Re­li­able, af­ford­able SA wines not to be sniffed at

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Weekend Life - SAM VEN­TER

In the pur­suit of the bou­tique and the rare, the craft and ar­ti­san wine, the off-the-beaten-track new dis­cov­ery, it’s easy to dis­miss large-scale pro­duc­ers of long-es­tab­lished, widely avail­able and af­ford­able brands with a sniffy “com­mer­cial” or “mass-mar­ket” ex­pres­sion of dis­dain.

Yet, af­ford­able and re­li­able are prob­a­bly the most soughtafter qual­i­ties for the ma­jor­ity of wine-lovers, who have moved be­yond just pick­ing up the cheapest box wine and want some­thing more – a good, even in­ter­est­ing, wine at a price that al­lows for a glass or two on a school-night but doesn’t re­quire ex­tend­ing the over­draft.

That prob­a­bly sums it up for most of the read­ers of this col­umn – judg­ing by the oc­ca­sional chal­lenge to “write about wines we can af­ford and find in PE” – and it’s true for this writer too.

In that vein, take a look at Stellenbosch Hills. Yes, they’re big (16 mem­ber-grow­ers pro- duc­ing 8,000 tons of grapes a year equals about five mil­lion litres of wine), def­i­nitely not off-the-beaten-track with their tast­ing venue on the doorstep of Stellenbosch, and there’s some se­ri­ous qual­ity to be found at se­ri­ously af­ford­able prices.

At around R50 or less, the widely avail­able en­try-level Polka­draai range of­fers a crisp and easy-drink­ing chenin­sauvi­gnon blanc and a soft and juicy pino­tage-mer­lot blend, as well as a pair of sparkling wines for R70-ish.

The next step up, to the Stellenbosch Hills range, is where it gets re­ally in­ter­est­ing, at a pocket-friendly R50-R75 (prices are all cel­lar door, and pretty sim­i­lar in re­tail).

The 2018 sau­vi­gnon blanc is zippy and fresh with bright, green trop­i­cal fruit tones, and a touch of rich­ness on a lin­ger­ing fin­ish. Lay­ers of flavour make the wine in­ter­est­ing rather than a one-trick-pony – so it re­ally over-de­liv­ers for its R60-ish price tag.

The chenin blanc is re­fresh­ing and trop­i­cally juicy, ver­sa­tile and very quaf­fa­ble; and the 2016 caber­net sau­vi­gnon also of­fers good value (and a re­spectable Plat­ter’s 3.5 stars) with typ­i­cal marzi­pan, dark fruit and wood-smok­i­ness, medium-bod­ied, un­in­tim­i­dat­ing and easy drink­ing now.

Reds also in­clude a mer­lot, pino­tage and shi­raz, and the dessert-de­light Mus­cat de Ham­bourg.

Long-time cel­lar­mas­ter PG Slab­bert says his phi­los­o­phy is “if you ex­ceed on qual­ity at a rea­son­able price you’ll earn your con­sumer’s un­fail­ing loy­alty and trust” – and with the 1707 Re­serve range he’s earn­ing plenty of ac­co­lades too.

The lat­est re­lease of the 1707 Re­serve White, the 2016, brought home a Na­tional Wine Chal­lenge dou­ble plat­inum, Michelan­gelo dou­ble gold, medals from in­ter­na­tional pan­els in­clud­ing an In­ter­na­tional Wine & Spirit Com­pe­ti­tion sil­ver, and a Plat­ter’s four-star.

The wine is a blend of chardon­nay (70%), semil­lon and viog­nier, each sep­a­rately ma­tured in oak bar­rels for 10 months be­fore blend­ing. A de­cep­tively pale straw colour for an aro­matic, el­e­gant and volup­tuous wine.

It’s ab­so­lutely de­li­cious – vanilla and spice aro­mas, with In­tense fruit flavours all in bal­ance, stone fruit and honey lifted by zesty cit­rus and a streak of fresh acid­ity, with a lovely lin­ger­ing fin­ish – and can only be called a bar­gain at R100!

The 2015 1707 Re­serve Red, a blend of shi­raz and Bordeaux va­ri­eties, also has four Plat­ter’s stars and sells at around R140.

Plat­ter’s de­scribes the wine range as ex­tend­ing from “polka-dot-bikini to se­ri­ous sui­tand-tie”.

POCKET-FRIENDLY: The Stellenbosch Hills range de­liv­ers pocket-friendly qual­ity be­tween R50 and R75. The re­serve white makes a fine part­ner to West Coast mus­sels

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