Living the cultivated life of Sauvignons and Chardonnays

By Time of article published Jun 15, 2006

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Stellenzicht has long been an extremely reliable barometer of good taste on the South African wine landscape and a recent tasting, accompanied with a superb five-course meal at the Beverly Hills Hotel, proved that it can take its place among the best in the country.

Stellenzicht is situated between the Helderburg mountains and False Bay in the Stellenbosch wine growing area and its proximity to the ocean, only six kilometres away, plays a crucial role, with the inviting onshore breezes having a cooling effect on the grapes.

Stellenzicht pioneered the Shiraz varietal revolution in South Africa and indeed it was this one which probably took the honours against four others which were also top notch.

Winemaker Guy Webber was not at the presentation which was given by Belinda McLaughlin of Distell.

We started the evening with the Sauvignon Blanc, an elegant wine with its classic appeal of fruit flavours. Some picked up hints of green figs and peppers but it was understated and not as powerful as I like my Sauvignons.

The Chardonnay was rich and golden in colour and I expected a really strong, buttery and vanilla taste, just two of the characteristics of this grape. Again the Chardonnay was not as strong on the mouth as the nose but was an ideal partner for the seafood.

Best of the whites for me was the Semillon Reserve, made in a concentrated, high-powered style with ripe lime and citrus aromas and a bit of butterscotch and toasty oak on the palate. Delish.

Then came the reds and we were not disappointed by them or Gerhard van Staden's excellent food.

I enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon, again plenty of berry tastes with soft tannis, which makes this wine very accessible.

The Shiraz was, as expected, exceptional with that distinctive chocolate and mocha aroma and a plummy taste in the mouth. Well balanced and drinkable now but it would stay for another five to 10 years with ease.

Then with the chocolate dessert we tried the Pinotage. I always battle with chocolate and wine and think the choc destroys the nuances of the wine. This happened again. Although when the wine is drunk and chocolate eaten alone they tasted just right.

A few days later I tried another popular wine from the Distell stable - the 2005 Le Bonheur Sauvignon Blanc, which is really drinking well. This Sauvignon is unwooded and has a wonderful flintiness and taste that makes it one of the most sought after in SA.

Oh, and by the way, though this is primarily a wine column I have to remind readers that if they are looking for some well-sized prawns at very reasonable prices there are still kilo and half-kilo specials running at Julio's in Davenport Road and Capers in Avonmore Centre in Morningside.

They are juicy and plump and the respective owners tell me that prawn lovers should strike while the prices are still relatively cheap. It is normally just over the R50 mark for half-a-kilo.

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