Reliable, affordable SA wines not to be sniffed at
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