Sim­ply red win­ter warm­ers

Win­ter is the sea­son to ex­plore the warm flavours of the Cape’s reds, writes Graham Howe

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AS TEM­PER­A­TURES drop I al­ways en­joy the time of the year when red wines come into their own to com­ple­ment rich win­ter fare. I’ve tasted my way through a mixed case of ex­cit­ing new blends from newer pro­duc­ers like Avon­dale, Shan­non Vine­yards and Olden­burg, as well as a few clas­sics from old Stel­len­bosch favourites like Del­heim, Mu­ratie, Sla­ley, Vil­liera and Yon­der Hill.

Va­ri­ety is the spice of food and wine so I’ve in­cluded a few mar­vel­lous Mer­lots I’ve dis­cov­ered along the way that are guar­an­teed to beat the win­ter blues. BIG REDS Avon­dale La Luna 2006. This fam­ily wine es­tate near Paarl, prac­tises a unique mix of or­ganic and bio­dy­namic viti­cul­ture known as bio-logic farm­ing. La Luna, their new flag­ship, is a har­mo­nious blend of or­gan­i­cally grown Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Caber­net Franc, Mer­lot and Pe­tit Ver­dot. It cel­e­brates the way Avon­dale farms in har­mony with na­ture. I en­joyed the al­lur­ing cedar and truf­fle aro­mas, for­est floor notes, vi­brant plum and mul­berry flavours and the soft tan­nins.

Del­heim Fam­ily Blend 2009. This re­lease cel­e­brates the six­ti­eth an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the fam­ily farm in the Si­mons­berg by leg­endary wine­maker ‘Spatz’ Sper­ling. His chil­dren, mar­keter Nora and wine­maker Vic­tor Sper­ling, cre­ated this wine in the quirky, feisty and un­pre­ten­tious spirit of the grand pa­tri­arch of the Stel­len­bosch wine route. The Fam­ily Blend com­bines Mal­bec, Mer­lot and Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon in an el­e­gant and easy-drink­ing wine with rich, spicy mocha and black­berry flavours and silky tan­nins. Mu­ratie Ansela van de Caab 2007. While re­vis­it­ing this clas­sic Bordeaux-style blend, named af­ter the eman­ci­pated slave who mar­ried the farm’s founder, I dis­cov­ered its new part­ner. The Melck fam­ily of Mu­ratie has launched a new flag­ship named af­ter the founder — Lau­rens Cam­pher 2010. This bar­rel-fer­mented, wood­ma­tured blend of Chenin Blanc, Sau­vi­gnon Blanc, Verdelho and Chardon­nay has ex­otic hon­ey­suckle and pineap­ple flavours — a great match for spicy Asian fare.

Sla­ley Bro­ken Stone Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon/Shi­raz 2006. The Hunt­ing fam­ily farm in the Si­mons- berg has re­leased an easy­drink­ing blend of Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Shi­raz, the great grapes of Bordeaux and Rhône. I en­joyed the en­tic­ing aro­mas of vi­o­lets, men­thol and pep­pers with de­li­cious rasp­berry, plum and spice flavours. Lind­say’s Whimsy 2007, a de­light­ful blend of Pino­tage, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Shi­raz, has a cap­ti­vat­ing flo­ral nose with typ­i­cal rasp­berry and sweet fruit char­ac­ter.

Yon­der Hill Inanda 2007. When it comes to big red wines with staying power, Yon­der Hill, a fam­ily wine farm on the Helder­berg, is one of the Cape’s best-kept se­crets. Inanda 2007, a Bordeauxstyle blend of Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, Caber­net Franc, Mer­lot and Pe­tit Ver­dot is a smor­gas­bord of chocolate, mocha, cas­sis, cherry and mul­berry flavours on a mouth-fill­ing palate, ma­tured in oak for 20 months. Also try Yon­der Hill Mer­lot 2007, a vel­vety wine with lus­cious black­berry, choc and mocha flavours.

Vil­liera Mer­lot 2008. Vil­liera, the Grier fam­ily es­tate in Stel­len­bosch, has been mak­ing award­win­ning Mer­lot for more than two decades. The cur­rent 2008 Mer­lot is all cedar and mint with al­lur­ing dark berry fruit, rich and full with juicy soft tan­nins and a long svelte fin­ish. I also en­joyed re­vis­it­ing Vil­liera Monro 2005, the cel­lar’s flag­ship red blend, a blend of Mer­lot, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Caber­net Franc with great in­ten­sity of flavour, struc­ture and tex­ture. Mount Bul­let Mer­lot 2009. James and Stu­art Downes at Shan­non Vine­yards in the El­gin Val­ley are ac­claimed grow­ers of site­spe­cific wines: Mount Bul­let Mer­lot 2009, Rock­view Ridge Pinot Noir 2009 and Sanc­tu­ary Peak Sau­vi­gnon Blanc 2010. (Made at New­ton John­son in Walker Bay, Mount Bul­let 2008 was the only Mer­lot to win five stars in Plat­ter’s SA Wines Guide 2011.) This el­e­gant wine with an earthy, min­eral tex­ture and ripe red fruit is full bod­ied with silky tan­nins.

Olden­burg Caber­net Franc 2008. Olden­burg Vine­yards is the new­est cel­lar in the ex­clu­sive Ban­hoek Val­ley atop Helshoogte Pass in Stel­len­bosch, home to top­drawer winer­ies such as De­laireGraff, Thelema and Tokara. Vis­i­tors are drop­ping into Olden­burg’s new tast­ing room to en­joy the spec­tac­u­lar views and taste the maiden 2008 vintage — Caber­net Franc, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Syrah — along with Chenin Blanc and Chardon­nay 2010. The Caber­net Franc 2008 is a win­ter warmer with ripe cherry, cas­sis, mocha and chocolate flavours.

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