Cut-above wines - at a fraction of the price

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iol lif jan 14 cw wine Doolhof Dennis Kerrison

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Wellington bounty: Dennis Kerrison of Doolhof recommends his Cape range for affordable quaffing.

Cape Town - With January credit card statements filling postboxes, it’s time to bid festivities farewell and come down to earth with a bit of a bump.

If budget-priced meals are on the cards for a month or so, team them with like-minded wines for a symbiotic partnership. There is no shortage of bargains to be found in the world of wine, whatever your budget limits. Along with established favourites, this is the ideal time to explore the regions for new names and labels. This need not involve running up the fuel bill, but merely taking in a few supermarkets with large, well-stocked wine departments.

If you haven’t yet acquired a copy of the 2013 Best Value Wine guide, I recommend doing so, and the new edition of Platter’s wines will also come in handy. When thinking of real bargains, certain names crop up consistently – Obikwa, Van Loveren, Robertson Winery, Namaqua, Orange River cellars and Versus to name a few.

It’s also worth looking further, particularly at wineries that make a second tier range, often named differently, as they can offer real value and quality at half the price of the brand name products.

Late last year the judges of the Spit or Swallow Box Wine Awards named Du Toitskloof Chenin Blanc the best boxed white wine out of 33 entries, red and white. This is indeed a cut above the average chenin that comes in boxes, which is often insipid and thin, and also varies in quality. As Du Toitskloof uses exactly the same wine in its boxes as in its bottles, and the chenin is crisp, has some body and good fruit, it makes better sense to pay R79 for a three-litre box than R32 for a 750ml bottle. Keep a pretty carafe in the fridge, transfer the contents and enjoy economical quality.

Staying with chenin blanc, one of my favourite quaffers is that from Slanghoek, medium-bodied, very fruity and frisky, which sells from the cellar at R27. If you are a senior citizen, be there on the first Wednesday of the month when they offer a pensioner’s discount of 15 percent, which brings the price to just under R23.

iol lif jan 14 cw wine Stellenbosch Street Soirees Jumbo 10

Street style: Stellenbosch's Church Street is going to be transformed into abi-weekly gourmet and wine hub.

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Further up the economy ladder, another consistently good chenin is the Bushvine from Kleine Zalze at R37, popular among those who don’t want bone-dry wines, but expect crispness. For just R3 more, the Petit range from Ken Forrester is worth trying, especially the rosé, pinotage and chenin blanc.

Say Simonsig and thoughts turn to delicious bubblies and aristocratic blends. But they sell their delightful 2012 chenin blanc for just R38, making it a worthwhile buy.

It’s unwooded, fruity, and aromatic, with enough complexity to add a touch of class. Simonsig has been producing good chenin for more than 40 years, so it is unsurprising that it has the recipe fine-tuned.

From Stellenbosch Hills, a winery that always offers good value, their cheap and cheerful Polkadraai range includes a chenin/ sauvignon blanc at R29 and a pinotage/merlot for R32, both easy- drinking accompaniments for any summer braai.

Districts like Franschhoek don’t call economy to mind, but there are bargains to be found there as well. The Starlette labels at Allée Bleue offer good value, especially the pinotage at R32 and the Blanc for R35 – which is an enjoyable blend of zingy green sauvignon and fruity chenin. Their 2012 rosé is sold out at the farm, but perhaps there are stocks in town somewhere of this fragrant and spicy, a dry pink made from shiraz.

Wellington also offers excellent value and here again, it’s the second tier ranges that should be tried.

Doolhof is noted for its malbec and robust red blends, but they also make the Cape range, all priced at just over R40, including a sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and rosé. The 2010 Cape Roan, a 2010 shiraz-based blend and Cape Boar, a 2010 merlot-based blend, both R44, offer good value, with the latter having attracted Best Value awards for several years, including 2012.

The Like Father Like Son wines – chenin, red and rosé – from Bon Courage offer consistent value at just under R30, and the same goes for the John B and Stonedale ranges made by Rietvallei. Other Robertson cellars that list budget-beaters include Ashton Kelder, Cloverfield and Viljoensdrift – it may be worth ringing them to find out where they are stocked in Cape Town. - Weekend Argus

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