an exponent of fine Chenin Blanc. Although most successful with her wooded version, this is also “a big wine”. Actually, it’s the same wine from the same 30- to 35-year-old, unirrigated bush vines on one of the low hills at Hazendal, only in this case without having seen the inside of a barrel. The vines “struggle a bit” and the grapes were “picked ripe”, she says almost matterof- factly – to date, still the only woman to have been crowned Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in the 27-year history of the award. Low alcohol: 13.5%.
BONNIE & CLAIRE 2007
Cellar Price: R39.50
No, not Bonnie and Clyde Bonnie and Claire are two of many animals that roam on Reni Hildenbrand’s Wellington estate. Bouvier dogs. Sisters, in fact. And the wine has a “big heart”, says Hildenbrand, who thought the name fitting as it’s made from two of SA’s oldest grape varieties. Her Semillon and Chenin Blanc plantings from which Bonnie & Claire originates are 12 and 26 years old respectively. Fermentation involved wild yeasts, and this unwooded white blend is only available from the farm. A one-off from the winemaker whose Semillon was judged best in its class at the 2005 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.
KLEINE ZALZE CELLAR SELECTION BUSH
VINES CHENIN BLANC 2007
Cellar Price: R30
CELLAR SELECTION SELECT CUVE
CHENIN BLANC 2007
Cellar Price: R40
No fewer than three Kleine Zalze Chenins are included in the 2009 Best Value Wine Guide – the Vineyard Selection Barrel Fermented 2007 at R50 a bottle also secured a 3 Star rating, but the unwooded Cellar Selections sell for R10 and R20 less at the Stellenbosch cellar. The grapes used for the R30 version came from bush vines in the Helderberg, whereas those for the R40 wine were grown in the Helderberg as well as on the West Coast. Other diff erences are that the Select Cuve has more residual sugar (8g vs 3.4g/l) and slightly more alcohol (14.5% vs 14%). Great consistency from a winery that regularly impresses at WINE magazine’s Chenin Blanc Challenge.
MAN PINOTAGE 2007
Approx Retail Price: R34.95
Apart from the Durbanville Hills Pinotage 2006 at R59 a bottle, the 2007 Pinotage from MAN Vintners is the only other 3 Star wine selected for the latest Best Value Wine Guide that carries the name of South Africa’s Pinot Noir and Cinsaut cross. It’s made at Stark-Cond on the Oude Nektar Estate in Jonkershoek Valley, Stellenbosch, using grapes from various sources. And though primarily Pinotage (85%), it also includes 14% Shiraz and 1% Viognier. 20% barrel matured, 10% in new American oak. Smart operators, the folks behind MAN Vintners: Jos Cond of Stark Cond Wines, Charles Back of Fairview, and Perdeberg Winery.
CHARDONNAY 2007 Cellar Price: R30
This Robertson co-operative cellar is getting its act together. Though acknowledged as one of the country’s Best Value wine producers for a long time, when it came to very good quality, one would look to their reds before their whites. This is the first time a white wine from Rooiberg has earned a 3 Star rating from the WINE magazine tasting panel and it’s a lovely Chardonnay in a range of flagships, the others all red. “Powerful”, according to Rooiberg, with vanilla evident from nine months in French oak barrels. Yet, relative to many other big wines in this class, low alcohol at 13.7%.
SAUVIGNON BLANC SEMILLON 2008
Welmoed Cellar Price: R30
Thandi Wines is South Africa’s leading black economic empowerment wine company. It is owned by the Lebanon Fruit Farm Trust, with the company of wine people having a 34% stake and providing winemaking facilities at its Welmoed cellar in Stellenbosch. The Sauvignon Blanc (60%) and Semillon for this unwooded white blend were sourced from vineyards in Stellenbosch – unlike Thandi’s Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, which come from its own plantings in Elgin. Particularly low alcohol by today’s norms: 12.5%.
BORD DE MER 2004
Cellar Price: R48
No time to waste in ordering some of this four year old: there hasn’t been one made since 2004, it might not be repeated, and there’s only a little left at the cellar in Hermanus. According to winemaker Reino Thiart, the name is French for “by the seaside”, with the Merlot and Shiraz grapes for the red blend sourced from vineyards on the slopes of the Hottentots Holland Mountains in Gordon’s Bay. It’s similar to Whalehaven’s Old Harbour 2005 in terms of the varietal components, but Bord de Mer, which has been in contact with oak staves rather than barrels, is “more spicy”, according to Thiart. Whalehaven is also home to Idiom, wines made from fruit farmed in Sir Lowry’s Pass – these guys truck their grapes further than most.
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