South African Red Wine
We're now working with some of the top wineries in South Africa (directly), and several boutique importers, to bring many of the very best South African wines to the UK market. These wines are beautifully crafted, often in tiny quantities and represent excellent value for money. Please give them a try, you will be blown away by the quality.
Now here's a country which has suffered at the hands of unscrupulous wine merchants and the large factory produced brands. I've tasted virtually hundreds of frankly awful South African wines wondering what all the fuss was about in the media. How could a nation have such a large wine industry if it was all such poor quality? The truth is, there are good South African wines - in fact there are world class South African wines - we just have to search very hard to find them in the UK amongst the mass of cheap plonk that's swamping the supermarkets, and the low end on-trade offerings.
We're personally very impressed by the quality of the boutique wines in South Africa, so we're actively sourcing more wines from small ethical producers, and we're importing these ourselves cutting out the importer's margin to bring them to you at the best prices.
Many of these wines are exclusive to us in the UK and are amongst the finest to come from the Cape.
Rainbow's End is a fantastic small family winery along the Helshoogte Pass between Stellenbosch and Franschoek. The Malan family consists of Jacques and Ingrid, and their sons Anton and Francois. Francois is the viticulturist while Anton makes the wine.
I was put onto them on my last visit to Cape Town by a South African friend who runs some very good restaurants out there. Coincidentally I was passing the next day en route to Grande Provence so called in. The winery itself is pretty hard to find up a steep dirt track, effectively further up the hill behind Delair Graf and Clouds - so definitely phone ahead if you plan on visiting.
It was old world, small rustic cellar, everything done by hand - quite a contrast from the opulence and incredible wealth of Delair Graf. But what a step up in quality too! It just goes to show the best wines are made by passionate individuals.
All grapes are harvested by hand at dawn, then sorted by hand so only the best are used. The ferment is hand plunged 6 to 8 times per day during fermentation - all these labour intensive techniques which really make a difference to the quality of the final product.
Anton uses only minimal sulphites, and as all the fruit is such high quality the amounts needed are very low. The wine is then aged in a combination of French, American and Hungarian oak, for varying amounts of time, but at least 12 months, before it is bottled unfiltered to retain maximum flavour.
These wines are well made and excellent quality, and will keep for years. They're also very keenly priced!
Grangehurst Winery Stellenbosch
Grangehurst Winery on Eikendal Road in Stellenbosch is one of South Africa's very finest wineries producing exceptional unhurried red wines (and one Rose). It was founded by Jeremy Walker back in 1992 on the slopes of the Helderberg Mountain.
On Jeremy's first vintage he won the trophy for South Africa's Champion Wine! And since then he has accumulated a very impressive array of awards including the first 5-star rating for a red wine by Wine Magazine, the only CWG wine to be rated 5-stars by Wine Magazine, the only Pinotage (Hidden Valley) to be rated 5-stars by Wine Magazine as well as a Platter 5-star award for Grangehurst Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot blend, and the Nikela has received a 92-point Parker rating (USA).
In fact the Nikela 2005 has just been voted in the top 5 Cape Blends by the Pinotage Association, winning Jeremy a trip out to California. His Cabernet Merlot 2005 just beat 8 top Bordeaux (costing five times as much or more) in a blind tasting in California too! And all his wines have consistently scored 4 to 4.5 Stars in the Platter guide, year after year. Jeremy is of course a member of South Africa's elite winemaking circle - the Cape Winemakers Guild. And Grangehurst is also Wine Magazine's most awarded 5 Star Winery.
Jeremy describes his wines as European in style with elegance and structure, rather than new world blockbusters - "French style with more fruit". They take time to produce being aged at the winery for a number of years prior to release - something unusual for new world producers.
We're delighted to be working with him bringing his excellent wines to our customers here in the UK.
Grangehurst Winery - South Africa Wine Magazine's most 5 Star awarded winery!
Claime D'Or, Robertson
Claime D'Or is very possibly one of the tiniest "wineries" in the world, yet produces some absolutely outstanding wines!
Basically Claime D'Or is a farm in Robertson next door to Rietvallei. It was purchased by French couple Bernardo Rappaport and his wife Maigret with the intention to produce the best wines possible.
Until recently the Robertson district was traditionally regarded as a region for lower grade fruit used in sparkling wines, hence Graham Beck have a large set up here. However it's reputation has blossomed as certain sites have been producing outstanding quality grapes, and subsequently outstanding wines.
Kobus Berger at Rietvallei is probably Robertson's star winemaker, with several wines listed in the SA Top 100 book - a publication myself and others actually have little faith in as it costs a fortune to submit your wines for approval so immediately prohibits virtually all the small producers from entering! Yes, any wine in the book will be good, but all the best 100 wines in South Africa? I don't think so!
But my political and cynical observations about wine publications aside, Kobus at Rietvallei does make some very, very good wines. So Bernardo asked him to make the wines for Claime D'Or. The grapes are all hand grown, then the wines are all hand made in tiny quantities with real care and attention to detail. For example just 300 cases of their stunning oaked Chardonnay, or 150 cases of their superb Cabernet blend!
These wines are very special indeed, very rare with a host of awards. Each bottle is individually numbered by hand. If you want a bespoke wine, they don't come more bespoke than this! Claim D'Or Website
Boplaas Winery, Calitzdorp
"Best Private Cellar at Veritas Wine Awards 2013 with 5 Double Gold & 6 Gold medals!"Boplaas scoops double Gran dOr at Michelangelo International Wine Awards 2013"13 5 Star Platter ratings to date!
Boplaas is situated in Calitzdorp, a small picturesque village in the Southern Cape in the majestic Little Karoo. The Nel family is part of a rich legacy that reaches back to more than 150 years. Boplaas is a family concern with Carel Nel, a Cape Wine Master, as owner and cellar master.
Boplaas has long been regarded as in the forefront in premium wine production. Boplaas is known for world-class table wines, "Ports" and their award winning pot-stilled brandies.
The vineyards of Boplaas are located at superior sites along the Gamka River, Nels River and the slopes of the Gamka Valley to maximise the considerable diversity that exists in micro-climates and soil types. The different sites provide nuances of aroma and flavour, bringing complexity to the wines.
Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barocca, Touriga Franseca, Souzao, Muscadel /Muscat de Frontignan, Colombar, Hanepoot/Muscat dAlexandrie, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
An area of 70 hectares is planted in Calitzdorp, with contracts in Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Darling.
Please go to our dessert wine section
to view their amazing Double Gold and Trophy winning "ports". Boplaas Website
Grande Provence, Franschoek
This is one of the finest wineries I have ever had the pleasure to visit, producing some of the finest wines I have ever tasted.
Situated just off the main road into Franschoek, Grande Provence is one of the first wineries you come to as you approach this beautiful cosmopolitan small town. It's a magnificent setting with old Dutch architecture and grand old trees shading the courtyard dining area. Statues are dotted around the gardens and the view of the hills around Franschoek is just breathtaking.
Inside the tasting area it is all modern clean lines with a circular bar furnished with unique bar stools made out of old tractor seats - designed by a New Zealand artist. There is an impressive art gallery here as well as a really top class restaurant serving exquisite food. If you visit you really must opt for their food and wine pairing experience. The walls are covered with award certificates as their incredible wines have a huge collection already, despite having only produced their first vintage in 2005.
Grande Provence was purchased in 2004 by Alex van Heeren (CVO, MBE), and now is part of the Huka Retreats, a very upmarket collection of just three premier resorts including Dolphin Island, Fiji and Huka Lodge, New Zealand. Guests at Grande Provence can rent the "owner's cottage" but it is far from a cottage! Often frequented by Royalty including our own as well as the Dutch and Norwegian Royal families, it is beyond the price range of most of us, but is absolutely beautiful.
While the estate is surrounded by vines, the secret to the quality of Grande Provence's amazing wines is that the grapes are actually sourced from very small premium individual vineyards in the surrounding hills, each producing perfect varietal fruit. The grapes grown on the flat around the farm are actually sold off to other wineries.
Production of their premium wines is very small, and the quality of them is stunning. In the UK to date the only place they have been served is Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle - 8 times between them! They will also be listed at Carlo's in Llandudno of course, as are a lot of our best wines.
Grande Provence also produce a range of every day wines under their "Angel's Tears" label but the only thing "every day" about them is their price. Even these wines are excellent quality, hand made with minimal additives or manipulation.
Grande Provence wines are something special, and we're delighted to be working with them to bring them to our UK customers. Grande Provence Website
Joubert Tradauw, Barrydale
A unique tiny family winery in a little known but seriously up and coming region of South Africa outside the more traditional winelands. Barrydale is approximately 150 miles east of Cape Town on the incredibly scenic Route 62. The Tradauw Valley is famous for it's magnificent scenery, and if you plan to drive the Garden Route this is a "must see", far more impressive than driving N2 to the south.
Meyer Joubert is viticulturist and winemaker. Brought up in the Tradauw Valley, Meyer travelled and worked in Napa before returning to the family farm. Initially it was fruit but they quickly realised the region's unique potential for growing premium grapes. It is something to do with the valley's location between two weather fronts producing unique climatic conditions - I'm no expert on these things so I won't try to explain it any more than that, but suffice to say that Meyer produces excellent grapes and subsequently some truly outstanding wines.
It is Meyer's ambition to produce South Africa's best wine, and he believes it can be done from Tradauw. He is hugely passionate about nature, and dedicated to a minimalist labour intensive approach allowing the fruit to do all the talking.
Meyer's wife, Beate, runs a very healthy informal deli restaurant on the property using local produce to provide delicious local delicacies. And they are into their blues music and motorbikes also. When you see R62 you can see why a biker would just love it!
Meyer's wines really are something special. Made with passion, with a real purity that I absolutely love. He only makes three wines, a hand picked classic elegant Chardonnay, a Syrah naturally fermented and unfiltered, and his R62 Blend which has been selected for SA Airlines first class. They are all superb earning Joubert Tradauw a place in South Africa's Top 10 wineries according to Neil Pendock, one of the John Platter Guide team.
Update - Meyer has produced a Pinot Noir but is insisting on some bottle age before he will let me buy any! We expect to get some in stock by late Autumn. Joubert Tradauw Website
Eagles Nest - Constantia
Eagles Nest is a tiny boutique winery in Constantia immediately south of Cape Town toward the Cape of Good Hope. They are very fortunate to have one of the highest vineyards in SA as well as a unique topographical position with their vineyards set out in a bowl shape.
This means they have slopes facing every direction, at different altitudes and angles to the sun, as well as receiving cooling breezes off False Bay. This gives them the opportunity to match each grape variety to it's ideal terroir!
The winery and vineyards burnt down in 2004 in a huge bush fire so they took the opportunity to replant each individual site with it's ideal grape match. And what success!
Since the fire (vintage 2006) they only make 6 wines - "Little Eagle" which is their every day red (to use up any fruit they deem not perfect!), a Viognier which is not available for commercial sale as the entire production is taken by British Airways First Class. A Sauvignon Blanc (Veritas Gold Medal), a Merlot based Bordeaux Blend "Verraux" (93 Points Robert Parker), a Merlot, and their most famous wine, Shiraz, which has won just about everything including Platter 5 Stars, Southern Hemisphere Champion Shiraz, 100 Point rating and host of trophies and golds.
Everything is hand crafted from start to finish with real passion. These very steep slopes are difficult and expensive to farm so they concentrate on producing small quantities of very high end wines. Eagles Nest Website
As all our regular customers know, we personally select every wine on this site on it's own merits, we don't simply list every wine from each producer. We are listing nearly all the Zevenwacht portfolio though as all their wines are very good, and offer great value for money.
Zevenwacht is a large estate of 500 hectares with 200 hectares planted to vine. Their winemaker, Jacques Viljoen, takes a bold approach to winemaking, using modern technology as well as traditional cellaring techniques to produce elegant premium wines. I've been listing their wines since 2008 and every year they get better and better. We have a good relationship with Denise (the owner) and we were even involved in creating a white blend for her on our recent trip out there - I hope it goes down well Denise! Zevenwacht's consultant winemaker Chris Keets is a bit of a perfectionist, and he even makes a small batch Bordeaux Blend under his own label which we will probably import when he makes enough to let us have any!
The estate comprises as well as the winery, of a cheese factory, a chef school, top restaurant with banquetting and conferencing facilities, as well as an inn and guest cottages, and is a fully licensed wedding venue all set in stunning surroundings! There's a fantastic little shop where you can purchase a picnic to take down by the lake with your wine to while away the afternoon - just make sure you are not the driver!
The estate is a big place and surprisingly easy to get lost on your first visit as all signs seem to say "Zevenwacht ...something" but once you reach the lake it's straight forward from there! I've been assured the signage will shortly be improved.
Their vineyards back right onto Jordans, and interestingly Denise is about to launch the first vintage of a superb barrel aged Chardonnay this year - something Jordans are world famous for. I tasted it and it was fantastic so fingers crossed Zevenwacht's UK importers will actually bring some over if I pester them enough!
The Jordan winery today is run by Gary and Kathy Jordan making some outstanding world class wines. The 300 year old 146 hectare farm was purchased by Gary's parents - Ted and Sheelagh - back in 1982, when they undertook an extensive replanting programme of all the vineyards. Gary and Kathy spent a couple of years abroad learning their wine making skills then returned home in 1992 and began producing quality wines from 1993 onwards, once the vines were mature.
Gary and Kathy are 'next door neighbours' and close friends with Denise of Zevenwacht - although I wouldn't like to walk from one house to the other! The secret to both estates' success is largely due to the same factors - yes, you need wine making skill and experience as well as a dedication to producing the best quality wine possible, but both these estates also have an array of different terroirs. Here lies the real skill of matching each grape variety to it's ideal terroir. Because of the specific landscape both estates have slopes facing to all four points of the compass, all at different altitudes, different degrees of slope and aspect to the sun, and all on 600 million year old soils with unique qualities. Add to this the cooling Atlantic and Indian oceans and the mediteranean climate and there's a myriad of different combinations.
The Jordans have got it right - and so have Zevenwacht - with each variety in it's ideal location producing optimum fruit. Their wines are highly recommended.
The Jordan estate has one of the most spectacular views in Stellenbosch, which is a truly stunning location to enjoy lunch in the George Jardine restaurant. Being on the east of Stellenbosch on a hill they have a view East across to the Heldeberg and the mountains separating Stellenbosch from Franschoek. It is a real "must see" if you plan to visit the South African wine lands.
The Ernie Els winery is one of the most pristine and professional wineries in Stellenbosch. I suppose you would expect nothing less given that Ernie had the money to create his vision from scratch, rather than have to make his money from wine sales first! The result is quite spectacular.
Set at the foot of the Heldeberg, this is Stellenbosch's premium region for red wines given that the slopes are north facing with a steep angle to the sun and cooling breezes from False Bay. This pedigree is borne out by the other prestigious red wine producers they have as neighbours - Grangehurst (some of the best reds in SA), Rust en Vrede, Guardian Peak, Eikendal and more.
Ernie set up in partnership with his pal Jean Engelbricht with Louis Strydom as winemaker. Jean and Ernie have parted ways to follow their own separate business ventures but the Ernie Els winery remains a proud testament to what can be achieved.
You will see in the picture Ernie's private tasting room as well as a temporary marquee on the front lawn! If you're visiting get yourself a driver and start at the top of the hill at Uva Mira with stunning views, then work down to Hidden Valley for a beautiful, fresh great value lunch. Then Ernie's, Guardian Peak and Rust en Vrede. Grangehurst is a five minute drive away directly behind Eikendal just off R44 and is a very small operation, but well worth a visit if you can manage it as their wines are something special.
Many wineries offer 2 different tasting selections - always opt for the premium tasting selection, it's usually only about 30 to 50 Rand (£3 to £4 for 5 wines!) and you get to taste some of their very limited wines which cost upward of £20 at the winery door, so they are great value! And if you buy a bottle you don't pay for the tasting!
Boekenhoutskloof is set in a stunning location at the top of Franschoek Valley. Franschoek itself is a small upmarket town lined with outdoor eateries, art galleries and prestigious wineries. It is a stunningly beautiful location and perhaps South Africa's premier wine region.
Boekenhoutskloof started in 1997 with just 5500 bottles for their first vintage. Today they produce about 4.5 million bottles each year. Much of this is their Wolftrap and Pocupine Ridge labels which are actually made at a larger more commercial winery. The original Boekenhoutskloof winery is reserved for their top wines, and they have purposefully retained it's character and integrity.
The views from the terrace are stunning. Their top wines are rated amongst some of South Africa's best. If you look carefully at the bottom right image you will see 3 small barrels - this is their "Journeyman" a top cuvee which is produced annually (only if the conditions are right to produce perfect fruit). It is not commercially available but is given to their best restaurant customers locally. We did get a case of 6 ourselves two years ago (we have a strong relationship with the biggest allocation of their premium wines in the UK) but seeing these barrels next to their other wines really put in perspective how rare this wine is!
You will also see the concrete "eggs" which is a very interesting way to ferment wine. Apparently the moon's gravational pull actually stirs the wine - like the movement of the tide!
And the middle photo is their Semillon vineyard so again you can see it's very small, hence their Semillon is produced in tiny amounts, particularly once the baboons have pinched half the grapes!
Graceland Vineyards A small winery of 18 hectares backing onto the Heldeburg, owned and operated by Paul and Susan McNaughton with their children lending a hand in the cellar at busy times! They produce only a small quantity of red wines which are particularly good. They regularly score at least 4 stars from John Platter. Susan also packages them beautifully (Strawberry Fields may be a little unartistic but the others look great).She adopted Raphael's famous painting of the "Three Graces" for the winery and this appears on each bottle, which also come elegantly wrapped in a 3/4 paper jacket sealed with the Graceland stamp. They make a lovely looking (and tasting) gift.The picture is of two of their dogs, as Susan says "when the dogs start eating the grapes off the vine we know they're ready for picking".